There have been many times when I have considered working for a ministry that would require me to raise funds in order to support my family and the ministry. At this point I have not ended up going down those roads, but perhaps one day the Lord will call us on such a journey. The scariest thought when considering such a venture is whether or not one will be able to raise a sufficient amount to care for one’s family and work. Then, the intimidation of asking people to give to such a cause.
A number of years ago I was having lunch with a very dear friend of mine who had been working in a para-church organization for nearly 40 years, always operating the ministry and personally living off of the financial generosity of others. He was and is an incredible man of faith. I once asked him, “Isn’t it difficult to ask people for money?” I will never forget his response. “I am a terrible fund raiser,” he said. “I don’t ask people for money. I am a friend raiser.” He went on to explain that if one simply asks for money, it’s shallow and, in some respects, easy. But it is also ineffective. The key, he said, was to invite people into relationship, and in the context of relationship, as people got to know him, he was able to share his vision and people were able to sense his passion and commitment. Once they witnessed those things, many would jump at the opportunity to invest in the kingdom work he was doing. He was a great friend raiser.
I recently finished reading People Raising: A Practical Guide to Raising Funds by William P. Dillon. As I was reading I was thinking about my friend. Many of the principles in the book were the very things my friend had shared with me. I appreciated the author’s candor as well as his very practical advice based on decades of raising funds for worthy causes. I will say that, although his point was well made, and I don’t really have any alternatives, I personally wrestle with some of the realities of fund raising that seem very sales-y. Although he stresses that it’s about friendship not funds, at times some of his strategies felt less friendship-oriented and more like people were objects for use. He makes it clear that this is not the case, but it can feel that way. When you are building relationships with people with at least a hope that they will give money to you and your cause, perhaps there is just no way around it, but it would be hard for me to do some of the things suggested and not feel like I was using people. I also noted that some of the attention given to large-donors could easily slip into favoritism. Large donors do deserve special thanks, in a way, but those who give $10 a month as a sacrifice are doing no less than those who can easily give $10,000. Again, that author really stresses that this is the Lord’s work, these are the Lord’s people, and these are the Lord’s funds, but it could be a bit tricky.
I would recommend this book to any and all who are in the position of needing to raise support for their ministries. There are many great tips and pieces of practical advice from a man who has spent a majority of his life building relationships with people and inviting them to invest in the work of ministry with their finances.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.