Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

07 Feb

Online Article-Relational Fundraising

Posted in Uncategorized on 07.02.12 by Merlyn

Published at Youthworker Online (A part of Youthworker Journal)

Read the online article here

Relational Fundraising

By Rev. Marcus J Carlson

There are countess articles, books and sermons discussing relational youth ministry. Relational youth ministry has become more than a buzz word as church and para-church youth workers have emphasized and practiced some form of relational youth ministry for decades in many cases. While there are multiple definitions and forms of relational youth ministry and it is not without its strengths and weaknesses, there is no question about the importance of this approach to ministry. I recently read a book about youth for teachers that had Harvard influences and much of the thrust of that book was on a relational approach to teaching when working with youth. Recently it struck me that perhaps the relational approach to ministry should be applied to fundraising. As I contemplated this notion, I realized several things that have shaped how I view and approach fundraising in youth ministry.

If I look back on my own ministry career, it is obvious to me that quality of relationship has had an impact on my ability to raise funds. I have also found this is true for many of the youth I know with a couple exceptions. Those exceptions tend to be the youth who are either incredible at selling things or are very hard workers. My most successful fundraising has happened in contexts where I have the best relationships. In church settings where I was not as successful at building relationships with parents, congregation members and the community, I struggled more with fundraising. In contexts where I had more success at building relationships with parents, congregation members and the community, I had significantly more success with fundraising. In ministry settings where I had great relationships, I have found I was able to raise $12,000 when I needed $8,000; I would get at $5,000 donation when I wanted to ask for $500. If I look at all of the youth I have worked with over time, those who had more social capital (more significant adult relationships) had overall better relationships with adults and congregation members and raised more money with greater ease.

It all sounds pretty obvious when you think about it right? It should, but the reality is that many ministry leaders, especially youth workers, struggle to have a complete, healthy, theologically solid approach to money and ministry. Whether it is concern over salary or budget, an inability to manage our own financial resources and our budgets, or give financially to the ministry, youth workers can struggle when it comes to ministry and money. Healthy relationships build trust and ownership. Where there is great relationship, there is trust and ownership; where there is trust and ownership, there is support. Money in ministry is not as much about resources or management as it is about relationship.

I am not suggesting youth workers or youth build relationships for the purpose of raising funds. That would be ineffective and more importantly wrong. One of the fruits of good relationships with parents, congregation members, businesses and other adults is a willingness to share financial resources with those people we love and trust. Thinking about relational fundraising is just another reminder that relationship is at the core of what being a Christ-follower is all about.

As youth workers, relational youth ministry should not be focused solely on our relationship with youth. While should be a priority, our ministries are much more powerful (financially and otherwise) when we focus on relationships with parents, youth, congregation members, and other adults and businesses in the community we serve. Relational fundraising is not about the dollars and cents; rather it is about our ability to build trust and ownership in our communities.


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