It depends on the kind of fundraising that you are doing. If you’re looking to raise funds for a short-term trip or a project, the answer is, “Maybe.” I’ve known several who have successfully raised funds that way, and I’ve personally been able to raise the funds necessary for certain ministry trips.
I’m less optimistic that you can raise funds entirely online for long-term service. Typically, long-term service can cost quite a lot, and usually requires monthly and annual donors. Consider these two articles that discuss why missionary budgets can be higher than you think: Why Do Missionaries Cost So Much? and Why The Heck Would a Missionary Need So Much Money to Live in a Poor Country?
In my own personal experience, a mixed approach is required. We have donors (patrons) who give online, because they appreciate our ministry and find it valuable, whom I have never met in person. But most of the people who give monthly or in larger amounts, I have met offline and known for a very long time.
Answer from Justin in Texas, who has served for some twenty years with RUN and Beyond in the US and many countries.
“Yes and no.”
Yes and no. You certainly will use social media to raise funds, and that’s an advantage of doing it today as opposed to the past. But there is nothing like the face-to-face relationship that you will have with your individual donors, and hopefully churches.
My opinion is that much of the initial support acquisition is done face-to-face, with social media being the support. But then, once the funds are raised, if you are in an area where you can freely use social media, it is a great way to keep in touch and help your donors and prayer partners feel like they are part of your ministry.
Answer from Elizabeth in Michigan, who has served in multiple countries for more than thirty years with SEND International.
“Crowdsourcing is extremely limited.”
While viable in some situations, crowdsourcing has key limitations which would make me leery of using it for missionary support.
1. Crowdsourcing offers limited accountability and can cause confusion to donor. There is no final answer for where funds came and how they are spent. While the missionary will likely be completely faithful in how he or she uses the funds, the enemy of our souls can use this to gain a foothold for rumors, division, and conflict. More than one missionary has been discredited simply because there is no accountability.
2. Crowdsourcing can usurp the responsibility and blessing of the local church from helping their missionaries. The more people involved with the work, the more accounts will receive spiritual fruit. It is to the benefit of the local church to know how the funding is going and not only the missionary.
3. Crowdsourcing may be illegal, or at least difficult to keep legal, in regard to government rules. It would be very unfortunate, and poor stewardship, to need to leave the mission field because of tax liabilities.
Answer from Ed in California with Shepherd’s Staff Mission Facilitators. He has 15 years of experience and served in Mexico and Kenya.
“I wouldn’t recommend it.”
For short term mission work, you can use social media and other internet-based resources to raise support, but if you are working full time, I would not recommend it.
Raising support as a full-time missionary is not just about raising money. It’s about raising prayer support, gaining friendships, and finding partners who will be with you in the good times and the bad. Social media isn’t really a good place to develop those kinds of relationships.
From a strictly business perspective, it also isn’t very effective.
Asking a potential donor to be a part of your ministry in person (even if you have to start by saying “I’m super nervous about having this conversation, but I think you’re worth the effort to meet face to face”) is always going to result in a higher rate of commitment. People want to know the person they are giving to. An online give page can be good. But it should not be your first course of action.
Answer from Maclain in Texas, who has served with Pioneer Bible Translators and is preparing to go to Papua New Guinea.
“How about prayer support?”
I believe, as the others said, it depends on whether you’re talking about a short-term or long-term commitment.
But have you considered prayer support? The way I understand it, missions is supposed to be supported by local churches, by God’s people. The missionary partners with the churches that financially support him, and in return, the church family prays for his ministry, safety, and needs on his field.
While crowd funding might be effective in raising money, I have my doubts that it would be as effective as deputation in raising prayer support.
Answer from Lou Ann, missionary in Spain for 31 years, now with World Wide New Testament Baptist Missions.
“Get support however you can.”
As a missionary of 30 years, I started out really before the age of the PC. Things were different then. But to the point, you need the face-to-face “knowing” (even if for a few minutes) to be a good missionary. Prayer is as valuable an asset as money, and you need those individuals in churches to sign up for your prayer letter. Unfortunately today, many churches fall down on the job as far as praying, and a direct link to prayer warriors is extremely valuable.
Secondly, I would not think either/or here. You visit churches when possible, but you also use all electronic and social media to keep up with people. Some people don’t use email hardly, but they are on Facebook all day. Use it. But don’t limit yourself to just that.
The golden key here has to be a local church and pastor that commits to pray for you and support you monthly. Only with that as the backbone of your support will you really do a good job. If you cannot get pastors of churches to sign on to you, you should ask, why not? Because that in itself is a question that should trouble you.
Answer from David, who has served with local church in Mexico for thirty years. See DavidCoxMex.com.