Funding Missions

How Many People Does It Take to Support a Missionary?

Written by McKenna Von Gunten

The answer… it depends. Missionary support could be anywhere from 5 to 66 people depending on where you are serving and the number of people that you need to contact varies since you never know who is going to be a committed long-term partner.

We get this question a lot. Missionary support has no one-size-fits-all answer as the cost of living expenses differ from country to country, and there is a lot of different factors that you will need to consider before you begin contacting people for financial support such as:

  • Counting the cost.
    • How much do you need to raise?
    • What is the total monthly budget?
    • Which country are you going to?
    • How much do plane tickets cost?
    • Do you have a monthly budget for food and bottled water?
    • What will you be using as transportation?
  • Setting up goals and deadlines.
    • When do you need to be fully funded?
    • Are there deadlines that you have to meet on a monthly basis?

It’s important to be prepared and know your monthly budget before you arrive on the mission field. These are all aspects that are going to greatly affect your lifestyle in every country you live in.

Once you know how much money you need to raise, you will have a better idea of how many people it will take to find your full-time supporters who are willing to partner with you in the vision God has given you.

In this blog, we’ll show you how to figure out how many people you need to support you. But first, we will show you why it depends on how many partners you need by comparing the difference between a missionary’s monthly budget in Northern India and another missionary’s budget for living in the most expensive part of the world: Zurich, Switzerland.

What is Your Monthly Budget?

To give you a visual of what your monthly budget could look like as a missionary overseas, here are the prices of living expenses for Guwahati, India, and Zurich, Switzerland (all prices in USD).

Guwahati, India

Unreached People Groups: 145

Monthly living expenses:

  • 1 bedroom apartment: $64.61
  • Utilities (electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage, and personal internet): $40
  • Food (eating out 4 times a week + food from the store): $77.40
  • Bottled water (month supply): $29
  • Transportation (monthly pass): $4.12
  • Other (coffee, toiletries, clothes, exploring time): $104.15

Monthly total (not including plane tickets, visas, and medical insurance): $319.28

Zurich, Switzerland

Unreached People Groups: 7

Monthly living expenses:

  • 1 bedroom apartment: $1,384.20
  • Utilities (electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage, and personal internet): $237.02
  • Food (eating out 4 times a week + food from the store): $703
  • Bottled water (month supply): $108
  • Transportation (monthly pass): $84.96
  • Other (coffee, toiletries, clothes, exploring time): $254

Monthly total (not including plane tickets, visas, and medical insurance): $4,620.28

As mentioned above, your number of supporters is going to need to compensate for how much your total monthly costs are. Visas and plane tickets tend to be the most expensive up-front costs, but housing and food will most likely be your biggest expense on the mission field.

Now that you have your monthly budget, we can move on to determining how many contacts you need to find your dedicated partners.

How Much Missionary Support Do You Need?

“The average ‘financial partner’ comes in around $70/month. Usually only 37% of your contact list that you follow through with on a campaign will partner with you.”

– Doug Goodmundson, Director of Partnership Development for missionaries at Bethany Gateways

This is how you can find both your partners and the number of people you need to contact for missionary support. Most of the time, partners are more likely to give $25 to $50 a month, but for now, we are going to follow Doug’s formula and stick with partners giving you $70 a month. 

Here’s the math:

  • Take the total monthly budget and divide by $70/month to get the number of partners needed.
  • Then, divide that by .37 (37%) to know how many contacts you should start with before launching a campaign.

Guwahati, India

For example, place yourself in the shoes a missionary in Guwahati, India, and having to raise $319.28 a month. This is the process of how you would determine how many contacts you need so that you can find partners who are dedicated to monthly support.

  • $319.28/$70  = 5 partners
  • 5/.37 = 14 contacts needed

Zurich, Switzerland

But, if you were to go as a missionary in Zurich, Switzerland, the living expenses would look drastically different. Raising $4,620.28 a month is going to change the number of partners you need and how many people you begin contacting. 

  • $4,620.28/$70  = 66 partners
  • 66/.37 = 179 contacts needed

What’s Next?

Writing a Contact List:

Now that we’ve compared monthly living expenses and found out many people you need to support you, your next step is to write down a list of contacts based on the numbers you found in the sequence above. 

It is always highly advisable to put down more contacts than you think you need. Start with family, friends, and church members, and then go to co-workers, distant relatives, neighbors, a friend of a friend, and Facebook acquaintances. Often times, missionaries find that the people that they thought were least likely to give were their biggest supporters.

Raising Missionary Support: Partnership Development

Usually, your final step would be to take your contact list and begin writing a newsletter telling people where you’re going and what you’ll be doing overseas while asking for financial support. But raising missionary support is not just about getting people to give you something. It’s about building relationships and maintaining good stewardship.

The biggest difference between Partnership Development and fundraising is building a trustworthy relationship with each one of your contacts.

While newsletters often end by passively asking people for money and rarely get a response, Partnership Development is committed to developing lasting relationships with your contacts where you get to share the vision God has laid on your heart and invite others to partner with you in that. You will never know who is going to support you until you speak up and begin to share your passions and what God is doing in your life. It may just so happen that your contacts are passionate about the same thing and are wanting to see a difference made in the lives of others across the world.

Partnership Development is an organized strategy that has been tested and proved successful for launching hundreds of missionaries overseas. Missionaries who have gone through Partnership Development are excited to do it again because they enjoy the lasting effects of the long-term relationships that were built in the process and now understand the importance of following through with their contact list to becoming fully funded and launched out onto the mission field.

At Bethany Global University, students take a course in their sophomore year on Partnership Development and work through this exact process of finding their monthly budget, writing down a contact list, sending out an update newsletter, and beginning their journey of building relationships and following through with their contacts to find their dedicated partners for their sixteen-month Global Internship.

While we understand that BGU is not for everyone, Doug Goodmundson also has all Partnership Development resources online for individuals, groups, and churches who are interested in starting Partnership Development today.

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