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Introduction to Fundraising
for Small Christian Charities
Stacks of Coins

Many small or new charities have no experience or expertise in fundraising and they don’t know where to start. Good fundraising consultants who understand the Christian sector are often expensive and reasonably rare. Often fundraising is the responsibility of a chair of trustees or CEO who has little or no previous fundraising experience. So this resource introduces readers to:

  • Methods of fundraising and types of donor and donation

  • Information to make available to potential donors in an attractive format

  • Some initial actions to get you underway

  • A section on the place of prayer.

  • Some signposts to more in depth fundraising resources and training

Why Fundraise?

That’s the first question to ask: why do we need to fundraise? Is it because of a new initiative or due to a shortfall in income on existing activities? You certainly need to be clear what the new funding is required for, before you approach any individuals or organisations.


How much is needed?

Key questions to answer at the outset include:

  • How much will the project or new initiative cost?

  • What is your current annual income from donations and other sources and what is the financial gap that needs to be filled?

  • What do you expect your target income requirement to be in five years’ time? Plan how you will increase each element of income annually over the five year window.


Vision, mission and strategy

One of the first steps is to ensure your charity or church has a clearly articulated vision and mission with a simple strategic plan or church mission action plan. Being clear about “what you do” and “why” and the expected outcomes will be essential for any fundraising “ask”.


Identify your stakeholders and potential funders

Make a list of the various categories of people who may be willing to support you, including those who already do. Then go into more detail by identifying names of individuals and grant making organisations. If you have a contacts database that’s a great place to start. Categories may include:

  • Existing major supporters

  • Former major supporters

  • Current donors (regular and occasional)

  • Former or lapsed donors

  • Members (where relevant)

  • Charitable trusts whose criteria fit your organisation or the particular initiative for which you are fundraising.

  • Mission organisations with complimentary aims to yours.

  • Local churches

  • Trustees and former trustees

  • Staff and former staff

  • Other alumni including students and former students if relevant for your organisation

Finally consider what other potential donors there may be in your specific context.

You may want to do some donor mapping: if you have a database there are organisations who will analyse it and indicate which donors may have significant potential that you are not aware of.


Identify relevant fundraising methods 

You will need to identify the relevant fundraising routes/journey for each category of donor. This may include some of the following:

  • An initial introduction

  • Promotional events

  • Social media

  • Building a relationship

  • A written approach to ask for a donation eg an appeal letter or email

  • A face to face ask, usually for a more significant sum, which may include using a fundraising case for support document.

NB Also remember the importance of donor retention: it’s easier to retain those you already know than to start from scratch.

Types of donation

These include:

  • A one off gift using a cheque or charity voucher

  • A regular donation eg monthly direct debit or standing order

  • An annual gift

  • An online donation through your website

  • Online donations using a third party giving platform that may promote your organisation or project, for example  or Justgiving

  • Donations from online purchases such as through charity shopping fundraising sites like Amazon Smile and Easyfundraising

  • Legacies and Deeds of Variation on estates over the inheritance tax threshold.

  • Gift aid and other methods of tax effective giving which can increase the value of donations from individuals.

  • Sponsorship of an event or project by an individual or organisation.


A matrix of potential donors and fundraising routes

Use the matrix supplied with this resource to identify which routes could be applicable for each type of donor…


A fundraising case for support

This is a key document which you can give to potential donors. It sets out information about the organisation and the specific cause(s) for which you are fundraising. You can also prepare a case for support for the whole organisation. It should be attractive, well laid out and include some graphics or photos, using your corporate style if you have one. Contents should include:

  • A brief outline of the project (or organisation for an organisation's case for support)

  • The project’s context within the organisation’s vision, mission and strategy.

  • A simple budget for the project

  • A simple timetable for the development of initiative

  • Some endorsements eg from chair of trustees, CEO, well known supporters

  • Details of how to respond


Other documents to have available for potential donors include:

  • Strategic plan including your vision and mission statements

  • Latest annual report & financial statements

  • A simple organisation budget which includes income sources, programme costs, any staff costs and reasonable support costs.

  • A 5 year financial plan/cash flow.


The Importance of Prayer

Again and again I have seen how prayer about a Christian organisation’s finances makes a significant difference. Ultimately we trust God as provider, for example 1 Chronicles 29: 10-14, Psalm 24:1, Matthew 6: 31-33 and Philippians 4:19. There are a whole range of topics our prayers may cover including:

  • The rationale for the initiative and its relative priority within the organisation’s overall budget.

  • The practical implementation of the initiative.

  • The amount to be spent on the initiative: set up/implementation and where appropriate annual running costs.

  • How to fund the initiative.

  • Asking God to provide for an initiative that you believe He is guiding you to undertake.


There are several groups of people who can be asked to pray:

  • Leadership team

  • Other staff

  • Trustees

  • Committed donors

  • Those being approached for a gift

  • Where appropriate other relevant stakeholders.


Principles of Christian stewardship and fundraising

There is a significant difference between fundraising in secular and Christian charities. Christian organisations with a God-given vision and calling should be looking for support in a Godly way that is consistent with our Christian faith. Things to consider include:

  • Developing a set of fundraising values

  • Integrity in the information provided that doesn’t exaggerate or over emotionalise the needs of beneficiaries.

  • Treating donors and potential donors with respect and building a relationship with them

  • Only accepting funds from ethical donors

  • Saying thank you unless specifically asked not to

  • Limiting the amount spent on fundraising and publicity

  • Developing good stewardship of funds and transparent accountability

  • Recognising that prayer and time, as well as financial donations, are ways to support a charity or church.


Next steps in your fundraising journey

  1. Ensure you are clear about the vision, mission and values of the organisation and the reason for the specific initiative.

  2. You will probably have limited time and budget, so prioritise which potential funders you will approach first and which approaches you will use with them.

  3. Prepare any documents that you will be using

  4. Consider whether to adopt a pilot approach which can then be tailored to ensure it’s as effective as possible.

  5. Make a detailed project plan.

  6. Pray, pray, pray…. This should really be number 1!




Author and copyright: Helen Calder 2019

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