So, you've decided to join the team! Now comes the process of raising your monthly financial support! We hope you will find the following tips useful. Remember: God is amazingly capable of supporting you in every area of your life!
We recommend making a list of all your friends, family, church members and contacts, and gather their emails, social network IDs, addresses, and phone numbers. Good communication is essential for fundraising, so be ready to communicate a lot in many ways!
Write Letter / Pamphlet
First, write out your reasons why you feel God is calling you to Japan. (Being able to clearly state your reasons for wanting to come to Japan is very important in helping people want to support you in your goal.) Include your testimony of how God has spoken to you, scriptures, confirmations, etc. Include activities you will be doing, and how you personally will be serving.
Secondly, you can share about the need for Christ in Japan. (At the end of this document there is some information for you, or you can do your own research.)
In the letter, put the total costs you will need, including monthly needs, estimated airfare and set up costs for your life in Japan. Then make an appeal for people to help you raise these costs through either regular monthly or one-off donations. (You can also include a sentence about your own efforts to save money via working, fundraising, etc, but despite these efforts, you still need help.) Make sure you give specific details about how people can send you money - the address, bank details and any specific instructions. (Most people like to receive a tax deduction. Please see the following section.)
Your letter should be 1 - 2 pages maximum in length. We recommend your letter have at least one picture in it (more is better), and that you break up the text into frequent paragraphs (a huge block of words might be overwhelming for people to read on a busy day). Consider giving clear titles to sections of your letter. For example: My story: Why Japan? What’s Next? How you can help! You can go online and grab some photos of Japan that might make the letter more interesting. Send the letter to everyone you know - church, family, friends, your parents’ friends, etc. Even non-Christian friends and family who love you may wish to help.
Make sure you set up different ways where people can easily donate to you and communicate this clearly. Here are some ideas to help you:
Most people like to add Gift-Aid (UK) to a donation, or to receive a tax deduction (US), so perhaps your church will allow you to have donations sent through them. Check into this possibility when you meet with the pastor or missions director at your church (more about that later).
A larger YWAM base in your country may be willing to set up a missions account for you and allow your supporters to send you funds through them. YWAM Honolulu has this service available for YWAM staff worldwide (though you may need to have a US bank account). If interested, please contact Staff Services to have an account set up for this purpose. There is a small processing fee on all gifts that would be processed through the account. It may be worth contacting larger YWAM bases near you about a similar service they may provide, or that they may know of for missionaries serving overseas.
Missionary Donation Organisations
There may be an organisation in your country that specialises in helping missionaries receive donations through them. They usually allow people to easily give online, to set up monthly payments or to give one-off donations.
In the UK, we would recommend opening an account with Stewardship. They allow the giver to apply Gift-Aid on their donations, meaning you will receive extra money on top of their donation!
In the US, EquipNet offers an online donation service for your supporters. They also send tax deductible receipts to your supporters, which people tend to prefer. (It takes about 3 - 4 weeks to receive funds via this service.)
Other Payment Options
If people don’t care much about Gift-Aid or a tax deductible receipt, you can also open an account with PayPal or Stripe. Or people may simply prefer to set up bank transfers! Supporters really appreciate options that are familiar and convenient! Make sure to list every way people can give to you somewhere (on a website or blog).
After you send your letter, you can also write blog posts and send email newsletters as follow up. Be sure to let people know that you need their prayers, too, and that you'll be sending updates from time to time. Use emails and social networks to keep people informed on how your money is coming in - (e.g. "I only need ¥50,000 more per month” or, “¥70,000 has been pledged so far" etc, to encourage people who were intending to give (but who have forgotten) that there is still a need and they could still help.) Be sure to include any miracle stories that happen for you, to let people know how God is providing. That really encourages people that God has been helping you, and that going to Japan is His idea.
Also include things that aren’t related to money, like what God is doing in your life, a verse from your quiet time that meant something, or a bit of personal news. These follow up posts and emails can be short - a few paragraphs are fine. Thank people for their prayers and never be pushy about money. It is God that supports you.
We highly recommend you set up your own blog (e.g. Medium) and social network page (Facebook, Twitter). From there you can post pictures and journal about your journey of getting to Japan, and your adventures once there.
Thankfulness and Good Manners
If someone replies to your emails or posts, write them back. Also, it is very important to personally thank supporters with at least an email thank you note, and a card or phone call is even better. A little appreciation goes a long way. Be sure to share personal stories and news, too, not just ministry or financial needs. As God does new things in your life, share these, because the Lord wants to use your stories to bless and encourage others.
Involving your church
Meet with your pastor/missions board/youth pastor or whoever is most appropriate at your home church. Explain that you have a desire to serve in Japan with YWAM. Ask if they have any advice regarding obtaining prayer and possible financial support from the church. Here are some things that can be done:
During a Sunday service, the pastor can bring you up briefly and interview you about your plans, (or they themself may share what you are doing), and ask for the congregation to pray over you, or even take up an offering. At this time they could also announce a fundraiser you are planning and ask the people to support you in that. (Hopefully your church can pray over you again right before you leave for Japan, so the congregation sends you out officially with prayer.) It is really nice to involve your church so they feel part of the process – it gives them the opportunity to know what you are doing, pray for you, perhaps even support you.
You can do fundraising with your church's permission after service, with a bake sale, car wash, or whatever works well in your area/country. Ask around or do internet research for fundraising ideas that will work for you in your particular area. Pray for creativity! At each fundraising event, make sure you have some sort of display - some photos on a display board, a sign, or something, which captures what you’ll be doing in Japan. This display is a good conversation piece to connect the fundraising event with advancing God’s Kingdom, and perhaps people will want to be generous.
Try a fundraising campaign where you set up a chart that measures your support progress. Let people know the amount you need to raise monthly in total (the amount agreed upon with YWAM Sendai). Set a goal of raising 100 friends to support you at ¥1,000 per month (or similar in your local currency). Design the chart to show your progress throughout the fundraising drive (perhaps include a moveable, humourous, cut-out photo of you climbing a “fundraising mountain” which indicates your progress). Just about anybody can commit to ¥1,000 monthly! If you have a large community, this could be a good way to reach your goal. Be sure to let people know that larger pledges are OK, too!
Involve your family and friends or youth/small group in your fundraisers for extra help. If any of them can commit to helping you, utilise them for developing ideas and practical help in your fundraising events. Have a “thank you” for them before leaving for Japan by inviting them to a thank you dinner, or something similar. Vocalise your appreciation for them often (and publicly at events that they are helping you with).
You can ask home group or student group leaders if you can visit an upcoming group meeting, share your heart, and have them pray over you. Be honest that you need to raise funds, and ask if you can share about your needs. The leader could then ask the group to consider adopting you as their missionary for a period of time, or taking up an offering for you, or something. Because of video calling, you can continue to share at these group meetings over the Internet even after you are in Japan.
You can host a meeting in your home (or somewhere) where you invite people you know, show photos on a projector screen, and share about your desire to go to Japan, and why. (You can even visit our YWAM Sendai website and show our Why Japan? video to help present the need in Japan.) Plan to have someone share about your financial and other needs and ask people to pray for you, and possibly take up an offering or accept pledges, etc. It is sometimes a good idea to have someone else make the financial appeal because it is usually easier to boldly ask for someone else, but difficult to ask for ourselves! The person you select should be the type of person who is confident in speaking in front of groups, who really believes in what you are doing, and is comfortable to boldly ask the group to prayerfully consider supporting you.
Sometimes a church will support you directly. Each church has its own process, but you could ask the appropriate person if you could be considered for the church's support. They may ask for you to meet with them and share. It is important that you be well prepared: have information on YWAM and Japan and be ready to share what you will be doing and the costs involved, as well as your long-term vision. Tell your testimony and what you feel God is calling you to do. You should be prepared to share for at least 10 minutes (this sort of preparation is important for the other meetings mentioned too.)
At any meeting or fundraising effort you do, it is important to have a notebook or clipboard sign-up sheet with which you can take down names, emails, social network IDs and addresses of people you meet. If someone stops and takes the time to ask you some questions, ask if you can add them to your newsletter list (inform your friends helping you to do the same with anyone who talks with them). Pass a clipboard around the room at meetings, etc. God will bring people across your path to support you both in prayer and finances.
It is also sometimes appropriate and Biblical to ask directly for support in a conversation. In the New Testament, there are many passages where Paul asks for support for missions! We recommend the following approach: If you have relationship with someone who believes in what you are doing, it is ok to simply ask, “would you pray about supporting me to serve in Japan?” They will most likely say they will pray about it, or they may say no. Never be pushy or manipulate in any way. If they say they can’t, then graciously say something like, “I completely understand. I felt like God is challenging me to ask different people about this, but I also know that He is the One who will provide for it, if it is really his idea.” Then you can just change the subject, or whatever is natural. If they seem open to the idea, you can share about your fundraising process, and what you still need to raise. Graciously thank them for even considering it, and say you understand completely if they decide not to give at this time. Some people may not have money to give but could give you their time in helping you with different projects or fundraisers, and in being part of your prayer support, too. Remember to never look at people as the source of your fundraising!
We can recommend a few books: Daring to Live on the Edge by Loren Cunningham (great stories and principles for walking by faith) and Friend Raising by Betty Barnett (principles and practical advice). These should be available on the Internet through YWAM Publishing, Christian Book Distributors, or maybe in local Christian bookstores.
Here are two articles that may also be helpful for you too:
A few more points …
Because it is God who is your source, do not worry or stress over your finances. God is very capable of providing for all His plans for us. He often uses these trials of faith in our lives to reveal things in our hearts - doubt and unbelief that God can provide, fear of asking for help, feeling unworthy of people’s help, or guilt about past sins... and a million other things. Spend time in the Word and listen to God when you are feeling anxious, and meditate on Scriptures that encourage your faith. Allow God access to your heart if issues come up, because this is also His desire. These issues will continually be a problem in your walk with God, so in His mercy, He lets them be exposed so that He can heal your image of Him, your image of yourself as His precious son or daughter, or deal with some other sin that will certainly hinder your pursuit of Him. Read James 1:3-4.
Don't forget to tithe and be generous as well, because God's principles of giving and receiving, and sowing and reaping are very important. You will not be earning his provision by being generous - but if you are obedient and operate by Kingdom principles, He can bless you more and more. Use a study Bible and find scriptures on how God provides, and really stand on these promises. Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 and Mark 10:28-30.
Don’t be passive! If God is calling you to Japan now, He will certainly pay for it! It will be a confirmation of His will when the funds begin coming in. However, He will often ask you to step out in faith before the funds come in. If we wait passively for money to be in hand before turning in our application, or before taking steps of faith toward moving to Japan, often the funds will not come in because the Lord is moved by our faith, which requires some action, too. If you believe that God is calling you to Japan, then step out in faith in the application process, and take the steps required as if the funds were definitely coming in. This puts you in an active position of faith. By applying the above principles of prayer, standing on God’s promises, asking Him for steps of faith and obedience (like giving to others, or practical fundraising efforts) and then taking those steps, we have personally seen God move sovereignly again and again to provide.