Fund-raising by Email

Are you fund-raising by email as the head of a small mission or ministry, in say, India, Pakistan, or one of the African countries? Or from another country like that? You want to find generous donors and supporters in the rich parts of the world like North America and the European countries so you go fishing for charity funds on the internet by visiting various websites, and when you find a contact form you paste in your prepared write-up about your ministry, and your great need, and you hope that a 'compassionate' person will read your message and start sending you cash or money wires.

I see quite a number of these begging emails! I develop and maintain a number of sites and the ones that have anything about Christian compassion and concern for missions seem to attract such fund-raisers. At first I was touched, even through their imperfect English, I sensed their needs and cry for help. I've become more discerning about the bad manners of some of these "internet beggars. Now I delete a lot of them."

If you are one of these who do this fund-raising by email, I would like to offer some suggestions for improving your methods. I cannot guarantee better results, but - to adapt a proverb, "there is no need to cut off your nose to improve your face." You certainly might get better results. Some ministry leaders are giving all others a bad name by their fundraising by email methods, so that soon filters will be in place to screen out ALL such pleas via contact forms.

Actually, I can go several directions with the advice I'd like to give you about fund-raising by email. One is about the messages you send via those contact forms, and another is about how to make yourself fiscally responsible so that you will be respected and honoured with good and generous gifts. The latter will probably lead to another series of helpful articles, so I will set that aside for this page.

Fund-raising by Email - Improved

1. Don't just eagerly find those contact forms, and paste in your text and move on. You will make enemies that way! You will close up the hearts of otherwise generous and caring people!

Instead, consider the kind of work, or ministry you do. Enter those words into a search engine site, such as google. Now visit the sites that are about the same topic as your ministry. If your work is all about caring for orphans, put "orphans" or "orphan care" into the search engine. If you teach a small Bible school, enter something like "Bible School", or "Bible training", or "Christian discipleship" into the search bar.

But hold it! Don't go pasting your description of your work and your plea for funds into their contact forms. Take time to read their website. Read the "About us" page, so you know who they are and how they began their ministry. Have they got a "Terms of Service" page? Search for clues as to what they care about the most and how they do things. Look for any sign that they have a program for supporting a ministry like yours in another country.

So many of the contact form pleas I recieve praise us for our wonderful site, and then ask for a shipment of Bibles.

Excuse me! Where did you see on our site that we are offering free Bibles? I am personally in favour of distributing Bibles, but our small mission struggles financially too, and we simply cannot afford to send out Bibles overseas. It causes tension and frustration at our mission to receive your thoughtless request. If I bring it up at the Board meeting, someone is likely to say, "Just delete them!"

Suppose you follow the above advice. You may have been reading for an hour or more, and now you think you have found a place where you have something in common. But wait... don't rush in to paste your text.

2. Stop to pray and ask the Lord's guidance. Now check that website over again to get a clear summary in your mind of what they are all about, how they do things, whether they are a faith mission too, and also are limited to what they can fund-raise, and even read their terms of service. If you see that they are in financial need too, back off. Leave them alone.

Ask the Lord to show you whether you could be long-term friends and co-workers with these people behind the site. If God's Spirit within you is uneasy about approaching them, just don't do it. If your heart and God's Spirit unit to say, 'this is a very good possibility,' then you may look for their contact us page.

Writing Your First Contact Message

1. Forget about your prepared summary of what your ministry is and does, and who you are and your great need for money. (In fact, set that aside for your own website or blog).

Instead, address your message to the leader by name, or one of the staff, and commend them for their work. Just bless them for the ministry they have in an area that is dear to your own heart. Then ask them a question. Something that you need to have clarified so that you will know more about their work, or how they go about it. Sign your name, with your title, if you have one, and underneath, the name of your ministry or mission.

No plea, no begging like, "please send us all the Bibles and Christian literature you have!" (The one I see a lot).

Make very sure you put in your email address correctly in the correct blank. Because you want to hear back from them, and if they write and their email bounces back to them, well - so much for your effort - it was wasted.

Building a Relationship

When they reply with an answer to your question, write back to that individual by name, and thank them, and ask another question. Choose it carefully, because if you appear to be wasting their time, they may ignore you. (Not everyone is as patient as I have been).

But now you might add a few words, just a hint, about the kind of work or ministry you have that is similar to theirs. Or you might ask if they would pray for a prayer request you have.

Show good manners in your writing and try to use the best English, and the best spelling you can. You want to build a life-long relationship and become dear friends.

Face it - the kind, generous people you want to reach are afraid of sending money to strangers around the world, especially if those strangers are rude. They will give to friends and begin to talk to their personal friends to help support you, but only once they reach the place where they feel they know and respect you, and can trust you to tell the truth.

Other Ways to Get Friends

There are other ways to build good friendships than through this email correspondence method. One currently very popular is by using social media sites, like Facebook. It is free to sign up, but I suggest you hold back from dumping your information onto others until you have explored to see how others do it that appears to be most effective. Take time to learn the best how-to methods.

That's a subject for another page.

Build your own website or blog. There are ways to get one for free. That is the place to carefully announce and explain what your ministry is about, and to include photos, and to make an appeal for financial help. Then, when you go visiting other sites, or make friends on Facebook and the other social media sites, you can include your website's URL or address under your signature. That allows people who are interested to check you out and decide whether they like what you do and what you stand for. This is how business people do it around the world.

If you go so far as to build your website around good, often sought keywords, and you get them into your meta tags (hidden to all but the search engines) and you use those keywords often enough throughout your web page, then the search engines will bring visitors to your site who are looking for exactly those keywords. That will greatly ease the time you have to spend online hunting and reading other websites for potential friends and supporters.

One of the first things I do when I receive a message via the contact form on one of my sites is to research and check them out. I can google your name and find just about any site where you have left a comment or where someone has said something about you. But if you provide a link to your own website or blog, or Facebook page, I can quickly see all that you have shared openly about your ministry and your own life so that I can compare and evaluate you and your ministry against what I know. I want to see if there is any point in replying to you at all.

I would much rather see your description and photos nicely laid out on a website, even a free one, than a long passage of text with everything you want known about your ministry dumped into it. That indicates such bad manners that most people (and yes, sometimes I too), just delete your message and pretend we never saw it. We treat it like spam! And it is - we didn't ask for it!

Wrong Ways for Fund-raising by Email

  • Take advice and example of spammers and dump your information and requests into contact forms
  • Ignore the information on the website about the owners
  • Tell them everything about you all at once in one paragraph.
  • Ignore any polite response message and hammer them over and over with your "rote" summary.
  • Assume that people will gladly give to strangers if you just beg loud and long enough.
  • Once you have their email address, wear them down with more repeat messages
  • Don't even entertain the thought that by now they have filtered out your address and no longer see your emails.
  • Forget to pray about your fund-raising; surely the spammers know how it should be done.
  • Ignore signs of a budding relationship when someone asks to know more about your ministry or work.
  • Scoff at the idea of a website or blog; too much work! You want instant results!
  • If you do have a website or blog, slap it up in a hurry, and then walk away and ignore it.
  • Try Facebook or LinkedIn, but if money doesn't rain on you, walk away from it.
  • Go around whining that the internet is a "dog eat dog" world, and not safe for Christians.
  • Tell your friends that you tried fund-raising by email and it doesn't work!

I'm sure there are many more, but that should give you the picture in a negative or back-handed way. To summarize, fund-raising by email in the above manner is NOT a good way to do it. There are better ways, but you will need to learn them and it will take more time. However, if you have the patience to do it, (or can assign someone from your ministry who has the tact and patience to learn this to take it on), you will gain so much more in worthy, godly friends, who will be generous. But they want to learn to know and care about you first. We call that a friendship or a relationship. And the internet - if used wisely - is a paradise for making new friends all over the world!


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