The future of fundraising: a lesson from Kickstarter

A co-worker asked me to explain the secret behind the success of Kickstarter using only two words. I came up with“ideational giving,” which I immediately began processing through the lens of missions and the global Church giving patterns.

The missionary with a vision

I recently read about the Yoars family that felt called to leave at the pinnacle of their careers and head to the mission field. Former editor of Charisma magazine, Marcus mentions that it took approximately two years from the initial calling to details actualized, which I’m sure includes raising ongoing support.

I don’t know details of the Yoars’ support model, but it got me tabulating. I could see a young missionary couple calculating a number like $55k in annual support needs. This could easily take a year of fundraising efforts on top of living expenses in the meantime. Some missions[1] agencies actually assign prospective missionaries a support coach to assist in the very complex world of fundraising or suggest reading books like “Friend Raising: Building a Missionary Support Team That Lasts.”

The guy who was bored

My mind jumped to a guy who raised $55,000 in a MONTH. Was he trying to save trafficked women, break modern slavery, bring water to the desperate, or take the Gospel to the broken…no! He raised $55k using Kickstarter for potato salad.

“I realized that I really liked potato salad, but had never made it. Then I wanted to make potato salad.” ~Zach Brown[2]

More than 6,911 people connected with Zach and financially supported his cause, allowing him to achieve his dream of making potato salad. About 1/3 of these supporters were friends—donating to his cause on a relational basis. But that leaves more than 4,000 people that opened their wallets to support a cause—ideational giving.

What we learned

This campaign had to have been intended as a joke, but the results aren’t funny. While sobering, they are also filled with insight…

  • If I connect with your idea, your “Why,” I’ll support you
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re my institution, I connect with your idea so I’ll support you
  • It doesn’t even matter whether or not we are friends, I connect with your idea so I’ll support you


No matter what your attitude about which cause bears the greatest amount of importance—clean water to Africa, cure for cancer, Gospel to unreached people groups, or the assemblage of a picnic side dish, we have to sit up and take notice of how quickly the world we are living in is moving and changing.

We must take notice of how quickly the world we are living in is changing Click to Tweet

Our present

Our current giving strategies and structures are based on either Institutional or Relational giving.


Institutional giving looks like multiple members of a church tithing, or alumni regularly supporting their alma mater.


Relational giving can look like supporting a missionary (short or long-term) or legacy missions/charities. I recently talked to the CEO of a family-started mission whose donor base was mainly his parent’s friends. Looking to the future, he is keenly aware that the bulk of the donors are aging. When they die off, it is highly likely that so will their financial support. “How do I transition from relational givers to garnering supporters who buy into our mission?” he asks.

Our Future

As it seems that most of the world is gravitating toward ideational giving—Kickstarter being the most crystal clear example of the shift—we have to ask ourselves some new questions.

We have to ask new questions about giving Click to Tweet

What are we going to do about it?

How will we change?

What does a transition from institutional or relational giving to ideational giving look like for churches and ministries?

Are there strategies and structures being built in the church world that will support ideational giving for the future?

It seems the world is gravitating toward ideational giving Click to Tweet

At OneHope, we have embraced the ideationally driven culture. As we navigate this new space, we look forward to ongoing learning and dialogue about this topic.

You might also enjoy:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *