Starting a new ministry may intimidate you with concerns about budget, who pays for what… where does the money come from… what do we need money for. Here’s a quite low down of how we have spent money in starting the ministry. We have learned our lesson, and some things have been cut back or out completely.
Printing, Mailing, & Postage – in the beginning we needed to get the word out. One of the easiest ways to do this was to print out an introduction letter about what we were doing. We found churches online in our area, that indicated they had a Women’s Ministry, and mailed the letters to them. We included a self addressed, stamped envelope, for them to respond to us with. The letter included a tear off portion that they could add their contact information to and send back. Save the money of the return envelope and postage. Create a Facebook group. When you send the letter or post card, include the link to the group on the card. If they are interested, they will join the group. You can then build a mailing list through there. Share links to the FB group in social groups for your area, your own FB page, and ask those who join to share it with other leaders. Make the group closed but not secret, so that all interested in joining must be approved. FB groups now have a 3 question feature that you can ask questions of those interested in being a member of the group. You can ask interested people Q1) What is the name of your church or ministry, or who referred you to this group? Q2) What is your position in the church or ministry? Q3) Please include your email so that we can add you to our mailing list.
Signs & Wonders – You may benefit from signs so that people don’t wonder who you are, what they are doing, or if you are in the right place. We purchased a simple vertical banner and stand from Vistaprint when there was a 50% off sale. Using their templates, we were able to create a simple sign that gets the message across. Over the years, we have ordered different types of signs, fancy name tags for the leaders, etc. In retrospect, one good sign is more than enough. And, you can hold of that until you have some budget money to spend on it. Simple DIY lanyard style name badge can be picked up at an local office supply store or online. Make them yourself, save some money.
Print Materials – In the beginning, we started with a 3 fold brochure. Then we started making rack cards with our annual calendar printed on it. In the first year, I would print out invitations and mailing them to churches. I was very mindful to watch for sales and specials. Whether you print it yourself or use a printing service, there is a cost. Add in postage, and it goes up even more. In the end we found that the majority of what we mailed to churches was very rarely passed on from whomever intercepted the mail and the Women’s Ministry leader. I can’t tell you how many new attendees will tell me that they had never heard of our ministry. After speaking with them and learning what church they attended, I knew for a fact I had mailed invitations to that church (on more than one occasion). Now, we have reduced our print material to just a single rack card. On one side is our annual calendar, on the back side is brief information about our ministry. Easy, peasy, and inexpensive.
Meeting Materials – Having sharpie markers and labels for nametags is a blessing. When we first began meeting, I had a small basket for each table that included pens, small notepads, etc. Sometimes we would print out notes related to the training topics. We would purchase cute giveaway items. I would solicit item donations from companies, and sometimes they would ask us just to cover the cost of shipping. When we stopped having the cute giveaways and gifts, we did notice a drop in attendance. That was okay, as you really only want women attending because they want the community and training. The extra pens and paper, was pretty much unnecessary as most women came prepared to take notes.
Meeting Location – Our first few years of meeting, we met at a public restaurant. In the beginning we could meet there free, but eventually they added a caveat to use their party/meeting room. To use the space we needed $75 in catering. For the number of women meeting, we could actually accommodate that cost. It was cheaper for the women too, versus having to buy their own individual meals. We also would run into women from churches at the restaurant and many new attendees came from those encounters. We would probably still meet there, but it was becoming increasingly harder to use their space. We ended up moving to the building of a local ministry that graciously hosts us, and now we don’t have to pay to use the space. We take a collection of goods for their ministry at each meeting as a thank you. In addition to meeting in public spaces, ministry venues, you may even be able to save funds by meeting at a local church or perhaps someone
Food & Refreshments – When we were meeting at the restaurant, initially everyone was for themselves. Buy what you want, buy nothing. When it shifted to having to pay $75 in catering, we could make that stretch to accommodate up to about forty of us. Now that we are meeting at our new location, they graciously provide the coffee. We provide the coffee fixings, paper goods, and bites to snack on. You could probably save money by taking turns on bringing snacks and drinks each meeting. We intentionally provide these things because it is a way to serve those who are always serving. However, do what works for you and your budget.
Now that we have addressed all the spending, you probably wonder where the money comes from. At the very beginning it was an investment of love by those of us who started the group. We pitched money out of our own pockets to get things up and running. Which is why I wanted to detail out all of the above. Learn from where we spent unnecessarily.
At every meeting, we do take an offering to offset our expenses. We also would occasional have small fundraisers that would bring in additional funds to the budget, which allowed us to cover print materials and expenses. To date, we have never been in the negative. Sometimes, we squeeze just in to break even. There have been times where we fell short on a single meeting, but the next meeting made up for it. At the end of each year, we break even, almost to the dime.
If you can start your ministry up under the umbrella of one of the local churches, you can process the offering through the church and run the ministry under their tax umbrella. If you are going to run it independently of a church, you will need to consider running it as a 501c3 (nonprofit) or 501c7 (social group/club, also nonprofit). If you are NOT collecting any funds from those attending, then you can totally disregard those two previous sentences.
I think it is fair to say that in some ways we complicated things from the beginning. I may be an old dog learning new tricks, but with the ease of the internet and social media, it is getting easier to communication information to people. Use that to your advantage. Not every meeting needs to have cute décor and favors, remember you are all leaders who deal with enough of that in your own ministries (and personal lives). It is ok to keep things simple.