Joanna and I are beginning a 100 day partnership fundraising time to raise support for our ministry department with A.C.T. Intl. This is going to be a time that will put our faith and resolve to the test. This is our second big push at fundraising. We reached a certain amount of funding a couple of years ago, but because of wishful thinking we basically stopped short of our fundraising goals. We hoped that we would make enough revenue from event opportunities and merchandise sales that we would be able to make up the difference between our financial needs and our monthly partnership amounts. As it has turned out that thought really was wishful thinking, and it is only by God’s grace that we are still pursuing this call. Transitioning from an independent artist business mindset to an in(ter)dependent artist ministry mindset has been one of the most difficult things we have ever done because it is really humbling. It seems to fly in the face of the self-made ideal that is so highly valued in America and in our hearts. However, as Joanna and I have continued in this model we have become more certain that this is truly the path God has called us to. We are called to move forward creating music and ministering to others with help of partners and not in our own strength. Over the next few months I will be devoting quite a few posts to this process. I’m hoping it will be a help to artists and missionaries alike who have chosen to do ministry that requires partnership with others for them to fulfill the calling they feel God has placed in their hearts. For the remainder of this post I’ll be discussing two realizations or challenges that led us into this non-profit ministry model with A.C.T. Intl.
Ministry is not by its nature profitable
There are a few examples of profitable ministry today. Christian books and Bible studies get published, Christian bands sell CD’s and concert tickets, and pastors sell some of their most meaningful sermons online. Profits from these financial success stories have oftentimes funded mission work and ministry around the world. Though it is awesome to have ministry that sustains itself or to have a ministry business support other ministries, this is not usually the way ministry works. Even in today’s newer church models, churches typically rely on the gifts of their members and not profits from their bookstore or coffee shop. A church staff receives a pre-determined portion of those gifts so that they can support their families while they devote time care for their church and community. Overseas missionaries most often rely on partnership support so they can reach out to the part of the world they are called to. Jesus and His apostles were supported by those who followed His ministry, and Paul was funded for His missionary journeys in this way as well. Though at times it supplemented his income, Paul’s tent making profession was not his primary source of revenue to fund His ministry. If you are called to vocational ministry this is something you will most likely need to come to grips with. Your success in your mission or calling will depend largely on the generosity of others and your ability to make your ministry financial needs known them. Without funding for ministry, the poor would be neglected, strongholds of evil would not be broken down, and the Gospel would not be spread effectively through the world. All this to say, people work in ministry and give to ministry to be a part of bringing God’s kingdom to earth and not to make a profit.
Even the most successful music careers have had initial funding for them to thrive
Without a doubt there are financially successful indie artists that have done a really great job at building an audience and career. Some artists are just incredibly gifted business persons! On the other hand, many are not. Most financially successful indies that come to my mind have had ties to a record label in the past and have been able to leverage the marketing and relationships they received during their time as a signed artist to their benefit today. Even successful label artists are initially underwritten for at least a year before they start to become profitable. Labels are basically a combination of a production lending institution and marketing firm for the artists they select. They assume all upfront risk, and if the artist they work with becomes profitable they will recoup their investment and receive a large percentage of their future earnings. Label artists spend years repaying the money that was spent on them during their startup period. I am not knocking this model. I am only saying that even in the most glorified music artist model, music production and artist promotion is still well funded before it can have a chance at becoming profitable. In the label model it is important to note that many if not most artists get dropped before they catch on in popularity. If the label believes an artist or band will not be profitable then they will divert money to other artists. The band OK Go is a really great example of this. They were a successful concert band-meaning they did well selling out shows but sold a relatively low number of downloads and CD’s while the were signed with EMI. They actually made their label money, but not the profit margin the label desired. When their contract was not renewed they realized they could not afford to self finance their videos, albums, and touring-even though they had hundreds of thousands of fans. To solve this problem they turned to the corporate world for funding to finance these aspects of their career. This video was produced because of a product placement agreement and ad at the end of the video for State Farm Insurance. For many indies that don’t have past label ties or corporate funding like OK Go, crowd-funding or patronage has become a huge aspect in being able to continue their vocation as artists.
Put them together and what have you got?
A double funding problem. We came to be a part of A.C.T. Intl. because we realized we had a two-fold challenge. We wanted to create and share meaningful music that would help people encounter Jesus, and we wanted to reach out in ministry in ways that we knew would not be profitable. We didn’t want to continue in the “play if you can pay our fee model” we were in. We wanted to have the opportunity to share with both small audiences and large audiences, to help other artists meet their goals, and regularly have mission or outreach opportunities built into our schedule. Our joining with A.C.T. Intl. has given us the non-profit ministry structure to raise partnership support to overcome these challenges. The people who are partnering with us today, both prayerfully and financially, are freeing us up to do ministry where it is not profitable and helping us create and share music that is changing lives.
Thank you for your interest in this post! If you feel led please pray for us in the days ahead. If you have any comments you would like to add, questions about fundraising topics, or A.C.T. Intl., please message me or share them in the comment section. I would love to be of some assistance to help you find or consider the next step in pursuing your calling.