Fundraising through Storytelling
A couple weeks ago we launched the first podcast episode of The Ministry Growth Show on iTunes. The show is our attempt to bring valuable help and information to ministry executives and church leaders by interviewing other ministry executives and church leaders to gain insight into running successful ministries. With each episode of the show our goal is to follow up the interview with a blog post highlighting specific pieces of information that struck us as something to expand upon. Our first guest was Leonard Lee of LINC Ministries. The episode is full of great insight as Leonard has been a pastor and ministry executive for decades now. I would highly recommend listening to episode 1, but there is something that struck me during the interview that I’d like to expand on. The question I posed to Leonard was in regards to fundraising. I asked is he would share his approach to fundraising and his response was so fitting, and I promise we didn’t pre condition his response pre-interview. Here is Leonard’s approach to fundraising with LINC Ministries.
Leonard takes a storytelling approach to fundraising. We’ve talked about storytelling quite a few times on the blog and how it can create a brand experience for your ministry that creates advocacy in your audience. You can see why I love his answer so much. Anytime Leonard is fundraising he tells the following stories.
- Their Story
- Our Story
- God’s Story
- Your Story
The First Story – “Their Story”
I’ll dive into each one of these in detail. The first story is “their story.” LINC Ministries is a disciple-making ministry. They train native leaders, missionaries, and pastors all over the world and make those leaders more affective disciple-makers. LINC Ministries is not a rescue organization. They are not rescuing child slaves or providing homes for orphans. They aren’t fighting human trafficking or abortion… at least not directly. This means that LINC doesn’t have an orphaned child’s face they can use to inspire compassion in supporter’s to give or donate. If you run a rescue ministry please don’t take what I just said as a slam. I’m simply stating that LINC had to find another way to tell the story, and they start with “their story.” Their story is the story of the pastors and leaders they serve. Whenever Leonard meets with potential supporters he starts by telling the stories of the pastors in India who serve 2-3 churches. He’ll tell stories of his pastor friends in Africa who might bury 5-6 people per week because of aids. He’ll share stories of how God is moving in tangible ways all over the globe. Stories we don’t hear in our media. These are powerful stories and Leonard does not tell these stories as a way of forcing pity on his listeners, but rather as a means of sharing the realities his friends face around the globe.
The Second Story – “Our Story”
Second, Leonard shares “our story.” He defines our story as, “God using regular people to do His extraordinary work.” Leonard has a deep understanding that God has invited Him into the redemption of humanity. This is a reality and invitation for all Christians, but most of us don’t fully grasp and enter into that invitation. We get to be a part of something eternal in that invitation. When sharing “our story” Leonard talks about how he is a broken vessel just like those he is sharing with, just like every Christian. In our brokenness God chose to glorify himself. He uses us, broken vessels, to bring the gospel to the nations.
The Third Story – “God’s Story”
The third story Leonard shares is God’s story. If you’ve ever gone on a missions trip, or traveled at all for that matter, you know that God is already at work wherever we go. It’s foolish to think we bring God anywhere. Most of us know this to be true, but I think it’s easy to forget. In order to tell God’s story, Leonard needed to travel as quickly as possible to see for himself what God was doing around the world. He tells a story in the episode of selling everything so he could go on his first trips. Those first trips served two purposes, just as they do to this day. Leonard answered the call while at the same time he got to see first hand what God was up to around the world. With that new knowledge he now had God’s story that he could bring back home to tell his supporters.
When we’re talking about God’s story I think it’s important to remember we need to tell God’s story from our own ministries perspective. Let’s take LINC Ministries for example. This is conjecture, but my guess is that Leonard doesn’t come back home with general stories for his supporters of how God is moving in Africa as a continent, or Swaziland as a country. It would be safe to assume that Leonard tells God’s story and how it specifically relates to his call on Leonard’s life. He probably shares of how God is working through the pastors Leonard is training. Our audience’s want to hear how God is directly working through our ministries. It gives their prayerful and financial investment something more tangible to grasp. Tell God’s story, but remember to tell how it directly relates to your own ministry.
The Final Story – “Your Story”
The last story Leonard tells his potential supporters is his audience’s story. He calls this “Your Story.” He shares with his audience how they can be a part of what God is doing globally. He shares how they can pray for his ministry and he shares how they can be a part of LINC Ministries financially. This ultimately is an invitation to his audience to be a part of what God is doing through LINC Ministries. Leonard shares how his audience can become a part of God’s narrative. Remember, God has chosen us to be a part of his story, His redemption story, and there are individual calls to each one of us within that umbrella call. You have a unique story to tell, even though the gospel is the umbrella story and end goal of all ministries. We have to invite people into our unique stories.
The Implications of Storytelling
The implications of storytelling, specifically this form of storytelling, are incredible. As a Christian creative agency, our entire model is based around helping ministries tell their stories. We believe that God is doing incredible things all over the world, but that story isn’t being told back in the states. We are so far removed that we have no idea how God is moving globally. And this poor storytelling is taking place in a day and age where people are supposedly more connected than ever. I can make a Skype call to my brother’s and sisters in India right now and find out what God is doing in Jammu and Kashmir. Up until a decade ago that was not possible at any point in human history. God is moving and the stories of how He is moving are incredibly important. Our audience’s want to be a part of what God is doing globally, they just need to be told how. They need to be told how they can pray. They need to be told how they can send. They need to be told how and where they can go. I believe this way of storytelling has incredible implications, and I’m super excited to start implementing this strategy in our own ministry storytelling. Give it a shot. See what this can do for your ministry. If you need help telling your ministries story, you know where to find us.
To listen to the full episode visit The Ministry Growth Show on iTunes. Episode 1 – Leonard Lee on iTunes