Surviving Summer, Part 4: 4 Practical Outreach Ideas with Proven Results

Written by Founder Raul Rivera on Jun 14, 2016 in Outreach

Ministry leaders are visionaries. We see a need, and we are good at dreaming of how to meet the need. But the journey between vision and reality is daunting at best. I have been there and can speak from experience.

Community outreach is such a big part of summer for churches. I imagine there are many needs in your community that your church could meet. But the question you are asking is, “How can we make it happen?” And, “How can our church meet those needs?”

In concluding our “Surviving Summer” series, I want to share with you my experience as a pastor in pursuing a dream to meet a need within our community. Within this post, I will give you 4 outreach ideas that will help turn your dream into reality.

A little background on our ministry

While pastoring a church, my wife and I had a vision to host the biggest back-to-school bash our community had ever seen, a daunting task for our small congregation at the time. We wanted to host an event where every single child in our community would receive a backpack full of school supplies.

After visiting with local school principals, we learned that the total amount of students from grades K-12 numbered just a little over 4,000. Supplying that many students with school supplies was a challenge greater than our 150-member church could handle alone. We knew we were going to need help.

I wish I could tell you that our initial fundraising efforts were a success, but that would not be the truth. Unfortunately, our initial fundraising efforts flopped.

It turned out that writing letters and asking for donations was not going to be enough.  After all, we needed at least $40,000.00 to make budget, and we had 90 days to raise it.

How did we do it

The turning point of our efforts happened when my wife met with a well-to-do business owner from our town. She entered his office asking for financial support, and instead she got about an hour's worth of advice that would turn our entire outreach program on its heels.

That day we learned that when you ask a wealthy man for money, you will get advice. We also learned that when you take a wealthy man’s advice, you usually also get his money.

We were given 4 tips that turned into powerful outreach results, and I believe they can for you as well. They are listed below.

4 practical tips; powerful outreach results

Tip #1: Start a separate nonprofit

This is the foundational lesson we learned during this process.

The business man said, "I bet most people already give to a church; why should they give to another? But they will give to a good cause. Why not start a separate outreach organization and raise money through it?”

As Christians, we often feel compelled to start Christian organizations when we do outreach. However, we need to realize that we can express our relationship with God regardless of the type of organization we run.

The business man suggested we start a secular nonprofit organization that related to potential donors in a manner they could understand. He also made it clear that the secular nonprofit could apply for grants that our church otherwise would not be able to receive.

Tip #2: Share your ideas with elected officials

The business man also expressed that many politicians are always looking for organizations with good causes to support. Seek out those that are running for office. They are particularly willing to join the cause by making it their own. This went a long way for us.

Tip #3: Seek endorsements from government officials

A paradox of life is that people generally say they do not trust politicians or government officials, but when it comes to community outreach programs, the endorsement of your program by an elected official goes very far in raising funds.

Tip #4: Do not ask for money

Instead, ask for input on how to make your outreach better. Also ask people to sponsor certain components of your outreach program.

In our case, we asked sponsors to provide certain commodities of the event (ex: crayons, pencils, or TIME...such as stylists who would donate time to give free hair cuts at our outreach so that children looked "ready" for their first day of school).

My wife walked out of the business man’s office that day encouraged and with a revitalized mission to make this outreach happen. Within 21 days she received endorsements from the city council, the county board of commissioners, the country superintendent, and the city mayor.

Armed with written letters of endorsement, we applied to the Wal-Mart Foundation and to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) for grant funding. We also revisited the individuals and businesses that had previously turned us down.

Same outreach, new look!

It worked! This time, equipped with great advice, our outreach seemed more legitimate and appealing to potential donors. We adhered to the four tips listed above and instead of asking for money, we asked for advice on how to best operate the outreach, and then we asked for sponsorship of the school supplies and/or services.

Along with many good ideas that were implemented into the program, we also received commitments from businesses to sponsor some of the supplies. It was easy to get funding this time around because our outreach became a popular thing with which to be associated.

Success attracts success!

While my wife was out gathering funds, I was busy speaking at local club meetings, doing radio interviews, recruiting volunteers, and finalizing our legal paperwork and 501(c)(3) status.

Instead of organizing the outreach in the name of our church, we started a new nonprofit organization that required its own 501(c)(3) status. Though I was the president, it was completely separate from our church.

However, in the eyes of the community there were no distinctions. These types of nonprofit organizations are also known as Community Development Corporations (CDC's).

It was not long before we received word that both grants for which we had applied were approved. We had pending 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, and that was enough to get the grant money.

Today, there are many churches and ministries that will not get approved for grants and other funding because they do not have 501(c)(3) status, nor have they started the process to get pending approval. The biggest part of receiving a blessing is being ready for it when it comes.

Was the outreach a success?

The outcome was greater than what we could have imagined.

  • We were given free use of the city auditorium for three days.
  • The local sheriff provided free police presence.
  • Twelve hair stylists donated their time to provide children with free haircuts (over 800 in one day).
  • Hearing and eye specialists gave free screenings.
  • More than 65 businesses, individuals, and government agencies sponsored the event.
  • Over 70 volunteers from our church and from the local community showed up to serve.
  • The mayor and most local elected officials made appearances.
  • We managed to fulfill every teacher's wish list of supplies that students would need in order to start the school-year off right.
  • Every student that came received his/her school supplies without regard to socio-economic status. We managed to raise over $45,000.00 for this one-day event, and served over 3,000 people.
  • We even made the 11 o'clock top news story!
  • Our church provided prayer and counseling to all who came.

In short, needs were met, people were ministered to, and lives were changed. This event put our small church on the map!

Time to dream

I love people that dream of accomplishing things much bigger than themselves. When I meet a dreamer, I get very excited because I recognize that those dreams are the seed-bed for tremendous things in the future!

However, at the same time, a dream is only wishful thinking until action is taken. Let me help you take action. I have been where you are today and can say that you will never know the full extent of the dream that God has placed in your heart until you take action to walk it out.

If God has been stirring in you a new dream for your community, I want to encourage you to give us a call. You can reach us at 770-638-3444. We would love to hear about what God is doing and discuss the steps you can take to see the dream He has given you come to pass.

Lastly, I invite you to click here and register to attend one of our conferences in a city near you.

Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera


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