Fundraising Therapy

For years as a fund-raising missionary, I was taught that raising support was an integral part of my ministry, that fundraising not only made it financially possible to do the ministry I loved (a means to an end), but that it was a ministry in and of itself (its own end). It allowed me to:

  • connect with people
  • share my life and my ministry with them
  • give them an opportunity to participate materially with what God was doing, and
  • help them grow into generous stewards of their resources, regardless of whether they chose my specific ministry to support or another one that better aligned with their “Kingdom values.”

It was such a beautiful vision of support-raising, and I believed it in theory. But I had a few hang-ups that got in the way of fully embracing it.

For those who are courageous enough to face their fears, fundraising brings to the surface all the doubts, insecurities, and hang-ups about one’s worth. And for most support-raisers, God uses fundraising to address those areas and to bring healing into them.

But for me, fundraising dug too sharply, too frequently into my deepest emotional wounds, without bringing any healing to them.

I grew up with the misguided belief that I was unwanted and unworthy to ask for what I desired. I was expected to accept what life (or people) handed to me, be grateful, and be quiet. Most requests I made were ignored, or criticized for being too specific and therefore a sign of ingratitude and selfishness. I feared that the act of asking would annoy my caregivers too much and lead to further unwanted-ness, further abandonment and rejection.

Every fundraising request I made carried that childhood baggage with it. Before every round of phone calls, I had to work through negative self-talk and gut-wrenching tears, just to get to a point where I could suck it up, pick up the phone, and make the calls. For every “no” or “I’ll think about it” or “maybe later,” I fell apart again (after hanging up the phone, of course) as my childhood wounds resurfaced, confirming my misguided beliefs “you don’t deserve anything” and “you’re not worth it.” Any rational thought that it wasn’t about me being worth it (but was about the ministry being worth it) went out the window as I spiraled downward.

My colleagues and I knew that it would be much better if I could ask from a place of healing instead of just “sucking it up and doing it.” If I could stop equating any yes or no or maybe as a benchmark for my worth or a precursor to further rejection, and if I could start believing that their yes or no or maybe said more about their financial priorities than the worth of my ministry, then asking wouldn’t be so devastating.

But full and complete healing is long-term work for wounds that have dominated someone since childhood. And between fundraising trainings and the always-urgent aspects of life and ministry, there was never enough room for long-term emotional work. I started to realize that for my particular deep-rooted pain, I needed to remove myself from the thing that kept poking at it.

I will never forget the day it dawned on me that I could ask God for a job that didn’t require me to raise personal support. How utterly un-profound that must sound to many of you! But for me, the little girl who was afraid to ask for anything she might need or anything that she might take delight in, I was finally asking God my Father for something big.

Something that could lighten my burden.

Something that could pave the way to happiness and health, neither of which I thought I deserved.

Something that would communicate to me that I was valued instead of constantly communicating I was worthless.

Just in the asking, I saw a little glimmer of hope, a little step toward healing. And I ran with it.

I will say that finding a new job wasn’t easy. Having to “sell yourself” becomes an internal battle every day when your insecurities scream that you’re not worth investing in. That you’re not impressive enough, that you don’t have what it takes. But it was only a season of time, much preferred over the repetitive, never-ending process of raising support. And eventually, God said yes to my request: a job for which I didn’t have to fundraise.

And since this major decision, I am learning to, little by little, give voice to the other unspoken desires of my heart — to God, to my husband, to friends and family. It doesn’t mean I get everything I ask for, but it means I’m growing in trusting their love and in being resilient to the no’s and maybe later’s. The long-term work is finally taking off, and it is glorious to behold.

If you, too, raise your own ministry support, I encourage you to listen to your own internal gauge about fundraising’s effects on your relationship with God, with others, and with your own self. As I said earlier, support-raising is actually really good for most people. So you don’t want to throw away your “dream ministry job” just because one element of it makes you feel uncomfortable or awkward. Before you up-and-quit your fundraising-dependent ministry, talk to 3 people:

  1. A really good friend/family member who knows you and your ministry well
  2. Your supervisor
  3. A therapist (hopefully one you’ve been seeing a while if you have deep, continually-healing emotional wounds like me)

Between the three of them, you have an objective (hopefully) team of advisors you can trust to help you process this really huge decision.

And pray. God has known you from the beginning of time, loves you, and will guide you if there is a preferred path for you to walk on.

I hope that you find the path of your own healing and the healing of the world around you. I’m really glad I’m on the next leg of mine.

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels