Asking people for money is never easy, but sometimes it’s the best way to accomplish a big goal. So how do you know whether you should raise financial support for a project you’re working on?
If you work in the non-profit world, this isn’t a very difficult question, because everything that you do is dependent on the generosity of your supporters. Raising money is simply a part of life in this kind of organization.
But what about those of us who aren’t involved in some non-profit project or ministry? Sometimes we encounter big expenses or financial hurdles that we can’t clear on our own. So when is it appropriate to ask others for help?
There are all kinds of situations in which individuals raise funds. Young people headed on mission trips often raise money to cover the costs of the journey. Many couples adopting from foreign countries also raise funds to offset the incredible costs associated with adoption. On the whole, these are good things, and Christians are happy to support them when they can.
On the other hand, sometimes people ask for financial support in a situation that doesn’t seem appropriate. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of one of these requests, you probably know that it just doesn’t feel right.
Since every situation is different, it’s probably impossible to give precise guidelines about when you should raise money. But there are some considerations that can help you along the way.
Here are five questions to ask yourself before you stat asking people to support you financially:
1) Is this out of my personal reach?
If you’re seriously considering fundraising, you’ve probably already answered this question, but it’s still a good one to consider: Is my cause or project something that is bigger than I can accomplish myself?
People who love you might be happy to support you in your life goals, but many others might view it as poor taste if you ask for financial help for a goal or project that you could accomplish on your own. Even if you could reach your target by working some extra hours, taking a few side jobs or saving up for a year or two, you may be better off tackling this issue on your own than asking others for help.
If, on the other hand, your goal is way beyond your grasp — no matter how hard you work on your own — they you could be in a good position to ask others for support.
2) Does this project benefit me or others?
Most of us would never try to raise money to buy ourselves a sports car or to build a nice deck on the back of our house. Why? Because we have an inherent understanding that it’s not really appropriate to ask for financial support for things that only benefit us.
Most people who give financially are giving to support a certain cause, and that cause is usually about helping others. So before you raise money, you need to understand whether your project is mostly about getting something that you want or if it’s more about helping other people.
If the project is mostly about you, it probably doesn’t make sense to ask others to support it financially. But if the things that you’re going to be doing will have a direct, tangible benefit on the lives of others — even if it’s just one or two people — then people in your community should be happy to help.
3) Will fundraising help create a team spirit?
When people give money to a cause, they want to feel like they’re part of the team that is working to advance that cause. So if you ask them for financially support in something that you’re working on, you need to be prepared to create a community spirit as you go.
If people give you money, are you going to be able to keep them updated on the progress of your fundraising? Once your money is raised and you go out and do your work, are you going to be able to share the fruit of the work with them? Will they be able to see the return on their investment throughout the years?
If you can raise funds in such a way that others feel invested in your project along with you, it can make the situation enjoyable for everyone. If people don’t feel connected to a project, though, it could be difficult to convince them to give toward it.
4) Do you have a clear plan of action?
Nobody wants to throw their money down a black hole. But if you ask them to give toward your cause without being able to clearly articulate how that money is going to help you accomplish their goals, your potential supporters will feel like they’re just throwing money away.
Anything you raise money for should have a specific goal: “We need $1,000 to take this mission trip,” or “we need $10,000 to complete our adoption.” If people see that giving will make a tangible difference in getting you toward your goal, they’re much more likely to come alongside and support you.
If you don’t have a clear plan of action or a road map to the finish line of your project, though, you’re probably not in a position to ask others to support you.
5) Will this project have a lasting impact?
People who give a lot are often very well disciplined financially. As a result of this, they want to be sure that they’re giving money to something that is going to have a lasting impact — not just an idea that will be here today and then evaporate tomorrow.
If you’re going to raise money, you need to be able to explain how your project is going to make a difference for years. It might be nice to do a one-time event to help someone. But if that help doesn’t put them on the road to growth and improvement, the event’s success will be limited, and so will the fruit of the finances that went to support it.
If your goal or project is going to change a community or a family for generations to come, however, people will be excited to come around you and help you raise the money you need to make your vision a reality.
Photo by Bernard Pollack. Used under Creative Commons License.