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One of the most exciting things about becoming a missionary is your “yes” moment. It’s the moment you’ve finally concluded that leaving your comfort zone and stepping into God’s calling for your life is truly worth it. No more settling for the status quo. You’re finally joining missions.
But wait. This is volunteer work. How will you sustain yourself? How will you be able to afford the food, rent, and other bills, let alone the plane ticket to get you where you’re going? And what about having something to give away to the people you’ll be sharing the gospel with?
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there, and here at YWAM Mazatlan, we’re more than familiar with the realities of living on financial support. We know you might be wondering just how we do it, so here are 14 useful tips to start fundraising for missions.
Did you know that Jesus lived on missionary support? He not only modeled it but also taught his disciples to live in the same way (Matthew 10:8-11, Luke 10:38-42). During one mission’s tour, they were supported financially by many, including a prominent businesswoman (Luke 8:1-3).
They were constantly on the move and depended on the hospitality and support of others to continue their work. So if you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to live off others’ support, just look to Jesus’ example to find your answer.
One of the main reasons missionaries can struggle with fundraising is because they don’t actually believe their work is worth supporting. What do you think when you hear of someone who’s working on the frontlines of the refugee crisis? Do you admire missionaries who minister to the poor in the slums of Manila or build homes for the needy in Mazatlan? If they asked, you’d probably pull out your wallet and support them yourself.
The same is true for others when they hear about what you’re doing. It’s an amazing thing to serve the vision God has given you. If you believe what you’re doing is worth supporting, then they will, too.
What’s the point of doing something if you don’t know why you’re doing it? Your potential supporters will ask the same question if you don’t have a clear vision. Before you start compiling a list of people to contact, take some time to write down what God has spoken to you.
Why are you doing what you’re doing? What are the vision goals? Why are you really going to do a YWAM DTS? These will be the reasons why someone should consider supporting you, and writing them down will help solidify your vision.
Now that you’ve clarified your vision, it’s time to make a plan. What’s your goal amount? Do you need a lump sum, or are you looking for monthly supporters? How many supporters do you want on your team? Do you have a deadline? How will you communicate with your donors? Will you plan any fundraising events? Is there anything you can sell?
Don’t get overwhelmed by these questions; write them out under your vision and start answering them one by one.
When it comes to missionary fundraising, it’s important to be intentional about who you’re inviting to join your support team. Start by writing a list of all the people you know, even if you think you might not ask them to support you. Try to aim for 50-100 names.
Then, pray and ask God to highlight specific names to you. Start again at the top of your list and circle the names that jump out as you go down the page. Find people who believe in you and ask them to come alongside you, and be careful to never underestimate people’s desire to help see your vision lived out.
Before you start reaching out to your contacts and building relationships, there’s one more important thing to do: Make it easy for people to give. For starters, you’ll need a bank account, so if you don’t have one you should get on that right away. Then you can create a PayPal account or set up a fundraising page through GoFundMe.
If you or your church can receive checks, make sure to have that information handy. You’ll want to be ready as soon as your first supporter decides to make a donation. One of the worst things that can happen is having a donor wanting to give with nowhere to send the money!
To excel at fundraising, you’ll need to hone your communication skills a bit. Sharing your vision with people will get easier over time, but when it comes to the mode of communication, we have a few pointers.
First, face-to-face communication is always best. Whether it’s over coffee or lunch, at church or at work, you’ll want to be as personal as possible. If that’s not doable, your next best option is a video call, then a phone call. Post mail and email are next in line, with social media coming in a solid last. The message is clear: the more personal the communication, the better.
Fundraising is all about relationships, and that means that money should never be the motivator. People can feel when you’re looking at them with dollar signs in your eyes. No one likes to feel used, and that goes the same for your supporters.
Always strive to be intentional with your support team: personal, genuine, and authentic. Treat them like the real people they are. Remember—it’s a support team. How can you bless them? What prayer requests do they have?
Not every conversation you have will be about your missionary work or how much support you need. Besides, when people feel like you truly care about them, they’re more likely to give when you least expect it.
People need to know what you're doing and how excited you are about it. Think of something easy that you can do to help raise awareness.
You could make a visible, handheld object, like a prayer card or bookmark, that you can give you people interested in partnering with you. Or maybe you'll want to host a live Q&A session on social media. See if you can speak at your church or youth group, and maybe even your work. The point is to get the word out however you can.
The number 1 reason why someone gives is because someone asks. “Asking” is by far the biggest fundraising hurdle for missionaries, and unless you truly believe in what you’re doing, it'll always be the hardest part. Sure, some people might give to you without you asking, but it’s not the norm.
If you struggle with the idea of asking for support, here’s our honest advice: You’re going to have to get over it. Remember that missionary in the slums of Manila? You’d probably donate to them if they asked you to. The same is true for your supporters; many want to give but need to know what’s being asked of them. Here are some examples to get you started:
“Thank you for listening to me share about my vision for [nation, city, project]. I want to invite you to join my support team by becoming one of my monthly supporters.”
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity to share my vision with you. Would you pray about making a donation to my missionary training with YWAM?”
“I’m so glad I was able to share my vision with you for [nation, city, project]. I’m excited about what God is going to do and want to ask you to make a donation to this project.”
You’ve prayed, developed your vision, listed your contacts, shared at church, asked for donations, sold some cookies, and now you’ve reached your goal. You’ve put in a lot of effort and it’s time to buy that plane ticket! But wait, there’s one more very important step—saying thank you.
It’s crucial that you express your gratitude to your supporters. They’ve contributed to your mission out of their own resources, sometimes giving sacrificially. If you can, say thank you in person, but if not, make sure to phone them up or send a hand-written thank-you note. Share a short story of how their support has made an impact. It’ll go a long way.
Got any special skills or hobbies? If you’re a baker, you could hold a bake sale at your church. Or maybe you love running; try organizing a fun-run where people can sponsor per mile. Are you skilled at making jewelry or crafts? You could host a craft night or sell your creations online. You could make candles or tie-dye socks, host a taco night, do a bottle drive, or sell some popcorn at your little brother’s soccer games. The opportunities are endless, so start with something you love and run with it.
How great would it be to have someone advocating for you at home when you are out on the mission field? Some people might not be able to give financially, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be part of your support team.
Consider asking a close friend or relative, maybe even a pastor, to advocate for your missionary work. This person could speak on your behalf, help organize fundraisers when you're home, and even connect you to others who might want to donate. While it's important for you to be able to share your vision on your own, having someone represent you can be a huge blessing, especially when you're not around.
People have given, encouraged, and prayed for you because they believe in you. They've joined you on your journey. As you go where the Lord has called you, don’t forget to bring them along. Keep communicating with your supporters through blogs, letters, videos, and emails. You might even want to give them a small gift on your next trip home.
Staying connected to your support team is a crucial part of becoming a missionary and will only help strengthen your relationship with your supporters.
Whether you’re just starting out in missions, or you’re in it for the long-haul, we hope these tips will help you along in your adventure of becoming a missionary.
We know that building your financial support team can seem like a daunting task; But with some prayer, conviction, and a little bit of courage, we’re sure you’ll find yourself surrounded by a strong team of God-fearing supporters. Who knows? Maybe they’ll stick with you for the rest of your missionary journey.