Leading from the front

06 February 17

sawyers church fundraising

The members of Sawyers Church in Brentwood, Essex, have been busy using give.net for the most ambitious fundraising project in their history. With a target to raise 2.7 million pounds for a new church building and community hub, offering help and support to vulnerable and marginalised people and providing employment for adults with learning disabilities, they’ve found all sorts of creative ways to keep the funds rolling in.

We spoke to Elaine Pitman, Fundraising Co-ordinator, and Peter Jordan, Senior Pastor at Sawyers Church, to get their best advice for churches chasing ambitious fundraising targets.

1. Real Passion for the Project

Sawyers Church’s strap line is: ‘working together, building community and making a difference’ which they passionately live out through extensive outreach in the community.  The church already works in partnership with an organisation called Frontline which provides employment for adults with learning disabilities through a community café.  It is the passion to meet these needs which fuels the hard work behind this building project, which Elaine and Pete agree is vital to driving a long-term plan to fruition.

2. Grab supporters’ attention

Pete was looking for a fundraising idea that would raise the profile of the church, and took up the suggestion to walk across London following the Crossrail route from Heathrow Airport to Brentwood, visiting each station along the way.  Because Crossrail is such a huge project, it immediately grabbed the attention of the local community and media. Pastor Pete’s Crossrail walk was born.

3. Lead from the Front

It’s important to have the trustees and church leadership fully on board, inspiring the rest of the church to follow.  “If you look back to the life of Jesus, you see he always led by example, and this is no different” says Elaine.  “As a church leader Pete is willing to rally support not just from within the congregation but by opening up his business and personal contacts, past and present.”

4. Remember People Give to People

Elaine has learnt the importance of human connection in fundraising: “We swamped the town with posters that had Pete’s face on – that way, when we did the station collections and Pete actually walked the route, he was recognised.  The fact that he took time to talk to people about what he was doing and why, really helped with the promotion.”

5. Make Good Use of Media

The church set up a media team that were active throughout the three day walk, putting up live interviews on Facebook and using all the media options available.  They also arranged interviews on BBC Essex Radio, Premier Radio and Phoenix FM which gave the project much more attention than it would have got through normal church circles.

6. Bring Supporters on Board

Pete and Elaine both emphasised the need to help people feel involved by communicating clearly and letting them know they are needed.  “If they feel involved, they won’t want it to fail” Elaine explains.

“We have had many fund raising ideas from people in the church and in the community. When people come up with an idea we try not to say ‘no’ but encourage the owner of the idea to make it happen with our support and guidance” says Pete.

7. Trust Others

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to maintain control by taking on everything yourself. In keeping the balance between being the spiritual leader of the church as well as a lead fundraiser, Pete has been encouraged to empower and release others into ministry and build team.

8. Don’t Limit your Expectations

“As Christians we often think that the local community are just not interested in church but we have found that to be the complete opposite” says Elaine.  For the past three years she has been connecting with a local business networking group which has raised over £15,000 during that time.  They also had a great response from local shops whilst enquiring about displaying posters for Pete’s walk.  This opened up conversations about the reason behind it all – not the money, not the building, but reaching out to the local community.

9. Trust God’s Timing

“We didn’t get planning permission the first time round and we were so disappointed.  However, it wouldn’t have been right for us to receive it then.”

Elaine explained that several problems came to light which could have disrupted the building work half way through – the initial disappointment of delay was a blessing in disguise, giving time to anticipate and solve potential hindrances. “We have trusted God this far and will continue to trust” Pete and Elaine agree.