12 Feb Plant. Water. Grow.
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (I Corinthians 3:6).
God uses many gifted individuals to advance his church, each playing a specific role. Paul shared the Gospel calling people to repentance, Apollos grounded new believers in the Word, and God gave the increase. “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor” (1 Cor. 3:8). Likewise, successful fundraising requires many individuals contributing their unique talents. Four fundraising applications emerge from this passage.
A fundraiser’s number one job is planting seeds. Seed corn doesn’t accomplish anything sitting in the sack, you must plant it. Your seed is your compelling case for support. What problem are you trying to solve and how are you trying to solve it? Your case statement should be written with your donors in mind. Share the data for why your project matters and give an emotional appeal for how your ministry partners can make an eternal difference.
Fundraising is a team effort. Your president sets the pace by casting vision and inviting your key major donors to partner with you. Board members represent your ministry to your community and constituency. Your marketing team crafts your message and keeps your website looking sharp. Your staff navigate your database, appeals, receipts, events, and donor communications. And you have the joy of identifying, cultivating, and soliciting major donors. Everyone plays a critical role in creating a culture of philanthropy.
Everyone wants to receive incredible gifts, but few are willing to invest the time to cultivate them. Tom gave an amazing 8-figure gift to a university in response to a 15-minute phone call. Tom clarified, “It wasn’t the phone call, it was all the time the president and vice president spent with me over months sharing how this project will meet a critical need.” Tom’s fundraising advice, “Cultivate! Cultivate! Cultivate!” Principal gifts develop over time. “First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens” (Mark 4:28). Be like the farmer who “waits for the land to yield its valuable crop” (James 5:7).
We focus on our responsibilities of planting and watering, but we can’t overlook God’s part in making seeds germinate and grow. “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Cor. 3:7). Since you play a minor role and God plays the primary role in your success, you should spend more time in your staff meetings earnestly seeking him. Elijah prayed again, “and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:18).
Think About This: A college president gave an elderly donor an engraved Bible for her generous gift. Little did he know it would become one of her prized possessions. Thank God for those who’ve gone before you planting and watering so you can experience the joy of harvesting. What seed will you plant or water today in your donors’ hearts that will yield fruit long after you’re gone?
Response. Father, I praise you for producing fundraising results in our ministry. Please help me faithfully plant and water your seeds.
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 three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.