Fundraising

by Angie Washington on May 29, 2013

The summer heat of Oklahoma turned our dingy, grey duplex into an oven. I shuffled papers around, crouched over my bulging belly on the crusty, rust colored shag carpet. Expectancy within, the birth of our third child. Expectancy all around, our impending move to Bolivia. The two events would occur in the fall, just weeks from each other, respectively. The papers contained names and addresses.

We finished our mission school classes and counted down to our launch. Consumed with the tasks of unhooking from our natal culture, we took a step of faith. Our most recent correspondence announced to the world we had quit our jobs. We would derive our sustenance from the generous financial gifts people sent to us. Per our instruction in missions school, we took strategic steps to divide our contacts in lists for effective communication.

crusty rust colored shag carlet and paper piles

‘List A’ : people who had given money in the past or who were sure to give in the near future.

‘List B’ : folks who needed to stay informed whether they gave or not, and the praying people.

‘List C’ : all the rest.

My two chubby toddlers took sweaty naps while I sorted the print-outs into three piles.

With my brain fully engaged in the act of classifications, a simple voice whispered at the corner of my soul, “I am your only list.” My fingers flew, filing on the floor, as I knelt before the homage to our own proficiency. I breathed out a distracted, “Yes, Lord, you are on the top of ‘List A’”.  In penitence to effectiveness, my sorting sped up.

Then the grace, oh the amazing grace of my God, came in thicker than the squelching humidity sticking to my skin. This time the voice flooded every corner of my heart, “I AM your only list.”

A a parent, I change my tone if I have to repeat myself. I recognized the tone. I let the papers slip from my hands. Palms turned upwards, I closed my eyes and leaned my head back. I repented.

That pertinent conversation, rubbing at my impertinence, happened in 2001. Have I really lived by those words over a decade? When panic attacks, I go back to those words. As I scramble to reduce, cut back, and suck it all in so we can make it, these words bring comfort.  In seasons of abundance and in times of drought I rely, by faith, on my Only Source. My God. Through tears of joy, fear, or sorrow, I can say with Paul,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

We trade independence and live in dependency. I cringe when I have to answer, “No, we are not with an organization, we are ‘independent’ missionaries.” For I am NOT independent! I am completely and utterly dependent upon my God. I take faltering steps, trusting Him to show us the path.

He overrides my lists. He requires I draw close to Him all the time. He points out His unique provision. Through other people, by creative ideas, and with undeniable miracles, He proves to me He is my only list.

————————————————

listThis piece comes as a response to the many messages, emails, and comments from newbie missionaries who read A Life Overseas.

There are millions of ways to get money as a missionary.

Let’s take up a collection right now. What?! Not a collection of money, silly. A collection of resources in the comment section below. Don’t be shy! What methods have you employed to finance your passion? My kooky list is included…

– Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie work blog: House of Dreams Orphanage

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About Angie Washington

Co-Founder, Editor of this collaborative blog site: A Life Overseas
  • Our kooky list:

    1. Selling used vacuums.

    2. Babysitting.

    3. Tutoring.

    4. Selling shoes at a retail store in the mall.

    5. Working the third shift, riding a truck, delivering soda around town.

    6. Temp jobs.

    7. Donations of baby formula, diapers and groceries when we were missions school students.

    8. Work study discount in mission school.

    9. Shoveling driveways during my toddler’s nap time.

    10. Royalties on oil.

    11. Checks from people we knew, and people we didn’t.

    12. Holy handshakes.

    13. Selling a large record collection.

    14. Garage sales.

    15. Asking by newsletters, emails, websites, and handwritten letters.

    16. Asking people at their kitchen tables, on their couches, in their churches, at their small groups, and over the phone.

    17. Presenting project proposals to business people.

    18. In Bolivia we own a bowling alley and a K-12 private school; both businesses bring in cash flow.

    19. The local church we pastor is supported wholly by tithes and offerings of the members.

    20. Facebook appeals.

    21. Blog campaigns.

    22. Youtube video updates and pleas.

    23. Constant Contact email updates.

    24. Guest blogging.

    25. Child sponsorship program.

    26. Administration fees from short term groups and interns.

    27. Making various giving options available to people: online form, wire transfer, pay pal, U.S. P.O. box for sending checks and money orders, giving through a few different church offerings in the Midwest, and automatic monthly withdraw.

    28. Donations of food, goods, and services by the Bolivian people to help run the orphanage.

    29. Volunteers filling positions that could have been payrolled.

    30. A boarding school in England has taken us on as one of their charities and they do TONS of creative fundraisers to help.

    31. Many churches and families in the States get creative and do fundraisers on behalf of the ministry here in Bolivia.

    (An idea for every day of the month!)

    I chose not to include the appearance of miracles. These mysterious operations are left in the sovereign hands of God, and many times most likely occur outside of my ability to comprehend what is taking place. I also refrained from including prayer and fasting because I view these as spiritual acts of discipline and submission to Our Father, not as acts of coercion to force God to supply for us.

    May you be encouraged to act and inspired to work hard as you see the potpourri list we have of ways to generate funds. God bless you!

    • Richelle Wright

      i loved reading this list! we have raised and lived on support in a pretty traditional way – but one of the things that has so totally struck me is how do you become a part of the community in which you hope to invest if, at least to some extent, your own financial welfare isn’t intrinsically linked to the welfare of that community.

      or… that’s a fancy way of saying – we come here and live and work, but all our financing comes from elsewhere which also means we can pick up and leave.

      one of the things we really want to think and pray and research and pray and seek counsel and pray about this next year is what sort of a model we want to follow as far as support after this home assignment year – we’re thinking we’ll be a lot more independent when we head back out… so, as i started off saying, i LOVED reading this list! really, really great ideas.

      • I am glad you enjoyed the list Richelle. How interesting that you are looking into a new model in regards to funding. I get the feeling you are doing alot of praying about that? 😉 Peace to you!

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  • I guess I am also an independent missionary as I am not with any agency. I felt God was leading me to start a non profit to do the work, so that is what I did. Interesting that you said you cringe when you have to tell people. Sometimes, I do too. I have had bad experiences with people not understanding. I even had a pastor tell me basically I was never going to succeed unless I went with a mission agency and I was wrong about God’s calling in my life because I chose not to be with a mission agency. Later that same day she told me those things, our 501c3 approval letter was in the mail. Coincidence? I think not. It was all of the confirmation I needed. Not related to your question but wanted to share anyway. Do you feel like people want to help you less because you aren’t with an agency?

    • Hi Amanda. Don’t you just love it when the timing works out just so divinely? Good for you getting the 501c3! We always say “someday” we would like to do the same. To answer your question, there have been very specific instances where the people have expressed a desire to NOT help us because we are not connected to a bigger agency. But people express to us, as well, that they are attracted to the ‘mom and pop’ nature of the way we run things and chose to help us for that very reason. I can’t say that one way is more right than the other in the same way that I can’t say chirimoya is the ‘right’ flavor of ice-cream to choose and maracuya is the ‘wrong’ one. Thanks for your comment!

  • We recently had a family photo day. Where families signed up for a 10min time slot and a photographer friend donated her time. We had the families pre-pay and they received 5-10 photos. It was very successful and everyone really enjoyed it. I have had lots of friends donated things for a garage sale I do every month or so. Some people have just a few things in a closet they want to get rid of and others have lots.

    We are just starting this journey but we have really enjoyed sitting down with families one on one and sharing our story. The encouragement and support that has come across the table to us has been invaluable, it is also really great hearing what each families is excited about in our ministry. I know its impossible to do this with everyone, but we hope to be able to do it with a lot of our supporters. —AmberE

    • Keeping it as personal as possible seems to be a great strategy, Amber. Thanks for the photo idea. How fun!

  • Dalaina May

    We had great success before leaving for the field by having friends host classy dessert nights at their homes so we could present our ministry in a small group setting instead of in a large group like a Sunday School or from the pulpit.

    I think overall, our approach has been “relationship over money.” We NEVER want anyone to feel that their value to us is based in whether or not or how much they give. We try to treat our prayer supporters (“B team”) with equal respect and consideration as those who donate large gifts monthly. It was stretching as the economy in the USA tanked and several of our supporters had to drop us after losing their own jobs, but we were able to give them an electronic hug and tell them sincerely that we were much more saddened by their situation than by the loss of a financial supporter. Then we made to sure continue treating them as we had before.

    Our second philosophy is to work at cultivating a spirit of generosity. Missionaries have a (rightful) reputation as constantly walking around with our hands out, and we have a huge burden to not be perceived this way because I think it makes it look like we value money over people (see above!). We had a furlough in which we did all of our talks without doing any support raising (even though we could have used it!). We just spent the months hanging out with our supporters and catching up on each other’s lives. People seemed genuinely baffled when we dismissed without a hint of a financial plea. We also try to make it a point to give gifts or even take supporters out for coffee/lunch on us. Or if we host an event, we try to make it nice and not cheap-looking. In our (uppity) community/church, I think this is particularly appreciated.

    • Thanks for sharing some of your strategies, and the thoughts behind why you do things the way you do. Such a great reminder about how we treat people, Dalaina.

  • Angie, I loved this post because I felt like it hit on something so specific to the missionary community– living on support. It’s a huge hurtle for so many. I love that you and DaRonn have not only traditionally fundraised but that you guys are using businesses to provide jobs for Bolivians as well as finance ministry. Love your creativity in that in your real life.

    I loved this sentence, as I think it applies to soooo much: “We trade independence and live in dependency.”

    Excellently written, friend. Your voice carries such weight.

  • Another piece of advice on fundraising: NEVER apologize for it. You want to invite people into your story, to invest in it and when you open a conversation with “I’m so sorry, I hate asking for money . . . .” it feels more like a drag than an invitation to invest in something exciting and worthwhile.

  • Wendy

    I’m laughing because I read this less than 12 hours after receiving our first support gift. We didn’t ask for it. We don’t even know the person! (Friend of a friend) But she said she has felt God prompting her to give, after hearing of our new ministry. I am so humbled to be reminded in such a huge way that God IS the list!

    • wow, what a big milestone! thanks for sharing it with us, wendy 🙂

      • Elaine Mingus

        This reminded me of the missionary story of George muller…he trusted in God alone and always was given money at just the right time …Great read if you need financial encouragement

  • kendalprivette

    needed that TODAY as i look at our bank account. and think (with dread) about the fundraising my husband probably needs to do….my mother-in-law asked me just today “if you could change anything about your life right now, what would it be?” my answer, “wycliffe would pay salaries!” and then. i read this. and i am humbled. thank you….

    • So great that this came at just the right time for you. Also, much more great is what is going to happen through you! Excited with you Kendal.

  • Before we ever “officially” announced our call into full-time missions, we already had our first supporting church. God blessed us and continues to in so many ways as we raised support. A young boy who had heard about his church supporting us but we had not yet been there to speak set up a lemonade stand on the road and gave his earnings to us. Now that is humbling and that is God at work. We have been here almost two years and we have never even had to pray about our support. God is faithful through those He leads to support us. He’s just amazing!

  • Linda Funke

    I have been fundraising for one thing or another since I was in high school. Looking back, I’ve noticed that each time I’ve had to gather support for something, God seems to “up the ante,” putting the monetary total or the timeline completely beyond what I think I can do. I really think God does this on purpose, so that I remember that these blessings aren’t because I’m just that good at fundraising, but that they are gifts. Angie, I love what you said about “God is my only list.” It definitely is a faith venture.

    Plus, even though Support Discovery is a ton of work (and it is!), there are definitely benefits to having the financial, emotional, and prayer support of so many individuals. My husband and I actually considered getting paid international jobs when I finished grad school. I wanted a “real job” with a “real salary.” By God’s grace, it didn’t work out. I say “by God’s grace,” because in the job hunt process I realized that if we were paid, my husband would never get to experience the overwhelming feeling of community support that I had previously experienced when people rallied around me to send me on my first missionary assignment to Papua New Guinea. There are days on the mission field when I think about all the people who are supporting our work– many times sacrificially. Some days that thought is what keeps me going. Ironically, we start by telling folks at home what great things God will do through our work, but then sometimes those very people are the ones who, when times get tough, remind us how far we’ve come and how God is working through us.

    Also, there are some “tips of the trade.” There’s no point reinventing the wheel if you don’t have too 😉 I actually wrote the Support Discovery document for our organization, which I am happy to share if anyone wants it (email Linda.Funke@GlobalLutheranOutreach.com).

    Here’s the introduction to that document:
    “Support Discovery is about discovering the prayer, emotional, and financial support that is available to you. It can be an incredibly joyous process. For us, the terminology of “partnering” was very helpful. People can partner with you in this ministry in a variety of ways, so place equal emphasis on all the various ways folks can partner with you. Maybe they want to be a part of your prayer team and would like to receive your monthly newsletter. Maybe they will want to send you notes or care packages while you are overseas. Maybe they will want to give a one-time or regular financial donation. Maybe they want to host a fundraiser to support your ministry. Maybe they are willing to share information about your work with friends. There are lots of options, and all are equally important to your ministry overseas. Emphasizing this will encourage more people to join your team.

    That being said, many potential missionaries are very intimidated by the thought of fundraising and feel that asking people for money is rude or a burden. However, this assumption is far from the truth. People crave meaningful ways to use their money. People give money in order to be a part of something that they can’t do themselves. For example, a person may want children in the inner city to have the opportunity to learn about the arts, but they cannot teach or take the children themselves. Therefore, they donate to an organization that can and are thus partners in that work/ministry. The same is true for international ministry. Not everyone can travel across the world to share the gospel or help someone struggling in a distant land, but they can be a part of that work as they support someone who is willing and able to go. In your support discovery, try not to be afraid of giving them that opportunity. People want their money to go to meaningful work, so share with them what makes your work meaningful. How will it make a difference in the lives of the people? How will their money make a lasting impact? Likewise, try not to take it personally if someone decides not give. Everyone is unique in what they define as most meaningful to them, and it is not a reflection on you or the work to which God has called you.”

    I hope this is helpful 🙂 Let me know if you want the rest of the document. One last thought, I don’t think we’ve ever actually asked for money. What we tend to do is be honest and transparent about the need and what the money is going towards. Then we say, “If anyone is feeling led to partner with us financially, here’s how you do it.”

  • Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever found a place before where people were expressing so exactly what we think about this. “I cringe when I have to answer, ‘No, we are not with an organization, we are ‘independent’ missionaries.’ For I am NOT independent! I am completely and utterly dependent upon my God.” YES!

    We have never actually raised support. I really think God was very gracious to us in that. He just pulled it all together for us, while we stood back in awe. Now, we are being “encouraged” to ask and kind of–after almost 12 years on the field–do the deputation that we never did. We are praying about it, but the idea just doesn’t sit right with us.

    Anyway, thank you for this post, and I would definitely appreciate prayers for wisdom here.

    • Hi Phyllis. November marks 12 years on the field for us. Interesting to see things in the field of missions change over such a span of time, isn’t it? Praying for you to have peace as you move forward. Thanks for the comment and kind words!

  • Tara Porter-Livesay

    I like Laura Parker’s reminder not to apologize for sharing what God is doing in and around you … It is an invitation and much the way we sometimes attend a party, and other times need to decline, those that we ask to support us will do the same as God leads them. (We are independent, not with a large organization and we’re mainly supported by individuals. We have three churches total and have a difficult time getting into churches so we decided that friends, and family, and individuals is a perfect support system!)

    • I agree, Tara; the advice Laura shared about unapologetic sharing is so timely.

      We have found the same to be true for us in communicating with other churches. We just have a handful of committed churches, really, and the rest of our support system based in the States is individuals, family and friends mostly, who know us.

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  • I would love to know what tools are being used out there for tracking donors and funds. I know there are some big tools meant for large NGOs/Non-Profits but don’t really see any for missionaries. Ideas? Love this site, btw.

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  • Julie

    I am about as discouraged about fundraising as it gets. Part of my work is to fundraise for the ministry that I oversee. Have had some really discouraging things happen. Raised more money for better nutrition for our young adult staff and yet somehow the money doesn’t get to us here in the field (for all random reasons, none of which are dishonest) and they continue to struggle with meager meals. Somehow I accidentally gave someone the PayPal link to another program in the org and they gave their large donation to that PayPal link (meaning we didn’t get the donation), and we couldn’t get transferred to our ministry from the other program because they had already spent it before we realized what had happened. Miraculously raised a huge amount of money for a baby to get a liver transplant from his daddy, and as the doctors cut him open to begin, his parents called and manipulated his wife to stop the surgery, and the baby died. We can’t seem to live up to our promises to donors because of being understaffed, never having enough time, and just still learning so many new skills. And on and on it goes. So discouraging. Feels like striving but I’m not sure how to get back to the place of rest.

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