Fundraising Principles for Pastors


The principles and techniques of fundraising are sound, proven, and the base for any successful raising of funds for a specific purpose. Having a unique background of straddling pastoral fundraising, and fundraising as a profession in a university setting, I believe there are three points that can be applied to both: Share the vision, make it personal, ask for a partnership with the potential donor in seeing the vision fulfilled, and lives impacted.

A popular HGTV show, The Property Brothers, featuring Jonathan and Drew Scott, proves effective vision matters. The premise of the show is taking the prospective buyer around to several homes that need to be fixed-up, and then sharing an accurate picture of the possibilities a transformation of the property would look like. In other words, a vision. The buyers select the property they believe has the best future potential, purchase, and pay for the vision to unfold.

 Potential donors do the same. They are compelled by a vision of what will be when their gift is applied to the dream, which will eventually become a reality. Excitement for future possibilities invites participation. However, to really connect to the vision, it should be tied to lives touched by the fulfillment of the vision.

Stories matter, and the one who can tell the best personal story will win. How will the vision fulfill, touch lives, and make a future impact for a generation or more? Ask a potential donor to give towards the completion of a new church building and activity center, and it’s simple brick and mortar, emotionless. Share the potential of lives touched through a community center thriving with individuals being touched in practical ways, people gathered together for worship every week and enjoying community, and the ultimate use of the building to foster discipleship, and connect people to Jesus. Which would you give to?

 Adding stories and people to the giving request adds emotions, for a potential donor never knows what lives may be touched by their gift in the future, but anticipation is created by the curiosity of the “what if”. If they give, what stories can be told of positive impact in the lives of many due to the generosity of donors in making the vision happen? Further, if they don’t give, what lives will miss out on the blessings that could have been? A compelling vision, brought to a personal level of possibilities (or anecdotes of past similar successes) invites a partnership.

In working with a potential donor I will do a direct ask, but invite them to prayerfully consider what God is leading them to do, and at what pre-determined, and presented, level of gift they would like to potentially engage if they are felt led to a donor partnership. This is a soft direct-ask, which has paid numerous dividends in response. At times a donor already knows what level they would like to agree to, while at other times it has given a donor time to prayerfully consider their potential involvement, and to what amount of gift it should be if they do.

This three-point approach has yielded wonderful results, and created positive partnerships with the donor, and recipient organization. This success has been accomplished by (1) The sharing of a compelling vision, (2) making the connection between the fundraising project and lives that will be impacted, and (3) asking them to become partners in seeing the vision materialize.  The result? A life-changing project brought to conclusion.


Dean Waterman has served as a pastor and professional fundraiser in a university setting and currently works for the Texas Conference with President’s Special Projects