I mentioned yesterday that my church is struggling financially this year. As a result the staff was asked to cut every bit of “excess” from our budgets at the beginning of the summer. Meaning if we hadn’t spent it yet we used it to close as much of the gap as possible. As a result we are spending the rest of the year, well… I guess spending the year isn’t the right term at all.
There is a temptation to throw a bake sale or have a Bike-a-thon so that we can bring back some of the events/programs we had to cut, but one simple truth keeps us from doing that.
My church doesn’t do fundraisers.
Of all the policies we have, this one if by far my favorite. (That, and the one about not Xeroxing your butt… but I digress).
The blanket ban on fundraising of all sorts makes it simple to stop telemarketers who want me to sell their candy bars. It makes it easy to throw away the catalogs that promise me huge gains for the youth budget. And it just makes everything in lour ministry operate more smoothly.
Here are the reasons we don’t do fundraisers.
Fundraisers Take (Lots Of) Time
A lot of work goes into making fundraisers work. First you have to pick how you are going to raise your money, be it candy bars, scented candles, calendars, fancy cheeses, or whatever. Then you have to find people to help and relentlessly pester encourage them to sell well. All of this instead of telling teens about Jesus.
Fundraisers Breed Competition
It sends a dangerous message to ministries if they know their annual budget sinks or swims based on their ability to raise cash each year. Suddenly church members are targets of sales pitches instead of brotherly love and the church lobby looks more like a swap meet than a spiritual home. (I think Jesus had something to say about that).
Fundraisers Can Get Awkward
Youth Ministry is already fraught (+10 word bonus points) with ways to have awkward conversations. (Billy, have you heard of “deodorant”). When we offer to get involved in the messiness of life, this is what happens. Adding fundraisers to the mix just makes things even more difficult. It’s tricky to explain why you have so much “inventory” left, or why you raised money but not enough money. Money makes people weird, and the conversations get just as goofy.
I once experienced a woman who insisted that her son get back his “cut” of the annual fundraising since he was unable to attend one of our larger retreats.
Fundraisers Shift Priorities
Plain and simple, fundraisers cause us to focus on money instead of ministry. Fundraisers perpetuate the idea that good ministry requires good funding. You already spend time thinking about how to best use your resources. Having to gather those resources as well causes the financial decisions to monopolize your time.
Once that happens, everything looks more like an investment opportunity than a ministry. You start to measure events by the financial ramifications instead of the spiritual ones, and you start to talk about every aspect of the ministry in terms of cost and benefit.
I’d rather be broke and talking about Jesus.
So that’s why we don’t do fundraisers. It isn’t that I think we don’t need to have a keen awareness of our program decisions and their effect on the budget, but that should be secondary to what we are trying to accomplish.
Another side effect I’ve noticed is that when all ministries equally depend on the general fund to fund their area, there is a true sense of comradery when the water starts raising past our necks (like it is now). Rather than survival of the fittest and a “he who fundraises doesn’t get left behind” mentality of ministry, we are actively helping one another accomplish what needs to be done because the staff feels one another’s pain.
What’s the funding model of your church?