Usually the biggest obstacle for folks to say “yes!” to going on a mission trip (especially international trips) is the funding. Admittedly, trips overseas (and many times domestically) are costly. But God is faithful. If He’s calling you to GO, prayerfully consider trusting Him with the funding. Just as a quick testimony, God has provided for me to go on two trips to Africa over the last couple years. He really does make a way!
Here are some practical tips for fundraising for a mission trip.
It may seem silly to list this as a practical tip, but I think prayer helps us to stay focused on WHO is providing for you to go. Start the process with prayer to God.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6, emphasis added)
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
Support letters are an essential part of preparing for a mission trip and the most common way to fundraise for a trip. Most people feel uncomfortable writing to ask their friends and family for money. That’s not the point of support letters at all. You are writing to ask your friends and family to partner with you in God’s work. Support for mission work is far beyond just financial. A friend of ours really hit this point home a few years ago when he was talking about fundraising more generally. As he put it,
“You don’t want to ask people for money. You want to invite them into an opportunity. You are opening a door for people to make an investment into eternity. So whatever you do and however you do it, be a vision caster… invite… seek out partners in your ministry…”
When you write your letter be sure to highlight that you are looking for partners both in prayer and financially. Many people are physically or otherwise unable to go, but they can participate in our calling as the Church to “go into all the world” through your mission work. Sometimes people can partner in prayer; sometimes just asking how things are going; sometimes financially; sometimes all of that. It’s important to invite them to participate as God leads them. I know for my trips, it’s been an incredible blessing to have friends who are asking how preparation is coming, how they can pray, what I need support with, etc. When you’re feeling overwhelmed about the trip, you need this part of your team!
So what does a “strong” support letter look like? Here are some ideas
- Be personable – people connect with people and stories. I’ve found that photos help people connect with the mission and drive of your trip.
- Identify why are you going – what is the need? How can you help people make an emotional connection to what you are doing? Again, emphasize people and/or your story. For my first trip, I told (briefly) how God had put the trip and the countries on my heart.
- Be brief and to the point – keep your letter to one page!
- Give letters to everyone (not just Christians or those who you think will give)! This is an opportunity for you to share with others what God has put on your heart. One friend suggest that you could do two letters: One letter that emphasizes prayer (and monetary support) and the other that emphasizes the social justice aspect (and monetary support). Go with how you feel led. Also, don’t try to guess who will support your trip financially. You may be surprise who gives and who doesn’t.
- Make it easy for people to respond – I enclosed a little “support commitment” card with my letters and a self-addressed envelope. The card allowed folks to check whether they wanted email updates on how they could prayer and/or if they were making a donation (some folks sent the checks to me, others donated to the organization directly – the card helped me keep track).
- Be sure to include instructions for donations – do people need to send a check to you or the organization? How can they make sure the donation supports you? Can they donate online? Are donations tax-deductible?
You can find sample letters through Google if you need some ideas to get started. Be creative and, above all, be yourself!
Garage Sales and T-shirts
On my previous trips, one couple raised $1,000+ through garage sales. They were able to get their friends and family to donate items and then they held a massive garage sale. We’ve done this twice (not for missions but for our adoption). It was cool for friends to be involved and help out!
T-shirts tend to be another popular idea for fundraising. You can use a group like Ordinary Hero to help you fundraise, or you can design your own shirt. Many of my team members have been really creative and have designed some AWESOME shirts. You can get shirts (at cost to you) for about $7-10 per piece. Most folks are able to sell their shirts for $15-20. Keep in mind that you often have to do a pre-order of some number and will likely have t-shirts leftover.
If you can pick up a side job, that’s another way to fund your trip. Maybe you can cut lawns or clean houses! If you babysit, make sure that parents know that you’re babysitting to support your trip and ask for referrals. For instance, I am qualified to teach at a community college, so I picked up a class as an adjunct instructor to help fund my trip to Uganda/Kenya.
Keeping with the fashion idea, my cousin sold wristbands to raise funds for our trip to Africa. They were relatively inexpensive for her to buy, and fun to wear! (It was a great reminder to pray, too!) I copied her idea and was able to sell about 75ish (?) wristbands. My hair stylist even offered to have a container out on her booth – I thought that was a cool way that she was able to help.
If you have a talent that can be leveraged for support, consider how to make that work. One friend did cake decoration as a hobby, and so she sold cakes as a way to help support her fundraising efforts. How fun is that? Another friend sold jewelry she made to support her trip. You could make headbands , earrings, or whatever your creative mind comes up with :-).
It should go without saying that you should write thank you notes to folks who are supporting you (through prayer and financially). Be sure to tell them thanks. They are partners with you on this trip – be sure that you communicate that with your supporters. And follow-up with a thank you when you get home. Give an update on what God did (and definitely include a photo!).