Director of The Media Story, podcast and blog.
I haven't talked about this at all in the two years since I started working with churches to help them tell their stories in the community better. For a long time it didn't even occur to me to talk about it and why would I? We don't tell stories because they raise money, we tell stories because they are fundamental to our existence as humans and we're able to connect people to God in ways that spitting information at them will never accomplish.
But the fact is, stories raise money. A lot of money. And serving our community takes money, so we shouldn't be ashamed to fund-raise for God's kingdom.
Did you know there are national conferences for non-profits that exist solely to help them tell better stories to raise money? Ask any development/fundraising professional what they do and they'll tell you "I tell stories."
Yet often in the church we ask for money in other ways that make people feel guilty or reluctant. In today's culture, people don't give to numbers, knowledge, or information. They give to stories.
Consider the following two appeals:
Story #1: "Our church has seen a 3.5% increase in attendance over the last 3 months, which has led to 13 individuals requesting Bible studies and 6 baptisms! When you return your tithes and offerings, make sure to remember our Small Group ministry which provides funds for materials, refreshments, and other expenses!"
Story #2: "Jon and Cheryl are one of the many new folks who have started attending our church recently. Just a few months ago they never thought they'd be in a church. They were overworked, underpaid, and working through a medical complication Jon suffered last year, which has left them in a financial deficit. They say it's because of the Bible studies their friends Chris and Natasha invited them to that got them wondering what more their lives could be. They realized there had been a depth missing in their lives that has now been filled by Christ, which led them to be baptized! But none of that would have happened without our Small Group ministry which allows the space for lives to be transformed like Jon and Cheryl. We need your help to make sure it continues flourishing!"
If you're like most people, you connected with Story #2 because it conveyed more than just numbers. In fact, people tend to give more to of a single story than to a data report of positive outcomes for larger numbers.
Check out the following fundraising video for a church in Brooklyn, NY. They not only straight-up ask you to donate, but go one step further and ask for each person to create their own campaign. But it doesn't feel pushy or harsh because you feel like you're a part of this movement, this mission the church is accomplishing in their community. And it's because it is framed within the church's story.