Bake sales, churchwide rummage sales, car washes and, of course, asking directly are all traditional ways ministries raise funds for operational costs and future growth.
But now that so much of the world is online, video campaigns, testimonials on social media or email, and even dedicated online fundraising pages are new and fresh ways to obtain much-needed resources.
However, no matter which method a church or non-profit uses, there’s always one issue: maintaining a donor base.
Chris Sykes, director of development and community relations for the Jimmie Hale Mission, Birmingham, knows this dilemma well.
“If you call any nonprofit’s fundraiser or executive director and ask them, ‘Are you maintaining 100% of your donor base?’ no one will say yes,” Sykes noted.
Increase donor base
One way three Alabama ministries have found to increase their donor base has been to put on a 5K race. Grace Place, a Bessemer food and clothes bank, organizes a race each spring. Fall races are held by the Jimmie Hale Mission, a nonprofit helping men and women overcome homelessness and substance abuse issues, and Blanket Fort Hope, a ministry that restores survivors of child sex trafficking.
Sykes encouraged other ministries that are trying to break out of the norm of asking directly for donations or doing fundraising through mail to try something new.
“A 5K is an easy way to try something new. As long as you at least break even, you are doing something new,” Sykes said. “It’s all about outreach; it’s all about building relationships.”
Justin Adderholt, development director at Blanket Fort Hope, Pelham, agreed.
“The goal is not necessarily to put on a 5K for 20 years – though that would be amazing. The goal is to build relationships. This gets us into our communities, connecting us with individuals, churches and businesses.
“Once we’ve made the connection then we can focus on providing them opportunities to serve in the way God has gifted them, through prayer, giving, volunteerism or just sharing,” Adderholt said. “But the end goal is always a meaningful relationship.”
Jason Leight, director of operations at Grace Place, said, “You want to have relationships with your sponsors; you want them to connect with your mission. You’re also helping them by giving them exposure.”
Practical steps to putting on a race
Plan early, at least eight months in advance.
- Form a committee of people who have a passion for your organization. Include at least one person who knows the running world. His/her experience will be invaluable for making sure everything is done correctly.
Publicize details of the event.
Engage the committee to make decisions.
- When will it be held? What kind of course: road, trail, other? Will it be a 5K, 10K, fun run, all three?
- Will there be awards? Which categories and how many winners in each? Will there be door-prizes, gifts, t-shirts for participants? How much are you going to charge for the racers and what tiered levels of sponsorship will there be? (Note that participant fees usually only cover expenses; sponsors provide most of the profit.)
- What if it rains? What will be the cutoff for cancelling?
Make your race unique to your organization.
- For example, the Jimmie Hale Mission included campaign signs with quotes from clients like, “The Jimmie Hale Mission gave me hope” and had clients come out on race day and share personal stories of how they were assisted.
Get into the community.
- Involve everyone on the committee to carry the burden of obtaining sponsors. Ask both local businesses and large organizations to sponsor. Request items that can be used as door prizes and refreshments. Decide on how to recognize sponsors (signs, banners, etc).
Stake out an appropriate course and plan for the day.
- Hire a professional timer to map out the course and make sure times are accurate for the distance, as many run against a personal time and not other racers. If it’s going to be a road race, check for any permits or the need for police involvement to block off certain streets.
- Get someone who is comfortable on stage to give out awards and door-prizes.
Advertise for participants about one-and-a-half to two months out.
- Advertise in local gyms and with running groups. Remember that most sign up within two weeks of the event.
On the day of the race:
- Start calling out results as soon as times are official. Many racers don’t want to stay around. Make sure the event keeps moving and stays interesting. Get someone to take photos. Have fun!
Tip for success
One of the most important things to remember is that it’s about the people, not the money.
“There is need all around us. If we can look outside of ourselves and our own needs and our own concerns and our own circumstances, we will see the needs of the people around us,” Leight said. “In seeking the needs of those around us, God will meet our needs. God funds His ministry. If we want to meet others’ needs in the name of Christ, then God will give us the resources.”
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