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:
- 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.
- 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!
- Be personal – People want to hear about why YOU are passionate about this mission, not just about the trip or the project.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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:
- The God Ask (a great beginning-to-end guide on the WHY and HOW)
- Friend Raising (excellent insight on how to view supporters build a team)
- God and Elephants: A Worshipper’s Guide to Raising Support (a quick read with good practical tips on communicating in support raising)