Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Funded! Benchmarks and Thoughts on Support Raising

80% Supported and Applying for Visas
We couldn't really get moving on final steps for moving to Indonesia until we reached the 80% supported mark. We hit it in January and within weeks we were at 90%. It was so surreal to click "send" on our visa applications, and there were so many times when we would stop and just pray together because these were big important things.There has been so much joy and thankfulness in this stage of things.  For Isaac it's meant turning from a full on focus on support raising to suddenly realizing we are about to move across the world and we have to pack and oh.my.gosh.

For me, I am called again to think about why we're doing this and our great need for the Spirit in us to do the work He's called us to. This song plays in my head over and over again.

Our home church is a big church, so it was a big deal when they told us they would do some sort of commissioning of us before we left the country. For me, as someone who really really doesn't like being the center of attention in a large crowd... well... I wasn't uber excited about it. However, I really believe in the church as a body doing the work of God around the world, and so I did want the body to understand their role in what we're going to do. It isn't just our work as individuals. It's our work as a whole church body.

Still, I felt what I have felt so often over the past two years - unworthy. Who am I? Who are we? Just your average church member, going to pour out what's been given to us. No different than what everyone else is called to do, just in a different location. And also, this is a big church. Big enough that in the 12 hours before I stepped on that stage, John Piper, Phil Wickham, Shane & Shane, and of course our head pastor had all been on the stage. Gulp.

The sweet thing for me was the presence of our community. Of course our community group was there, and the couple who originally led our group when we were a newlywed group, my cousin showed up, a work friend, some of Isaac's friends from school who usually live and work in Greece, four TEAM friends, a family who have worked in Papua for years but are semi-retired in Dallas... it was so cool to have them all pray. I see a symmetry, a beautiful story of the journey God has taken me on personally since we got here. The brand new elder who prayed for us on stage just happened to be the guy that led our small group interest meeting when we were first exploring Watermark.

100% Supported!!!
Last week we got a call from our church. They are our sending church but generally you raise support from people in the church rather than being funded by the church budget. However, they completed our last few percentage points and we are now fully supported!

When I look back, I'm amazed. Last spring, in March, we started being encouraged/informally mentored by a friend of mine in the support raising process. With his encouragement things finally started moving for us and we steadily raised support in the spring and summer. We reset our target date to be gone by December after the baby was born and then... we stalled. In the Fall we just sat in the 70's and wondered what was up. And then Elly was born and we couldn't have left the country even if we were fully supported, because we needed to stay for her surgery. You know what? Elly's surgery was last week. This week we are fully supported. God's timing is perfect.

So now... we pack. We have no ideas if visas will come slowly or quickly, but we will be ready!

Thoughts on Support Raising
Looking back on this whole process... it was hard. Yes. It's not for the faint of heart unless you happen to be highly connected in a very giving-oriented well-off community. Why do it? If you're passionate about and called to a work that requires funding from outside the immediate community. Bravo to my husband for being steadfast in his determination.

People told us that funding was shifting from churches to individuals. They were right. Just over a quarter of our support comes from churches. I really really really believe that the local Church is responsible for the well being of other local Churches around the world, so I really believed in working to partner with individual churches so that their focus is moved from merely internal and local to international. It's a long game, though. Our main church partners took at least six months, more like 9-12 months to build.

It is also true that every gift counts. Our average monthly gift from an individual is under $100. People giving amounts like $25 feel like they're not giving much, but our support base is built heavily on small donors. When people found out we were support raising they wanted to point us to wealthy people, but the most likely to give are actually average church members.

We were told that for about half the people you contact would respond and meet with you. For every two people you meet with, about one person would end up giving some amount. That is a pretty good estimate to go off of, though it depends how quality your initial contacts are. If they are cold calls, the percentage is lower. If they are people you know, it's higher. In the end, it means a lot of contacting people, putting yourself out there, meeting, and asking.

We also found that the current understanding of work overseas (at least in our community) is heavily oriented around short-term trips. Everyone asks us about our "trip" and even those who know we're going to live initially assume it will be a year or two only. Long-term plans are rare and that takes a lot of explaining.

In the end, I am also very glad we did this. I am far more confident in our own vision, calling, and passions now than I was at the beginning. I absolutely love having built friendships and connections with other passionate people and churches, though I did not like the initial contacting strangers part, nor do I like feeling "on show".

Perhaps my biggest recommendation is to get a support raising coach. There are training organizations that you can pay to coach you, or you can find someone you know. This does not mean, though, that you get your buddy to ask you about it every couple of weeks. You need someone who knows fundraising and is motivated to push you. We had been told and knew the basics of what to do, but at least for a personality like my husband, it was far more motivating to have someone sitting in front of him telling him the same things and challenging him in the areas he was skeptical about.

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