More Fundraising Lessons From Farming

“See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains” (James 5:7).

Fundraisers can learn valuable lessons from farmers. Both occupations require hard work to prepare the ground, sow seed, and wait patiently for the harvest. Consider these applications:

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Sowing and reaping take time. Fundraisers have urgency because of the great ministry needs or budget pressures, but a wise fundraiser is patient and realizes that it takes time for donors to consider your gift request. Fundraising is a marriage between your ministry partner and your mission. Most people don’t propose to their future spouse on the first date. Likewise, you shouldn’t ask for a six or seven figure gift on your first visit. Slow down and build a strong relationship. Be faithful to sow the seeds of how your ministry is making an eternal difference.

Hard Work
Paul encouraged Timothy to learn ministry work ethic from the “the hardworking farmer” (2 Tim. 2:6). Farmers work from sunrise to sunset in all kinds of weather. Lazy farmers don’t last long. Solomon observed, “A farmer too lazy to plant in the spring has nothing to harvest in the fall” (Prov. 20:4 MSG). Farming is not a 9 to 5 job, neither is fundraising. It takes discipline to keep calling donors who don’t return your calls. It’s much easier to make excuses than to invest in the hard work of identifying, cultivating, and soliciting donors. All too often, we give up too soon. Keep sowing the seed if you hope to reap a harvest.

First to Receive
Paul continues his lesson to Timothy, “The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops” (2 Tim. 2:6). The farmer works for the benefit of everyone else and he should reap some of the benefits first. If he is not strong and healthy from the food he produces, he will be unable to share future harvests with others. This has an interesting application to fundraising. Your ministry should make the development department a budget priority, not an afterthought. If you don’t provide your fundraising team with the tools and resources to be successful, your entire ministry will suffer.

Farmers plant and trust God for the results. You are not just trusting God for the right moment to ask your prospective donor; you are also trusting him for the autumn and spring rains to soften hearts. When you wait on the Lord for his harvest, he promises abundance. “The time will come,” says the Lord, “when the grain and grapes will grow faster than they can be harvested” (Amos 9:13 NLT). Pray that the Lord will bless you with more gifts that you can handle!

Think About This: “For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations” (Isa. 61:11). As fundraisers we must work hard, but ultimately it is the Lord who produces the harvest.

Response: Lord, help me sow faithfully and wait patiently for your harvest.

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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