Continuing our series on missionaries up the front of church, one of the complicating factors is fundraising. Money is often a difficult area for Australians to talk about. It’s something Arthur and I gave some thought to while we were fundraising (shameless plug, more info at our financial partnership page!).
But money is about more than money, isn’t it? As Eric pointed out, if you ask for money in the context of telling people they’re not managing their money faithfully, it doesn’t come across too well! I suspect another issue for many missionaries is that pressure to fundraise is also pressure to show that their work is worthwhile. This may be one reason (among many) for why missionaries make themselves sound heroic or sacrificial, although often it just makes potential supporters feel either inferior, guilty, or angry. How you talk about what you’re doing may be just as important for fundraising as talking about facts and figures.
When it comes to talking about money, our approach has been to go for more transparency rather than less. This has meant we only talked about money when we had time to explain, so more often in small groups than up the front of a church service. We’ve gone for openness in three areas:
1. The amount. People can’t contribute if they don’t know what the needs are.
2. Our standard of living. While many Tanzanians live on less than $2 per day we don’t and we’re honest about that. Partly it’s that we work with wealthier people but partly it’s because of what we can cope with – we’re soft westerners so things that are part of life for Tanzanians are much more stressful for us. There’s also the fact that we’ll be returning to Australia at some point and that partly affects how we live now e.g. where Elliot will go to school.
3. Where the money goes. Our living allowance is only a small part of what we fundraise. Travel’s a big part of it (e.g. plane flights to and from Australia) but the money we raise also funds the CMS office who do a stack of admin and organisational things on our behalf.
But that’s just the money side of it. Fundraising’s also about how you talk about your work. Tomorrow I’ll share how we think about ‘the pitch’.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.