14 Tips on How to Write a Support Letter

December 8, 2017By Morgan FunkeFundraising

Let’s be honest, one of the most difficult parts of doing missions work is raising support. Whether it’s a short term trip or long term project it has to be funded somehow. Today, there are many great tools that can be used for fundraising from social media to campaign funds to fundraisers and more.

In the midst of all the means of communication available, plain old-fashioned letters are often forgotten. But it’s good to remember they can be a great tool to get the fundraising ball rolling! Words have power. How we invite others into the story of what God is doing in and through us is important! Here are some tips on how to write a support letter that helps fully fund your mission:

  1. Realize it’s not about you – Raising support is a way of allowing others to partner with you in what God is already doing. By giving, they become part of what God is going to do through you. Your donors might give because they know you, but whether they recognize it or not, ultimately they are giving to God not you.
  2. Send it to the right people (pretty much everyone) – Don’t edit your list of people to only those who you think will give. It’s amazing how God will often use the people you least expect!
  3. Be personal – People want to hear about why YOU are passionate about this mission, not just about the trip or the project.
  4. Tell how your story intersects with the story God is writing in a specific place – It’s proven that when people hear a story they have a physiological reaction and are more likely to give. Don’t just share facts, tell a story.
  5. Make it clear and concise – Try to limit it to one page of writing. Using bullet points for details can be helpful. As you’re revising, ask yourself what information is absolutely necessary for readers to understand your mission and the role you’re asking them to take.
  6. Be specific about what you need – Don’t just ask for prayer if you also need finances. Ask for both because both are important and needed. The best success in getting donations comes when you help them with a good starting point, for example, “Raising $3,000 might sound like a lot, but that’s only 40 people giving $75 each.” You could also approach the amounts by letting people know what need a specific dollar amount would address, for example, “$200 a month will cover half of my housing costs.”
  7. Incorporate good visuals – We live in a visual society. Having the letter laid out well by using bullet points, bolding important points, breaking up long paragraphs, and avoiding tiny fonts will go a long way! As a bonus, printing 4×6 photos is simpler and cheaper than ever and adding a few to your letter could make a huge impact.
  8. Get creative – Make your letter special. Do something that makes it “you” and sets it apart from the mail people receive all the time. Don’t forget to invite Holy Spirit into this process – He’s incredibly creative and will be your best fundraising partner!
  9. Give a time limit – People are more likely to give if they have to do it in a certain amount of time, for example, “In order to meet my first deadline I need to have $2,000 raised by May 20th.”
  10. Keep the tone positive – If people sense that you believe the money will come in, they are much more likely give. Letting people know your need is necessary, but it can be done in a way that doesn’t sound desperate and panicky. Ask a trusted friend to read your letter before you send it out and help you see places you might unintentionally fall into wording things that come across desperate rather than faith-filled.
  11. Use social media – As a secondary means, use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. to get your letter out. However, don’t rely on social media as your only means of distributing this letter.
  12. Follow up – It’s always good to follow up with a email and/or a second letter. Some givers like to wait until they know others are giving before jumping onboard. In fact, more often than not, you may not begin to see any donations until you follow up!
  13. Be willing to make a phone call or ask in person – Asking people directly for a donation terrifies most people, but the chances of someone donating increase 50% if the ask is done in person or at least over the phone.
  14. Cover the process in prayer – This may seem elemental, but it can be so easy to overlook! Too often we approach fundraising as a purely practical task when in reality it is actually a very spiritual process. Before you begin, call together a few close friends and ask them to be intentionally interceding with you and for you as you write, send, and follow up on your support letters.

There’s no way around the fact that fundraising will make you uncomfortable and will stretch you way outside your comfort zone. The best way I can tell you to tackle it is to simply take it one step at a time. Learning how to write a support letter is a practical way you can get things moving. I also recommend finding resources to help you understand the heart behind why we fundraise. A few of my favorites are:

Fundraising is a spiritual process not just a practical task - how to write a support letter

Photos by Pixabay on Pexels and Connor McSheffrey on Unsplash

The Overlooked Foundation of Truly Great Leadership

December 1, 2017By Sarah GillLeadership

Short-term missions trips always seem to be a comical combination of poor planning and God’s grace. One time, my husband and I spent a month with a group of 45 other people serving a ministry in South America. As part of the leadership team, we spent quite a bit of time around the ministry host (we’ll call him Joe). There were the usual frustrations and miscommunications, but one that became a joke among our fellow missionaries was the fact that Joe (who was American) seemed determined not to remember my name – I was “Derek’s wife” for a whole month, despite the fact that he managed to remember everyone else’s name on the leadership team.

It was a hard month. And it was hard not only because I felt some of this treatment had to do with this particular person’s view on women in ministry, but on a much deeper level, because I felt so incredibly unknown.

Maya Angelou famously wrote,

“I’ve learned that people forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I don’t remember much of what Joe said, and even most of his planning blunders have faded from memory. But what I do remember, very distinctly, is how he made me feel.

I’m sure if you and I were to sit down and compare notes, you’ve probably had similar experiences. Maybe it’s a dear friend who forgets your birthday or a spouse who does the thing you’ve told them time and again hurts your feelings. Or maybe it’s a leader who repeats a question, clearly not recalling the vulnerable answer you shared to the same question last time you talked. Regardless of the specific situation, you’ve been there.

The revelation is that each and every one of us is longing to be known – to truly be seen, heard, and valued for exactly who we are – not what we have to offer.

In the years since my encounter with Joe, I’ve begun taking careful note of the people who do this well. It’s an art form, really, and something that I’ve started to prioritize developing. I don’t claim at all to have it figured out, but I do know it starts very simply: with relationship. As a leader, the question I ask myself is,

How do I communicate with my words and actions that I truly see and value those around me?

The flip side of my experience with Joe are the other people, the ones who somehow communicate love, acceptance, and knowing without really even having to say many words. They are the people who permeate every inch of their sphere of influence with genuine empathy, love, and grace.

Each and every one of us has been given a sphere of influence – a space in which we have the opportunity to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth each and every day. The way I see it, the relationships and interactions we have with people are the primary way we are able to accomplish this.

Sometimes knowing the nuts-and-bolts how to bring Heaven to Earth is a challenge. Relationships are all about exchanges, about giving and receiving. And quite honestly, there are a lot of people in life who approach relationships with an expectation to receive.

How do we, as Jesus followers, give those people a taste of Heaven – the ones who are exhausting, draining, and depleting?

Peter and John encountered a lame man begging outside the temple, and Peter’s response famously speaks to this:

“I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have…” (Acts 3:6).

I have to admit, there are days when all I want to do is go about my business and not be interrupted by someone’s need. It’s terrible, but it’s also honest. There are days it’s hard to feel the pressure of filling a need in someone else’s life, especially when I don’t feel like I can give them what they’re asking for.

But this is why I love Peter’s response. He doesn’t fall into a people-pleasing mode of figuring out how to give the lame man what he wanted. Instead, he accurately assesses his resources and, I think, lets Holy Spirit guide him in choosing how to meet the lame man’s need.

Peter gave this man the greatest gift any of us have to offer: time.

Time is our most precious resource. It’s the one resource each of us are given in absolutely equal measure and there’s nothing we can do to change the quantity. All we can do is choose how to steward it.

Constant interruptions are hard for me. I’m sure you don’t care for them much, either. Being an available leader doesn’t come naturally to me; I can honestly be pretty selfish with my time. But often the thing people need most from me isn’t my advice, my talent, or even my money. The real need they have is for my time, because

unselfishly giving of our time is one of the most powerful ways we can communicate worth and value to those around us.

As a passionate advocate of self-care, let me be quite clear here that I am a firm supporter of having healthy boundaries. The clarification here is the attitude of your heart: I’m talking about emotional availability as much as physical availability. Giving someone your time doesn’t mean giving them unrestricted access to your schedule; it means being fully engaged with them at strategic moments.

Bob Goff once wrote,

“People don’t follow vision; they follow availability. I’m rarely the smartest guy in the room, but I’m usually the most available one…Loving people well means living with constant interruptions.”

Availability is the secret of truly great leadership.

It’s not really that complicated to show people they’re a priority. Practicing things like eye contact (not constantly scanning the room to see who else is there), asking questions and listening rather than talking, keeping your phone out of sight, devising a strategy for remembering names, following up on details of previous conversations… these are all simple, practical ways of being an available leader.

Remember this: people over projects. At the end of the day, I think Jesus will always be more impressed by the hearts we impacted than the projects we ticked off the to-do list. Projects and productivity are great, but they aren’t something we take with us to heaven any more than money or possessions. Being an available leader may not always be convenient or easy, but it will create opportunities to bring Heaven to Earth. It’s the kind of leader Jesus was, and moments of interruption were most often the times and places He chose to do the most miracles, change the most lives, and ultimately let people encounter the Father.

"People don't follow vision; they follow availability. I'm rarely the smartest guy in the room, but I'm usually the most available one...Loving people well means living with constant interruptions." –Bob Goff

Bob Goff quote taken from issue no. 4 of The Magnolia Journal

Photos by Priscilla Du Preez and Philipp Berndt on Unsplash

Growing Kingdom Visions

November 24, 2017By Morgan FunkeEmotional Health, Ministry Consulting, The Cause

There is an epidemic happening today.

Great Kingdom visions are being lost because of the individualistic way that nonprofits are currently structured. The system is broken.

World changing dreams are dying before they ever get off the ground. And if they do take off, running a nonprofit according to the current structure often leads to intense leadership burnout. The Cause exists to help God’s Kingdom come. So we partner with the leaders, the visionaries, the Kingdom-bringers, to help them do the work they are called to do. Before sharing more about what we do, here’s the “why.”

The reason I do The Cause is humblingly personal. It’s been years now, but the memories are still painful, even today they bring a knot into my chest and and tears to my eyes…

I sat on the hard booth in the diner-style restaurant. Fluorescent lights glared overhead while I poked at the half-eaten, tasteless dish in front of me. My index finger nervously struck the cuticle of my thumb. Eventually blood appeared. The table was full, the group was supportive, but the conversation was brutal. I looked down as my sister talked to our nonprofit board. She confessed the truth that everyone already knew. We were both burnt out. We were the casualty of the ministry that had consumed our twenties.

For me, burnout was hours and hours of television. I would stay up late into the night trying to get my brain to calm down and stop counting the incessant to-do’s. I would watch one show, then another, then a third until early in the morning, but my exhausted mind still wouldn’t shut off. Burnout was getting home from a long night of laughing, eating, and praying with our homeless guests, then having an extra bagel, a second dessert, or a few drinks. Anything to take the edge off. It was a never-ending tension, being easily offended, and way too ready to defend my actions, even when I knew they were self-destructive. It was the garage I never had energy to clean, the food donations that rotted in the fridge, and the fact that every task, even the simple ones, seemed arduous.

It didn’t begin that way…

We accidently started Fill-A-Belly. The plan wasn’t for our weekly homeless dinners to grow, but they kept getting bigger and bigger. At the beginning, we asked churches, nonprofits, and other similar ministries to let our outreach come under their nonprofit umbrella so that we could focus on the mission. The answer was a universal “no.”  We were too messy; too out of the box.

People were handing us donations and we needed a 501(c)(3) to properly process them. We had to decide: either stifle the growth of the ministry, or begin the arduous and time consuming process of starting and running a nonprofit. Out of necessity, we founded a nonprofit. It was expensive. It took a huge amount of our administrative time and resources. Thankfully, due to a lot of hard work and a strong board, Fill-A-Belly, is still successful today, but my sister and I were the carnage. Running a nonprofit took our time and energy away from helping those we were called to serve, and we burnt out. It’s been years. We are still recovering.

That is why I do The Cause – because my story is the story of thousands of others, and I long to provide a better way to run a ministry.

Christ followers are called to take up the cause of those God champions: the widow, orphan, refugee, homeless, poor, exploited, and broken hearted. The goal is to bring restorative justice through community transformation!

The Cause exists to empower those who are giving their lives for that calling, which maximizes Kingdom Impact!  

We provide grassroots organizations and individuals with a 501(c)3 covering or umbrella. But our work goes far beyond that, because The Cause is not actually about The Cause… it’s about leaders – our partners! We offer solid administrative support, while strengthening their God-given abilities through leadership, coaching, spiritual, and emotional support. What we do through The Cause allows great Kingdom visions to thrive!

Growing Kingdom vision and running a nonprofit differently

Photos by Markus Spiske and Tim Mossholder on Unsplash