“I’d sign up for a mission trip, but I don’t think I could ever raise the money.”
You may have heard (or made) an objection like this. If you’ve made plans to serve on an overseas short-term missions trip, you’re unlikely to be going for free. If you’re going to ask others for support, how might that look?
What to avoid in mission trip fundraising letters:
- Humble brag near-demand: Although I’m not worthy of the ten people who came to saving faith on my dorm floor this year, the five Bible studies the Good Lord in His grace allowed me to lead, or my Spirit-aided A in my Bible survey course, would you answer the call to join in God’s plan to use me in even mightier ways this summer, where people are starving for the God-given gifts that I bring?
- “For such a worm as I” apology: It’s true that I don’t communicate my faith well and feel queasy just reading the word “foreign.” Yet could you find it in your heart to part with a few dollars so that this poor college student could somehow get overseas for the summer, in the hopes that my feeble attempts at Christian living might overcome my negative impact on the populace?
- Once-in-a-lifetime holiday solicitation: I’m heading on an amazing trip to an exotic vacation paradise—here’s your chance to fund my profligate splurge of time and money!
Maybe it’s best to back up and think through why you’re going and how God led you to this point.
Why do you want to go on this mission trip? If you can identify clearly why you want to go, how God led you in this direction, and what you hope to accomplish, you’ll have more confidence in reaching out to potential supporters and, more importantly, in trusting God with your decision to go.
Did the Lord bring any scriptures to mind as you determined you should serve on a short-term missions team? The Navigators organization, for one, provides Bible studies for short-term trip orientations on missions, adapting to another culture, and how God provides funds for His work.
If your sending church or organization holds an orientation and doesn’t address exactly how they expect you to raise funds, feel free to ask for help. You can avoid most fundraising mistakes by working with your more experienced team leader.
Every year many people raise funds from others for short-term ministry overseas. But not everyone is willing to try. Among those who don’t, many simply find it intimidating. None of us likes to fail, and some let that fear stop them cold. They assume, “If people turn me down and I have trouble raising money, it means I—as a person—am a failure.”
First, that’s not true. You’re special. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
Second, you can work to avoid failure by taking the counsel of others who’ve done it before.
Your potential ministry partners
You can probably put together a list of potential ministry partners (donors) in an hour if you stick to one approach: not deciding for others that they don’t want to give. Put another way, assume that people like you and want to help! You can include fellow church members, friends in your college ministry or other ministries, relatives, friends, youth group members from high school, neighbors, coworkers. In an hour of brainstorming, you may easily come up with 100 names.
You’re not cajoling them or twisting their arms to give, but allowing them to join you in your work. Whether or not people choose to partner with you, you’ve given them the opportunity to express concern for you and your ministry in a concrete way (Philippians 4:10).
If you’re starting by sending a letter, try writing a draft first.
- Explain why you’re going, how God led, and what you’re being led to do—the same things you’ve hopefully already considered for yourself.
- Include one good picture of you and maybe a map of the country on a one-page letter. That beats a three-page tome with twenty thumbnail photos.
- Make a request with phrases such as, “Would you prayerfully consider…” and make your financial need clear. This isn’t begging—it’s laying out the need and giving others the opportunity to partner in your God-given ministry.
- You should have a trip budget (say, $2,000 for 20 days). You could ask people to support your ministry for a certain amount (for instance, $100, $200, or more).
- Include a deadline by which you’ll need the funds, probably at least one month before you’re due to depart.
- Direct people specifically how to give, whether online (with a link) or by filling out a form or card and a check (not payable to you, but to the sending organization).
Be sure you’ve followed a few more basic tips before you print, sign, and mail your letters.
- Get your team leader or someone else who’s done this before to edit your letter—fresh eyes will see what yours can’t.
- Sign your printed letters and jot a brief personal note on each.
- Stick a nice-looking stamp in the corner and pray as you put the letters in the mailbox. (If it’s been a long time since you’ve mailed a letter, it’s time to get acquainted with your friendly neighborhood postal worker. Mailing thank-you notes to those who contribute to your trip will express your heartfelt gratitude.)
Now ask God to do a great thing in your life and the lives of those you’ll touch overseas!