Generosity

Church Plant Fundraising: 8 Ways You Can Raise Money

Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im share 8 church plant fundraising models you can use to raise financial support for your church plant.

Church Plant Fundraising: 8 Ways You Can Raise Money
by

A new church requires a regular flow of money.

It’s possible to start a new church successfully with a completely unsupported bivocational planter, but usually the congregation needs additional support for a meeting place, program, or other costs. Also, many church plants sometimes require a special infusion of funds—launch activities, outreach projects, sound, and video equipment, gathering events, and the like.

To help you raise the financial support you need, here are eight church plant fundraising models you can use:

#1. Denominational support

Denominational entities, networks, congregations, and individuals have joined efforts and provided resources to underwrite new church starts across North America.

Many new church plants are dissimilar in worship style to the majority of churches in their denomination. However, if God has called you to be part of a denomination, then it’s your job to reach across that divide (and others). When denominations help fund church planters, cooperating with them is an integrity issue.

This does not necessarily mean the name of the denomination needs to be reflected in the name of the church, but the new church should have the denomination in their values.

Generally, denominations have policies regarding fund-raising that planters should get from their denominational leaders. If there are no restrictions, some of the ideas below may help.

#2. Build networks

Some church planters find themselves underfunded because they function as Lone Rangers. They refuse to take the time to build relationships and maintain strategic partnerships.

During my final year at Millcreek Community Church, we succeeded in gathering $200,000 for church planting and growth-money we couldn’t have generated by ourselves. By building various relationships and partnerships, we found resources to start two daughter churches on the same day with over two hundred at the first service for each new church. Our denomination helped, we were given an empty church building (which we sold), and we raised funds.

Church planting networks and associations, such as the Association of Related Churches (ARC), Acts 29, V3, Soma, Sojourn, Church Multiplication Network, Stadia, and Redeemer City to City are a healthy supplement to a church plant. In fact, networks are the new normal.

#3. Get others involved

Other persons and churches may become involved as contributors.

Many church planters find Christian businesspeople open to supporting a new church. If you approach businesspeople for funding, be sure to have your strategic and fund-raising ducks in a row.

Related: Build Your Business on Faith: 55 Bible Verses About Business

Financially successful people like to see specifics in at least three categories:

  1. Achievable goals
  2. How you’re stretching to meet those goals
  3. How their money will be spent.

They also expect to be kept up-to-date on progress and results.

#4. Individual donors

Individuals also contribute financial resources for new churches.

The church planter may begin tapping such resources by developing a fund-raising brochure, a fund-raising letter, and a fund-raising conversation.

In this approach the planter should prepare the promotional letter and brochure, including a cover letter of commendation for the new church from a respected, well-known leader in the denomination. This brochure should be mailed to potential donors, especially to persons who have demonstrated interest in new work.

Before approaching individuals who are involved in local churches, it’s a good idea and a move of integrity to get permission from that potential donor’s pastor.

#5. Bivocational/Tent Making

A secular job can also supply funding for the church planter. Just because the denomination or a church can’t fund the planter’s church start doesn’t mean the planter can’t plant a church.

Congregations and individuals must remember that denominations don’t call church planters; God calls church planters. If God has called but finances don’t follow as expected, the planter can’t argue that God has closed the door. Finances are not the determining factor in God’s will; God is the determining factor in God’s will.

If God expresses a call, the planter must help make a way where there is no other way—by working at bivocational employment, at least for a period of time until the church has grown to support the pastor.

When I was unable to find adequate funding at my first church plant, I took a job insulating houses. I could start early in the morning and supervise several crews from my car and mobile phone. At the same time I could do visits on my own time if I was in the area. My employer was flexible and gave me the freedom to clock in and out as needed.

The job served as a good place for connections and ministry. It also helped pay the bills when the new church could not.

#6. Reversed tiered model

The traditional tiered model is where a planter is 100 percent funded in year one, then decreased to 66 percent in year two, 33 percent in year three, and then by year four the planter and plant should be self-funded.

With the reversed tiered model, instead of receiving 100 percent of the funding in year one, you receive 25 percent. After year one it would incrementally go up as your church grows; and as your church continues to grow, you will be forced to quit your part-time job.

One of the benefits of the Reversed Tiered Model is that it may alleviate a lot of the financial stress in the first couple of years of the plant and planter.

#7. Shared partnership funding model

This model focuses on the plant or planter’s funds coming from at least four main sources.

First, the planter should raise the first 25 percent of the entire budget from friends, relatives, and various churches. Although there are exceptions, if a church planter can’t raise funds, the planter probably can’t plant a church.

Second, the planter finds a sponsoring church to provide an additional 25 percent. Generally a sponsoring church that does not financially invest in the plant eventually becomes apathetic toward the plant and planter.

The third 25 percent could come from a region district, judicatory, church planting network, or association. Having involvement in one or more of the entities listed above is valuable to a planter, for these entities would be able to provide assessment, coaching, and training.

Finally, the last 25 percent should come from the denomination’s national fund.

#8 Crowdfunding model

The crowdfunding model is based on the concept of crowdfunding, which is where entrepreneurs use the networks of friends, family, and colleagues through social media outlets (such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) to get the word out about a new business or to attract new investors.

Applied to the arena of church planting, the crowdfunding model is more of an experiential education model designed to integrate the classroom of church planting with the field experience of actually doing church planting.

Crowdfunding is a perfect way to mix classroom and field experience for a church planter, for it allows them to be part of a group of planters where they have real-life opportunity to innovate, collaborate, cast vision, create momentum, and raise funds. By crowdfunding an idea or an actual plant, a church planter would be cross-training in many of the same areas required to plant and lead a church.

Over to you

When you examine the financial picture, the real resources are already in the hands of God’s people—whether great foundations, wealthy donors, wealthy churches, or simply typical, individual believers who want to become involved in kingdom enterprises worthy of their gifts.

Editor’s Note: Adapted from Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im. Published by B&H Academic. Copyright © 2016. Used by permission.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

Blog

Church Plant Fundraising: 8 Ways You Can Raise Money