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3 Ideas to Think Outside the Fundraising Box

Parking meter at dusk

When the stock market is topsy-turvy, where do investors put their money? I’ve seen a bunch of outside-the-box alternative investments, and fundraisers in the charitable world could learn much from the creativity.

Here are a few alternatives that have received attention and investment dollars:

  • Self storage facilities—$22 billion in sales
  • Building student housing—9% annual return
  • Cell phone towers—$3,000/month potential income
  • Parking lot meters—8% annual return

Astute investors see the opportunity and take it.

On the other hand, when looking at the ministry world, most fundraisers tend to think about one way to fund their ministry: cash. Most ministries even the largest ones, all tend to have multiple ways to get the same thing: cash. So it looks like credit card, EFT, appeal letters, urgent grams etc. It’s a misguided approach.

In truth, cash represents only about 10% of the average net worth of an individual. On the other hand, 90% of the wealth of an individual lies in non cash assets—things like real estate, cars, trucks, inventory and closely held business interests.

How can fundraisers think differently about raising money?  Here are three ideas:

  1. Think about revenue creation. One ministry we work with went out and raised about $150,000. With that they bought land, erected a billboard, sold spots and now the ministry is expecting about $10,000/month in annual revenue.
  2. Consider complex asset giving. More than ever complex assets are a bigger  opportunity to capture. Complex assets can be as mundane as cell phones, but can include cars, trucks and boats as well as real estate. You’ll need a partner to help you liquidate these assets. Our preferred partner is
  3. Consider major donors who contribute dividend declaring closely held stock. This strategy is by far the most complicated, but works much like an endowment. Often a ministry will have a relationship with a business owner. That business owner may be willing to donate a few percentage points of his stock ownership (non-voting) and let the distributions flow to the ministry.  One ministry made the request of such a donor. The donor donated more than $1 million dollars of stock. Within a couple of years, the donor repurchased the stock from the ministry and produced a huge gift to the ministry. Again, you’ll need help, but that’s the work we do at The Signatry.

About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously: » Learn More

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