What is the most common obstacle mission workers face in fundraising? Over a span of thirty years, I have taught biblical fundraising in fifteen countries and with many organizations, and the answer is always the same. How would you answer?
Lack of contacts?
Don’t know how to ask?
Not culturally acceptable to fundraise?
The most common funding obstacle? Fear. Gospel workers might be godly, intrepid adventurers in other aspects of ministry, but fear freezes them in funding—fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of losing friends.
Confession: Years ago, fear was my biggest obstacle too! My first fundraising appointment was with two elderly, blue-haired ladies from our church. They treated me nicely in their home—but I was panicky with fear. What if they say no? What if I offend them? Instead of asking for financial support, I chickened out and asked for prayer—much safer!
In those days, I also tried “holy hinting,” saying things like “This economy sure is tough!” And sometimes I prayed that potential giving partners would initiate the subject of support so I would not have to bring it up. My underlying problem was fear, but then I made some discoveries.
First, let’s look at common misunderstandings about fear. Try this quiz:
1. Fear is a sin. True/False
2. Once you overcome a specific fear, it will not bother you anymore. True/False
3. If you keep your fears nonspecific, they will not grow. True/False
4. Courage in funding grows as your communication skills grow. True/False
5. As you grow in Christ, fears will diminish. True/False
If fear is a sin (#1), you are in good company. David said (emphasis mine),
When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. . . .
In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?
Psalm 56:3-4 (NASB)
Note the first word—when, not if. David admitted his fears. It is not a sin to be afraid, but it is a sin to live in fear. I find that fear begins to dissolve the moment I honestly admit I am afraid and specifically identify the exact thing or person that makes me fearful.
A few years ago, I discovered Psalm 112:7 (NASB):
He will not fear evil tidings;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
It is easy for fundraisers to expect the worst. One mission worker told me he doesn’t like receiving his funding report from headquarters, fearing it bears the bad news of donors dropping out. Evil tidings indeed!
Does fear in fundraising ever go away? Over the years, I have made more than a thousand face-to-face appeals for both personal and organizational support. I admit that I still get sweaty palms when it is time to “make the ask.” I also get sweaty palms when I share the gospel, or challenge my boss, or answer the question, “Do these shoes look okay with this outfit?”
But yes, fear in fundraising greatly dissipates as we grow more secure in Christ and develop fundraising skills. Yet it never completely disappears. Mission workers who practice their funding presentations, anticipate questions, and believe passionately in their calling overcome fear in fundraising much more easily.
Fundraising is similar to evangelism in that both involve asking others to take steps of faith that may be risky for them. Hence it is risky for us, too. This is spiritual ministry, and sweaty palms are okay.
I have also been asked if fundraising has affected my relationships. Yes—it has made them better! Because of needing to raise support, I now have more friends and closer friends—people who genuinely care about me and are invested in my ministry.
Also, I have sought out distant friends and contacts simply because I was hoping they might become future giving partners—and many have. But if I hadn’t needed support, I would not have sought them out. I have more and better friends because of fundraising.
How about you? Does the fear of fundraising debilitate you?
Here is my suggestion: Chances are your fear in fundraising is not because hundreds might unfriend you on social media. It is probably only two or three friends whose approval you seek. Identify them and ask yourself why their opinions cut you so deeply. Like David, take your specific fears to the Lord—what can mere man do to you?
For fourteen years Scott Morton led Navigator campus and marketplace ministries, in which he worked with students, businesspeople, and missionaries, both stateside and overseas. For 12 years he served as Vice President of The Navigators US Development Ministry. Scott enjoys helping people grow in their spiritual journeys through small-group Bible studies and one-on-one mentoring. He has written numerous articles for Discipleship Journal and is the author of Funding Your Ministry: A Field Guide for Raising Personal Support, Third Edition (NavPress). He and his wife, Alma, live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and have two married daughters, a son, and four grandchildren.