Yesterday we noted that fundraising is never just about asking for money. You’re asking people to contribute to something and the quality of that ‘something’ will have an impact on whether people come on board. The temptation for many missionaries is to make themselves sound heroic or perhaps better than others to meet this end, though often it is actually counter-productive. It annoys potential supporters and it can also sound pretty disrespectful to the people you’re going to work amongst.
Here are five principles that have guided us:
1. Don’t talk about your host country as empty. Coming to Tanzania, we were asking, how is God already at work through his people in this place? How are they already faithfully serving him? But even if you go to a place where there is no Christian witness, it is still in God’s world. How does their culture reflect his character? What are their unique and God-given insights into the world? What talents and abilities has he given them? What might we learn from them? We want our supporters to see us joining in with God’s already underway mission.
2. Show what ‘long-term’ means. For us, the first three years are learning Swahili, trying to work out Tanzanian culture, getting a handle on the different groups that interact with the Tanzanian university, and forming an idea of what we could contribute. We are ‘first years’ again. Our prayer points will seem monotonous (language, language, language!) and there is not much ‘pay off’ for financial contributions – we won’t be doing much ‘ministry’! We want our supporters to know that it won’t be glamorous.
3. Couch deprivation in terms of weakness. To live like a Tanzanian is to live as most of the world lives. It’s not extraordinary. It’s normal. And most of the time, we are too soft even to handle this normal. We are not heroic: we compromise our own ministry by our inadequacy. We want our supporters to thank God for his grace and provision rather than idolise us for our ‘sacrifice’.
4. See yourself as only part of the solution, not the saviour. We were invited to come to Tanzania because we have something to offer. But we need to be clear that we do not bring the answers to Tanzania’s problems. We participate and share with others, realistic about how narrow our abilities and knowledge are, how small our contribution is, and how much we have to learn. We want our supporters to know they’re not signing up to support The Incredibles.
5. Make the goal doing yourself out of a job. While we have something to contribute, it’s likely that a Tanzanian in our role could be far more effective. Our ‘long-term’ role here is only a short term solution. Our aim is to make ourselves dispensable, for there to be no reason for us to be here. We want our supporters to recognise Tanzanians as their equals and co-workers, so that they might look for more lasting change than what we could achieve.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.