Raising funds without ever fundraising

September 26th, 2017

Occasionally when I speak to groups of people within my church or beyond it, the subject of fundraisers comes up. And that’s when I most love the conversation.

Because at Good Shepherd we have a very simple policy towards fundraisers: we don’t have them.

That’s right. No bake sales. No raffles. No car washes. No barbecues. No pumpkin patches. Most of the groups I tell about this policy breathe a sigh of relief, saying, “Thank you Jesus!”

We don’t do fundraisers because we do God’s appointed fundraiser each week: we receive a Sunday offering.

You do that, you teach tithing, you set budget with foresight and boldness and you’ll never need to do a fundraiser. Ever.

There are three primary reasons why we don’t do fund raisers around here:


Charles Kyker, a friend who pastors Christ UMC in Hickory, North Carolina, once told me, “The unchurched believe that all the church wants is their money. And we hold barbecues and bazaars to remove all doubt.” I can’t get that thought out of my mind. We live in a skeptical world and in cynical times — and people not familiar with the church often assume the worst in us. What message do we convey when our signage asks them to come into our facilities not to receive anything but to buy merchandise? Not a message of gospel but one of commerce.

Beyond that community impact, I find fundraising to be a moral issue. I have been in a church that held barbecue dinners to help pay the Methodist apportionment! That is asking people in the community to help the church meet its own obligation. Pay it or not — but don’t have other folks pay what is your responsibility.


Do you know why Chick-Fil-A is so successful? They don’t make hamburgers. They do one thing — chicken — and do it brilliantly. Anything else would detract from their core mission.

At our church we have tried to adopt a philosophy of doing fewer things but doing them better. That means pouring our resources, energy and excellence into what we do on Sunday morning. It is difficult enough to do church well that peripheral activities are an inevitable drain from what is most important. We have decided we are first and foremost a church. We are not a car wash, hot dog stand or farmer’s market.


By generosity here, I mean tithing. Here is the core reason why churches should not do fundraisers: Any church that holds fund raisers is, fundamentally, teaching its people not to tithe. Why tithe when we’ll get the money through the bazaar? Why grow in the giving of 10% or more of my income when I’m giving the church that chicken to barbecue or corn that I grew? Our church doesn’t do extra fundraisers because we do God’s appointed fundraiser every Sunday when we receive an offering.

So now you know why we do what we do . . . or in this case, don’t do what we don’t do.

Talbot Davis is pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and the author of Crash Test DummiesSolveHead Scratchers: When the Words of Jesus Don't Make SenseThe Storm Before the Calm and The Shadow of a Doubt, all from Abingdon Press.

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