Fundraising Lessons From Farming

“When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil?” (Isaiah 28:24)

Fundraising and farming share many similarities. Farmers must sow seed on fertile ground, provide the plants with plenty of sunshine and water, remove life-sapping weeds, and patiently wait for the harvest. Isaiah portrays God as a heavenly farmer who plants and brings forth an eternal harvest by his great wisdom. His parable applies to fundraising in three ways.

Know when to stop cultivating
When farmers prepare the ground, they are careful not overwork the soil. Modern farming techniques such as low-till or no-till keep soil disturbance to a minimum. At some point, a wise farmer stops plowing the ground and sows the seed. Yet, some fundraisers are always in cultivation mode. They look for one more conversation, one more visit, one more event before they are ready to ask. It sounds spiritual to keep preparing the ground because you think the donor needs more time, but if you don’t plant seed, you won’t reap a harvest. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.

Choose the best plants for the soil
A wise farmer knows which plants thrive in which soil type. Are you planting caraway, cumin, wheat, barley, or spelt? (see Isaiah 28:25). Caraway prefers cool weather, cumin requires full sun, and fertile, well-drained soil. Wheat likes lots of sunshine and warm weather. Barley can tolerate somewhat alkaline soils. Spelt can be grown on poorly drained, low fertility soils. Your donors also have individual interests. Perhaps they are motivated to help the homeless, scholarship an underprivileged child, or give to enhance your technology. Some donors like bricks and mortar projects, some don’t. Ask the right donor the right gift amount for the right project.

Use the appropriate tools
“Caraway is not threshed with a sledge nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin; caraway is beaten out with a rod and cumin with a stick” (Isa. 28:27). Caraway and cumin produce delicate seeds that are used as spices. The farmer would crush the seeds if he used a sledge or rolled over them with his cart. Instead, he chooses the right tools to protect the grain for the greatest yield. Cash gifts are not always the best way for your donor to give. Perhaps it would be better for them to transfer an appreciated stock, give real estate, make an in-kind gift of goods or services, or donate tangible property like rare books, works of art, or valuable collectibles. Use the right tools to help your ministry partner maximize their gift.

Think About This: Farming requires great knowledge, so does fundraising. How does the farmer know when to plant and when to harvest? Isaiah 28:26 says, “His God instructs him and teaches him the right way.” How do you know when to stop cultivating and ask for a gift? The Spirit will lead you to say the right words at the right time.

Response: Father, give me wisdom and skill to sow seed and reap a bountiful harvest. I’m grateful for your provision for our ministry because, “All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent” (Isa. 28:29).

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored two books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising and Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for At the Center magazine and Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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