In August, Ryan Deer* will head out with his baseball team and NEXT Worldwide to “Live the Mission” by working with church planting leaders in Guatemala who equip and assist local pastors with planting or strengthening new churches. As a partnering component, the students will conduct a baseball clinic with the area youth in order to build relationships and connect them with this new church.
Students and group leaders attending these mission trips fundraise to cover their travel costs by asking friends and family for financial support. Before 2012, NEXT Worldwide mission trip participants conducted their fundraising through a combination of leading their supporters to an online designation form and by sending offline checks to their mission leaders. This required each leader to email each participant weekly in order to keep them informed about their fundraising progress.
Today, students like Ryan, joining NEXT Worldwide, use independent or third-party peer-to-peer fundraising to raise money for their travel and mission expenses which according to Janet Franks, NEXT Worldwide Mission Leader and Director of Information Technology, simplified the required fundraising process for mission participants as well as their leaders.
“We work with a very young demographic who often think that a stamp is as old-fashioned as a rotary phone,” Janet said. “By providing an online peer-to-peer fundraising platform we have exponentially enlarged their potential donor pool which often translates into more dollars raised. Also, the online financial reporting not only gives our participants 24 hour access to their account information but has saved our staff more than 1,000 hours this past year on mind-numbing clerical tasks and frees us up to spend more time on our mission.”
I had the opportunity to speak with Janet and she shared some tips regarding how the organization coaches their mission trip participants:
- Meet With Mission Trip Participants
While the online fundraising platform allows for interacting with participants in one place easier, NEXT Worldwide knows the importance of the offline relationship with their participants. Janet and other mission leaders meet with the participants to discuss trip logistics, and have a booklet prepared which includes trip information as well as how to register and fundraise using the online platform.
- Creating an Online Fundraising Page Is Required
While those fundraising for their trips can send in checks and cash to the NEXT Worldwide office, every participant has a fundraising page. Participants are encouraged to customize that page and solicit gifts using the online tools made available through the Friends Asking Friends platform.
- Provide Centralized Fundraising Tools and Resources
Inside their fundraising headquarters, participants have access to email templates to solicit gifts as well as to thank friends and family who have supported them. Participants are encouraged to use the social media integrated tools to post about their mission trip and their fundraising progress. With NEXT Worldwide’s participant demographic ranging from ages 15-25, encouraging the use of Facebook, Twitter, and texts becomes essential for participant’s fundraising success.Additionally, the organization provides easy access on their main webpage where participants can always access fundraising tips and documents such as a sample support letter that can be mailed to friends, family and teachers are also available.
- Make It Personal
Participants are encouraged to make a list of potential supporters (friends, family, church staff, teachers, etc) and email or mail letters to those on the list to solicit their support. Upon returning, participants are encouraged to reach out to their supporters and tell stories about sharing the gospel, their new relationships, and other adventures. Janet said this is an important way to teach participants how to keep their personal supporters engaged as many of the students and young adults attend multiple mission trips and may be asking for fundraising support again in the future.
- Communicate Constantly
After a participant’s created the fundraising page, make sure an automated confirmation email is sent reminding the participant of any required trip deposits, important dates, and a reference to their username and password to access their fundraising headquarters.Participants are always encouraged to personalize their fundraising page and utilize the tools located inside the participant’s fundraising headquarters.
While NEXT Worldwide has created a successful peer-to-peer fundraising program, Janet always sees opportunity for improvement. For example, while the organization does communicate with the participants via email, in the future Janet hopes to create a more consistent communication plan that would provide ongoing support as well as fundraising tips and tricks for her trip participants.
Peer-to-peer fundraising has become essential in allowing NEXT Worldwide accomplish their mission, and Janet believes that the online tools allow the organization to communicate in a way relative to their participant’s culture.
“If we expect to communicate God’s word to illiterate people, we don’t give them Bibles to read…we communicate in a way that is relevant to their situation and culture,” Janet said. “So for us, in our technology driven society, we need to communicate in a way that is relevant to our culture if we desire people to participate and support the work that we are passionate about here at NEXT Worldwide…which is sharing the freedom found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Janet said there are all kinds of organizations such as NEXT Worldwide who are mobilizing people around the world for various types of important work such as church planting, relief work, medical support, education, community development, orphan care, and/or social justice projects.
“We all do this work because we have a burden for what we do and we need to leverage every possible advantage to see that this work is accomplished….and for us that includes peer-to-peer fundraising.”
For more on coaching fundraising participants consider these resources:
Robyn Mendez discusses leveraging a social media fundraising strategy in Social Fundraising: Expanding Beyond the Fundraising Event
Deepa Karani shares tips on Coaching Your First-Time Fundraiser’s Toward Success
*The original student’s name was changed to protect confidentiality.