“9 years ago we had our first fund raising dinner and raised $24,000.
Last year we raised $230,000”
Like it or not, as a leader one of your chief jobs is to raise money to fund your mission (for more on this read my post Money to Fund the Mission).
And I know of no better way for a para-church ministry to raise money than putting on an annual fund raising dinner.
This upcoming Friday will be our 11th annual Fellowship Dinner.
Most years we have 150 guests and raise $50,000 at the dinner. It’s the only fund raising we do all year. (I don’t share that amount to brag. I share it because by doing so I hope to encourage many more Cur movements to do Fellowship Dinners).
A few days ago Ryan Sather, the co-director of Here’s Life Inner City (a ministry of Cru) in Minneapolis, tweeted this:
109 tables & counting for the @hlictwincities Fellowship Dinner on April 28th! Join us and bring some friends! http://t.co/UuSLkuC5
(which makes me wonder – I’ve benefited tremendously from other leaders’ tweets about ministry success (knowing who I can learn from). But I never share numbers/success story for fear of bragging/pride. So I’m merely a consumer. How can people learn from what you’re good at if you don’t share where God is blessing you? Haven’t figured it out yet.)
I DM’d him and asked if I could get his phone number and pick his brain for a few minutes.
I’m confident our 14 minute phone call will result in a huge increase in funding for our ministry (isn’t Twitter great?).
Here’s what I learned:
- 9 years ago HLIC Minneapolis had their first dinner with 100 attendees. They raised $24,000
- Last year they raised $230,000
- This year they anticipate 1300 attendees when they hold their Dinner at the end of April
- Ryan estimates that every 100 attendees will produce $25-30,000 given
Ryan listed four things as keys to their growth:
1) Growing the number of table hosts by challenging every staff and key donors/volunteers to each get 10 table hosts
- Table hosts agree to fill a table by inviting all their friends to the dinner
2) Connecting the Dinner to Staff’s personal MPD (Cru lingo for “support”)
- “At the dinner we communicate that each of our staff raises their own financial support and we’d love for you to give to them in addition to what you give to us as a city ministry”
- “After the dinner, we give our staff the contact info of everyone that came from one of their 10 table hosts (usually around 20-30 contacts).”
- “Our staff see an average of $200-300 in new monthly support”
- “It’s help our staff understand: Your donors are giving to 6 other ministries. If you can get them to a dinner, it won’t decrease their support of you, it will actually increase their vision.”
3) Having a Matching Gift
- 2 years ago they received 28 gifts of $1000 or more
- Last year they offered a $35,000 matching gift – with a stipulation that they would match any gift of $1000 or more
- The result? They had 58 gifts of $1000 or more given!
- This year they hope to get $60k or $70k as a matching gift
- Ryan said that even $10,000 is a good start (get 4 people to commit to giving $2,500 each)
- “Anytime there is a match, people are extra motivated to give” (especially when it asks them to increase their gift amount – saying that last year, many who traditionally give $500 upped their gift to $1000)
4) Hosting volunteer events throughout the year where people can join with them in serving those in the inner city
- At those events they cast vision for their ministry and ask people to join them (they gained 12 new table hosts from the last event in March)
UPDATE/ADDITION – #5
- Ryan called me today and mentioned that a fifth crucial element that has been key to their growth is: they do all of their thank you calls and letters the very next day after the dinner.
- “It has been HUGE. It’s a long weekend and a long day but it has been unbelievably key in showing gratitude – for donors to get a thank you on Monday right after the dinner”
- Calling all their table hosts the very next day and everyone who gave a substantial gift
- And writing everyone a thank you
Ryan is a huge believer in having an annual Fellowship Dinner – both for the money it raises and the relationship it builds with the community (which I heartily echo!).
“One of the things that’s missing in fund development is the relational piece. The Dinner is very relational – breaking bread together. The money spent on the dinner is worth it on it’s own. It is great PR for the ministry.”
I asked Ryan if I could share this and he agreed and added a few things:
- The last thing we want is people to think we’re bragging but I’d love to help others raise more money
- Ryan works nationally with 17 HLIC ministries to put on Fellowship Dinners and he was quick to point out that they definitely are not all huge successes (some have even lost money!)
- Jim Dempsey (former national director of Fund Development for Cru) played a crucial role in helping them grow
Would love to hear from you – what do you do to raise money for your ministry?
If you have a fund raising dinner, what has helped you grow your dinner?
photo courtesy of Tracy Hunter