Earning My Keep As A Missionary

How I Fundraised My Two-Year Salary in Two Months

Imagine being handed a few resources, taught some best practices, and then pushed out into the world, with no solid paycheck heading your way, unless you put on your best saleswoman face and earn it yourself.

When I became a campus missionary right out of college, that was my situation. I knew it would be difficult. I was going to have to move across the country, talk to college kids about their faith, and take a break from a career path that I had solid connections in.

But none of this was as terrifying as fundraising my salary.

I was working for a non-profit that sent recent graduates to college campuses all over the country. There we were to start Bible studies, help the Catholic Center with any events, and teach students how to evangelize. Since our company was a non-profit, the only way to get paid was gather up interested donors. I had to put together a team of people whose donations every month would pay for my rent, groceries and Netflix subscription.

A lot of people might think that missionaries don’t get salaries, but our company was a big believer in the laborer deserving to be paid a fair wage. This was our full-time job; we weren’t volunteers. Missionaries need Starbucks now and then, too.

It sounds crazy, but I was promised it was entirely doable. And it was. For over two months, I got coffee with over 50 individuals or couples and tried to sell them a vision of why they should pay money every month so that I wouldn’t starve. I raised enough for a monthly paycheck of $2,800, or around $67,200 in two months.

If you’re in a situation where you have to fundraise, whether it’s for a paycheck, your job, or a sudden crisis situation, the ceiling is really as high as you can lift it. Fundraising, after all, is simply asking those who have money to give some of it to a party in need.

Here’s how I raised a massive amount over hazelnut coffee at Panera.

1) Believe in what you’re selling. If you’re not 100% sold on what you’re raising money for, you’ll never be successful. I believed with my whole heart that our mission was needed on college campuses, and that got me through every confused stare or confrontational question. When people pointed out my designer purse (which was, ahem, stolen from my mom) or asked why I couldn’t just get the church to pay me, I wasn’t fazed. I knew I was doing something that was worth any embarrassing or awkward moments it may bring about.

2) View people as partners, not ATMs. You don’t want to use people for their money; you want them to invest in something that they, too, view as worthwhile! I wanted people to view our mission as just that: our mission. Throughout the next two years, I sent constant updates on how things were going so donors felt they were included.

3) Hustle. There were days where I had four appointments in a single afternoon — and at the time, I wasn’t yet getting paid! But every single appointment was a potential income source. Making money appear is work. It’s constant smiles and quick answers, all in a reassuring, your-money-is-safe-with-me tone. It’s calling people two, three, four times to secure an appointment — and then having them cancel in a text message that morning. It’s answering the same question a million times and making it sound perpetually fresh. Prepare to be exhausted, but man, it’ll feel good when you’re done!

Fundraising doesn’t have to be terrifying. At the end of those two months, I had a solid paycheck lined up, a great team of financial partners, and no worries about surviving on ramen for the next two years. All I had to do was ask — and spend a lot of time smiling!

Claire Swinarski is a writer, wife and Wisconsin Badger with a passion for Christian feminism. Her writing has been featured on Vox, Bridal Guide, Verily, Relevant, The Washington Times, The Paradox Project, and many others. Follow her on twitter @claireswinarski or instagram @whatclairesaw.

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