Missionaries Dread This

by Chris Lautsbaugh on August 30, 2013

Missionaries deal with many things. Poverty, Disease, Visas, Political upheaval, driving on the “wrong” side of the road, and more.

Perhaps the part of the job or calling which brings the most dread is support raising.

Every job has things which we do not like. Whether you are in business, medicine, or missions. I have yet to meet a missionary who enjoyed raising the necessary funds to do the job.

So whether you are a life long fundraiser, a soon to be sent out new missionary, or even one whose role is to fund overseas endeavors; here are some suggestions for raising support.

Ask –The most obvious, but often most neglected part of support raising is to ask. Sometimes God does tell people not to ask, but for the body to function the way it is designed, we need to make our needs known. God can provide, but 99% of the time it is in the context of relationship, not a check falling from the sky.

Communicate – Too often missionaries depart and no word is heard from them. With technology, there is absolutely no excuse to lack communication. Be brief. No one wants to read your daily journal. A web page or a simple email newsletter using services like Mailchimp are simple even for beginners.

Connect– When you share, you want to connect. Do not tell people how hard life is on the field, or drone on about the sacrifices you are making. Tell stories, especially of individuals. If you are a family on the field, tell things through your children’s eyes. Sharing our journey of adoption has connected us with other families who have walked that road. They make a beeline for us, because of our mutual connection.

Causes – People are interested in investing in causes or projects. Frame some of your needs around these. It can be a great way to fund ministry projects. Some will give to causes, but would never give towards “missions” in the traditional sense.

Think beyond yourself –What is your greater ministry doing? How are the nationals you trained or developed different as a result of your involvement?  What are your “graduates” investing in others since they’ve left you? All of this is apart of your fruit and your mission. Share it!

Think outside the box –Support raising is so much more than newsletters. You can raise support for others outside or your immediate family like your national workers. This helps you accomplish your goals.

When you travel home, host a dinner or provide a taste of your nation at the weekend service. People remember this. We brought South Africa vuvuzela’s made famous by the World Cup with us. The church knew we were there and remembered us!

The bottom line is, no one really enjoys raising support. But, rather than throw up our hands in exasperation, let’s share what has and has not worked.

I invite you to help others in this endeavor. We are all on the same team after all!

What has been successful for you in raising support?

Are there other principles you would add to the list I’ve shared?

 

– Chris Lautsbaugh, Missionary teacher and author with Youth With A Mission, living in S. Africa.
Blog: NoSuperHeroes   Twitter: @lautsbaugh   Facebook: NoSuperHeroes

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About Chris Lautsbaugh

In missions for 20+ years currently in South Africa as a teacher and leadership coach. He serves side by side with wife, Lindsey, and two boys, Garett and Thabo. Blogs at NoSuperHeroes.com on grace, leadership, and missions. Wrote Death of the Modern SuperHero:How Grace Breaks our Rules.
  • petervandever

    You missed one…. kissed everyone butt so they will give $10 a month lol

  • karph63

    One obvious principle is prayer. Prayer for our support, new supporters, those who already support us, for our needs. While it seems to go without saying, we desperately need this vital link to the One we serve!

  • This is our first furlough. We have shared the needs of our mission organization but it seems everyone wants to bless us with our personal needs.

    • This is the preferred way in some cases. If people give to the organization, we are required to designate those funds. Options are limited. If they give to us, we can be generous to our our organization (as a part of our personal giving) as well as meet our personal needs. If donors are willing to give us this “freedom” it is a good thing.

  • Tracey

    One strategy that’s been a blessing for us is having friends/supporters advocate for us. One example is asking them to host a dessert (or something) when we’re stateside, where we share pictures, stories, etc. and then THEY talk about support stuff on our behalf.

  • Dalaina May

    Before we became missionaries, we read a book called Friend-Raising. Despite the really hokey title, it was SO helpful in shaping our philosophy of support raising and relating to supporters. We want to intentionally value relationships over financial support, people over dollars. Sometimes that has meant NOT raising support on a home assignment (even though it we could have used the boost) because we don’t want to always have our hand out every time we see people. We’ve told people more than once that we DON”T think they should support us given their circumstances. Friend Raising vs. support raising means being able to genuinely care more about our supporters losing jobs than losing their support, and it means placing as much value on the $10 supporters as the $100 supporters or even the sweet little ladies who pray for us every day. They are ALL our support team. There is certainly always a temptation toward self-entitlement and greed, and we certainly have not done it perfectly. But I think constantly reminding ourselves that we care more about our supporters or potential supporters than what we can get out of them has been a blessing both to us and our supporters and has made the whole process much, much less stressful and un-fun. Honestly, we HAVE enjoyed it. 🙂

  • Tamie

    Hehe, we loved our first (and so far, only) Home Assignment because of the opportunity to invite people to be a part of what God is doing. Similar to Dalaina, we saw it as a chance to expand our family and make it about genuine relationship.

  • Jenny

    Since you wrote your support-raising principles with a one-word/brief description, I have a few to add:

    Care – We’ve made an effort to let our supporters and potential supporters know that we care about them, that we are praying for them as they are praying for us, and we try to take the time to ask about their lives. It’s so easy to get caught up with what WE want to share with others and what WE are doing in our ministry. It means a lot when they feel the relationship has some reciprocity. Often times it’s not expected, but many times it’s appreciated.

    Character/Commitment – These could probably be listed separately, but during the time we have raised support for our first term, we’ve actually had a few people who have been watching us over a period of time who have decided to give because of what they have observed as far as our participation and commitment in church ministry stateside — and they told us so. Sometimes it’s wearisome knowing that people are “watching” us because of this special identification of being a “missionary,” but the fact is, some people really are watching, and if they like what they see, they might just give. (In no way am I saying that we have to PERFORM, but there is really something to be said about integrity and our testimony before others.)

    Call on the phone (or email, text, etc…) – We have called people for one-on-one appointments. There is value in having group presentations, dessert socials, and such, but for some people, to answer their burning questions as well as get a real financial commitment, you need to meet one-on-one. People can remain anonymous in a group setting and therefore feel less need to even consider financial partnership. We have been direct during the initial phone call and said we would like to discuss the possibility of financial partnership. It takes a lot of prayer and partnering with God to make it NOT feel like a sales pitch. This has been hard for me, but it’s yielded some amazing fruit. It’s illuminating what questions people have in a one-on-one setting vs. a group presentation. Lots of opportunity to expand people’s understanding and vision of missions in addition to the ministry God is calling us to!

    I would reiterate “Communicate” – we have had a handful of people start supporting us and openly told us they discontinued supporting another missionary because of lack of communication.

    Be humble before God – support raising can feel like being on the operating table. It’s a huge amount of exposure, pain, and at times being picked apart. But it’s not for naught. I have seen God at work as the Great Physician of my soul during the process of raising support, refining desires, motives, vision, and purpose. It’s not just about the money. They money is out there. I have been shifting from my “scarcity theology” to a proper (not prosperity) theology of the “abundance of God,” not just with our finances, but my faith!!

    • Wow, great additions Jenny. Many will benefit from your sharing!

  • It’s comforting to know that “dread” is a common (and acceptable?)
    feeling about financial support raising. We’re new at this, and will be
    about 600 miles NE of you in RSA when God says we’re ready/we have the support raised. At this point, I only feel comfortable asking for prayer support, while at the same time pointing out that without financial support we’ll be on deputation for 30 years instead of serving on the mission field. I’m not sure if I’m being led by the Holy Spirit or a spirit of timidity, but we know that God has us right where He wants us, and eventually that will lead to S Africa for the rest of our lives (at least, “first” to S Africa, but we hope God allows us to serve out our earthly existence in missions).

  • Linda Funke

    Like a few people have also mentioned, I actually kind of enjoy “support discovery” (as my organization calls it). It’s an opportunity to talk about something I’m passionate about and to give others the opportunity to partner with us in it. Like other missionaries have said, raising funds isn’t the focus for us. My husband and I have always framed it as “We would love for you to partner with us in this ministry. Here are some of the ways to do that: signing up for our e-newsletter, praying for us and our ministry, sending packages or notes of encouragement, telling someone else about our ministry, hosting us to speak, hosting a fundraiser for us, partnering with us financially, etc.” This gives people many ways to be a part of the ministry, and we tell them we don’t value one way over another. They are all helpful. That being said, we were honest with them about the financial need: “This is how much we have to receive before we can leave. This is our goal for this month. If you feel that God’s calling you to partner with us in this way, here’s how to give.” The end. No pressuring. No hurt feelings if they decide not to give. Just telling why we think this ministry is important and letting God do the rest.

    We do have a few more tips on what went well for us, and if any other missionaries who are just beginning or who are in need of additional funds want that document, I’m happy to send it (Linda.Funke@GlobalLutheranOutreach.com).

    I also second the importance of on-going communication. This framework isn’t completely accurate, but here’s how I sometimes think of it: The communications with partners back home is my job, i.e. it is how my husband and I get paid. Everything else I get to do is my ministry. And as far as jobs go, it’s a pretty sweet deal. It just takes 15-30 hours a month of newsletter-writing, taking photos, photo-editing, face-booking, and blogging to get paid. Then I get to use the rest of my time towards a ministry that I’m passionate about. Even just taking 3 minutes each day to write something about your life on Facebook can make a huge difference. We have gotten in the habit of writing 3 things that we are thankful for each day. Our supporters back home love it! Now, I say that the “job vs. ministry” languaging isn’t completely accurate, because I honestly do believe that these communications can be a ministry in and of themselves. Many people in our passport countries feel a strong desire to be involved in an international ministry and would love to experience and learn lessons from a new culture, but for whatever reason they can’t. We get to be that bridge. Other people get the opportunity to see and learn through us as we are seeing and learning. We get to minister to people in multiple countries. It’s an amazing opportunity.
    Thank you so much for the tips Chris and for this discussion.

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