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FUNdraising for Churches

By Franklin David

Raising money to raise up churches is an important leadership skill for pastors. Like most pastors, my formal training in fund raising is limited, and yet through the years I have learned five important strategies for financing a capital campaign. While these five strategies might not be worth a penny to some, they have helped me to raise nearly six million dollars.

1. Pray. Prayer is the radical starting point for effective fundraising. All of the building projects I lead are grounded in prayer. I invite the members of my church to join together in times of fasting and prayer throughout the entire journey. Prayer helps our members to see the importance of the project, motivates them to get involved, invites God’s guidance, and brings success to the venture.

Early one Sunday morning, I visited one of our church families just before breakfast. Their three-year old son wanted to offer the blessing for the food. In his prayer he asked God to help us build a church. That totally surprised me. But the enthusiasm of the children catches and spreads around, even to the adults.

When we found the property for our present church, it was listed for 4 million dollars. We offered 1.5 million dollars. We called an all-day fasting and prayer meeting for our congregation, and at sunset we gathered our prayer warriors just outside the gates of the property. We asked God to give us this land, and God gave it to us – for 1.5 million dollars.

When we completed this 10 million dollar project, a pastor visiting from the West Coast asked how we built this church. And then he said, “Please don’t give me the answer. I know – you prayed about it!” I thought to myself, “Is there any other way we can do anything for God except through prayer?”

Please do not undermine the value of prayer in a building project. And let me encourage you to read The Circle Maker.

2. Prepare the People. Make sure that you gain the support of the church board for the building project. Once you have their support, work toward gaining the support of the entire church membership. Even if you do not get 100% support, 75 – 80% will still enable you to move forward with confidence. If the church, on the other hand is divided, with only 50 – 60% supporting, you will need to restudy the matter and work individually to gain the support and confidence of the membership.

The initial feasibility study should be done by the pastor, not a consultant. This will require a lot of hard, time consuming work. Through personal visits with the members, gauge the interest and support of the church family for this building project. If they are supportive, then move forward. If not, then why proceed with it? Consultants and their fees are often a waste of time and money, especially if the membership is not ready for the project. Therefore, I suggest that the pastor do the feasibility study with their membership.

3. Pastor Commitment. The pastor must be financially and sacrificially committed to the project. Never ask your members to do what you as the leader of the congregation are not willing to do. The pastor must also be committed to the project for the long haul. Many pastors start the project with enthusiasm and then suddenly take a call to another church while the project is still in process. The pastor must make the commitment to stay with the congregation until the project is rock-solid and even completed. The members of the church should be assured that the Pastor will not leave them in the middle of the project.

4. Lead the Capital Campaign. Once the pastor has the support of the members, he/she will then lead the congregation into a capital campaign – a commitment where members pledge systematic gifts toward the project over a three year period. The capital campaign is the most important aspect of fundraising process. It gives clear evidence of the membership’s financial support to the project which is crucial to the success of the project.

Some churches opt to hire a consultant to do this for them. I am opposed to this, because of the large fees they charge. When I started my most recent project, I approached denominational leaders for guidance. They gave me the names of three companies and told me to hire one of them. They told me that these folks were experts and that I would not be able to handle the project on my own.

I just happen to believe that if a hired expert can lead a capital campaign, so can I. So I bought books on capital campaigns, attended seminars, and learned to do it on my own. My work saved the church nearly $40,000 that first year, thus providing a lot of money to further our building project. I have found that consultants will come and build a lot of excitement among our neighbors, then leave you and your members to do the hard work. So why pay the consultant?

5. Hold Special FUNdraising Events. FUNdraising is not so much an event, but a process that keeps the congregation excited all the way through the project. That’s why I like to call it Fun Raising, because when you take the D out of the equation, you delete the distress and discouragement from the campaign.

Exercise a great of creativity in your diverse FUNdraising events. Hold some car washes, bake sales, yard sales, and auctions over the course of the year. Try donor plates, a tree of remembrance, room sponsorships, and naming rights. Go caroling during the month of December. The first year we tried that, we only raised $3,000. It wasn’t much, but we had so much fun that we could not stop. Through the years we have perfected the art and now collect more than $70,000 each December (One time we raised $83,000) just by caroling

You may not make a lot of money with your FUNdraising events, but you will build fellowship and involvement in your church. And the united spirit of the supporting members will encourage non-supporters to join the campaign to build a church where they can share worship, fellowship, and outreach in the community


Franklin David is senior pastor for the Southern Asian Church in Silver Spring, MD