10 Tips For Raising Support Without A Church Background

Kayla Smith, Penn State

So, God has called you to do ministry in an emerging region. To make matters trickier, you aren’t from the Bible Belt where resources are more bountiful, and you may not have a church background or much of a Christian network. To make matters even trickier, you haven’t won the lottery yet. This has all the makings for a little conundrum! Fret not; the drum doesn’t have to be as “conun” as it seems. Such is my experience, and all it means is that I had to get a little creative in my support raising efforts. If you also resonate with these circumstances, here are 10 practical tips to aid your support raising experience:

  1. Ask everyone you’ve ever built a good rapport with over your life to support you, whether or not they are Christians. Did you have really good, gold-star behavior in first grade? Ask your teacher. Did you have a lowkey blooming friendship with a neighbor seven years ago that got cut short when they had to transfer to another city for their job which also happened to come with a promotion and therefore a handsome raise? Ask away. Even if they aren’t Christians and might not want to support the Church, it’s likely that these people will want to support you simply because they know and like your character.
  1. Know your audience. Cater your message to each person you reach out to, and ditch traditional support raising formulas unless you’re meeting with a specific demographic that is expecting– and would respond well to– the traditional pitch. Going “off script” is more genuine, and younger generations tend to balk at cookie cutter, impersonal presentations. Additionally, when pitching to nonchristians, focus more on the values of your ministry and service versus conversion stories laden with Christian jargon.
  1. Know yourself. Let your passions, personality, and voice come through when meeting with potential supporters. Pitches filled with charts and projections are helpful for some people, but open conversations are more beneficial for others, and maybe for you, too. Do what feels right and true to who you are and how God wired you, and don’t force yourself to be what you think a support raiser should be. What do you uniquely bring to your specific campus because of your story and who you are?
  1. As you meet people, be on the lookout for a Christian point person. This will be the key person(s) that will help you expand your network by introducing you to the various types of Christian communities or individuals in your area who may be interested in partnering with you. Ideally this person is well-connected, and willing to advocate on your behalf. I’d encourage you to apply this concept to a nonchristian point person as well.
  1. Buy one, get one free. Whether or not someone agrees to support you, when following up with them, ask them to give you the name of at least one person whom they think might be interested in supporting you.
  1. Think outside your denomination. Ask any and all pastors in your region (with discernment) if you can explain your situation and share about your story and ministry with their congregation. As a campus minister, you have a lot to offer these churches as well, and your focus should be on a genuine partnership. One of the greatest benefits of reaching out to churches is gaining a solid prayer base, which can be harder to come by than you think. Plus, churches often enjoy supporting in other creative ways, like helping serve as part of specific projects on your campus. 
  1. Go to sporting or alumni events at your university to build your network. Break that foam finger out. These communities love giving back to their alma mater. Be ready to articulate how your ministry benefits your university, its students, and the future workforce and communities, and relay these values to the fans of your university when able.
  1. Fundraisers are always fun. Maybe not always, but they work, especially to get you some support and buy you some time at the very beginning of your ministry endeavor. Let us not forget the power of all-you-can-eat casseroles for 10 dollars. There is simply not a better way to pay homage to our ministry forefathers and foremothers who walked before us, tossing out various forms of cheese-covered casseroles to and fro, not a lactose-intolerant worry in the world. It was a simpler time, but sometimes simple is all you need.
  1. Partner with local businesses. You care about the local campus and community, and so does Bob at Bob’s Tires. And while you’ve just decided to officially plant roots in your emerging region, Bob has had his roots established there since 1974, when his father, Bob Sr., encouraged him to open his own shop. Equally invested in the wellbeing of this community is the coffee shop downtown that opened last year. There are common motivations, fears, and dreams you all have for the community. Meet with these businesses, find out what their vision is, and discuss how you could best utilize each other to better serve the area. Perhaps they’d be willing to provide a meal for your students once a month, free of charge.
  1.  Keep buying scratch-offs. If you do win the lottery, you can ditch tips one through nine, or start giving away endless casseroles for free.

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