“Is Support-Raising More Efficient if I Present to a Large Group?”

large group fundraising support

Say you’ve got a fundraising trip scheduled to an area with lots of personal contacts–but not that much time. Would it be better to have a large dinner or dessert? You could present to a church and ask them for members to support. You could present to a Sunday School class. Bada-bing, bada-boom. Done.

What’s the best option?

I can’t pretend to know your unique situation, or even to pretend to be an expert! But I can offer a solitary opinion–and invite the rest of you to chime in.

Here, some things to keep in mind.

The bigger the Group, the less personal responsibility.

If you ask an entire church body to support you as individuals, it’s that feeling of “someone else will probably support them. Look how many people they’re asking!”

The more personal touches, the better.

My husband and I had a lot of smaller-amount donors…which resultedin 175 supporters. Despite our best intentions, can I be honest? Life in Africa always felt like 90% survival. It arrived with a side dish of spotty internet and electricity for newsletter-writing, an unreliable postal service for note-writing, and iffy, expensive phone service for personal calls made across a 9-hour time difference. (See where I’m going with this?)

It can be hard to have the personal touches you long for with your support team–not that you shouldn’t try earnestly for them! But that means your first touches with people about your ministry needs to carry a lot of weight.

Remember that statistically, the central reason people decide to support someone is because they believe in the person–even more than the mission!

Your relationships are where you want to invest deeply and meaningfully.

large group fundraising support raising

Don’t waste your first touch. The bigger the group, the less intimate.

Maybe you’re tempted to make efficient use of time by herding contacts into larger groups.

Right now, you may have a lot of promising contacts at the beginning of your support journey. But let’s picture a time down the road, when you may have exhausted a lot of those…and only be at 30% of your needed financial support. At that point, you may be moving onto referrals–people who have no direct personal connection to you. You’ll have to work a lot harder to capture hearts and communicate urgency.

In that sense, you don’t want to “waste” that valuable first touch with already-meaningful relationships by presenting to a large group, where

a) responsibility is disseminated and

b) because of the group setting, the person instinctively feels less like a valued member of your potential team.

(You wouldn’t tell your parents in a large group about your decision to go overseas, because the news and the ability to discuss would devalue the relationship. This is true on a much lighter scale with friendships: bigger group = less intimate.)

It’s the same reason you’d want to send out your initial letters in batches–so you can follow up with a personal phone call. Or better yet, call, and let them know the letter’s coming.

Anything en masse typically works against your goal:
communicating that each potential supporter is meaningful and valuable to your team.

Rather than large groups, it would perhaps be better for you to stay longer in an area. Alternatively, you could two trips to an area–or perhaps have a spouse return and make appointments with those he or she feels most connected with.

If you’re concerned about costs, keep in mind that gaining two or three more supporters for a longer period of time could easily make up for travel costs in the long run.

If you do want to group, group them with like-minded others who preferably already know each other: friends from college, couples from your accountability group, etc. It can be awkward to meet in small groups with people you don’t know well.

The bigger the anticipated group, the less responsibility to attend.

When my husband and I first returned to a location from our assignment, we invited the whole area to an ice cream social. Thanks for supporting us! Come hear about what we’re doing!

Not a single person showed up. (Um. Ouch?)

If we would have called them individually to meet with them, they likely would have made a slot on their calendar. But if it’s a large group, no one’s cancelling their Little League game, and if they come home from a hard day at work, they might figure other people will represent.

support raising fundraising

KEEP IN MIND THE GOAL ISN’T JUST TO RAISE Financial support, BUT TO LOVE WELL.

In our post 5+ Ways to Pray for Your Support-Raising (bonus: jazzy printable infographic!), we suggested you pray to truly be able to see those on our team. They aren’t a means to an end–which dehumanizes them!–but are also people changed by your journey.

Love the people in front of you whether or not they support you. If you reach your goal but have not love, you gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

In general, I find this easier in smaller groups, where I can listen rather than just talk. I can answer their individual questions and meet them where they’re at.

Rather than McMissions, be just as much about the journey there as we are the destination.

When can a larger meeting be good?

Meeting with a committee that would support you as a whole, i.e. a board of elders or a missions committee, or the heads of a business.

You don’t want just one person saying to a group on your behalf, “We should support them!” You want every person to have heard your pitch and identified personally with your stories, investing their heart.

Meeting with referrals.

“My mom has this book club who’d like to hear about what we’re doing.” “There’s this adult small group/sunday school class that wants us to present.”

In this case, a relational connection (e.g. your mom, or the leader of the small group) is there providing his or her endorsement. The momentum of the group may work in your favor as people start to respond positively.

Still, at least with the book club-style option, you’ll want to contact each member personally after, sending individual thank-you notes and making personal calls (“Is it all right if I call each of you within the next three days or so to answer any more questions and see what amount might work with your budget?”).

In a Sunday School class, you might ask if you could pass around a sheet for their contact information, and you’ll call (or better yet, meet with) them individually to answer their questions and even put a face with a name if you haven’t yet.

This keeps them from feeling put on the spot–especially in front of friends–but reminds them they’ll have a personal decision to make.

For more tips, don’t miss this article by Support Raising Solutions on “Three Keys to Work the Crowd.”

Effective support-raising means both believing and communicating over and over that your particular supporters and their partnership in the Gospel matters. 

What’s your experience been with support-raising in front of large groups?

What works? What doesn’t?

Help us all out! Comment below.

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