Raising Money for Your Christian Band

Here’s the video transcript:

My favorite pastor says, “The Gospel is free but it costs money to get it to them.” In our case, that means Christian bands have expenses that need to be met for the band to be able to do the ministry they have been called to do. So, how do you come up with the money to keep gas in your van, equipment maintained, and food in your belly? Unfortunately, these days there are no good answers. There is no doubt about it—music ministry is rough, especially financially.

We are not going to discuss what should be happening or what is wrong with the music industry or the church in general. You and I simply do not have the power to make the changes we feel are needed right now. We could sit around and discuss all the problems and ramifications of the Christian music industry, or we can do everything we CAN do to keep our ministries going and trust God to make up the difference. That means doing things smart, really smart, and prayerfully, with knowledge, wisdom, and discernment.

We have already discussed the importance of having multiple streams of income from different sources in your personal finances in the very first chapter of this book: Advice Before You Begin. As music ministers, we should protect the future of our ministries by cultivating multiple sources of income for our ministries as well. There will be seasons where one source does better than another, and times when the source that did not previously do well becomes the primary source of income. But, when all the sources work together the ministry has a solid financial base.

Here are possible sources of income for your Christian band:

Performance Fees—Currently, most Christian bands do not get paid performance fees for most shows. Generally, promoters pay some gas money or a cut of the door. Once in a while they will even send you home with some extra food. But the reality of today’s economy is that most likely less than half of the bands shows will pay anything. Still, get performance fees when you can, just don’t rely on them as your primary source of income.

Merchandise Sales—A large percentage of your band’s income should come from merchandise sales. Be sure to manage your merchandise table well. Also, don’t overlook person to person sales in between shows. If you have a large online following, you may want to explore online sales through your website. Most bands do not sell huge amounts of merchandise online until they have reached the regional level.

Donation Can at Your Merchandise Table—You will probably be surprised at how much money the band makes here if it is done well. Do not overlook this source of income.

Donations from Friends and Fans—There are some people who will donate to the band if they know there is a need. Do you have a “Donate Now” button on the band’s website? Do you have a way to communicate specific needs as they arise (such as a Facebook page, Twitter, or an e-mail list)? Do not be hesitant about giving your fans the opportunity to support your ministry—make the need known and ask. Some bands have gone long periods of time with almost no donations only to receive a large unexpected donation at just the right time. Don’t give up on this just because you don’t see results for a while. At the same time, do not focus all your efforts here.

Donations from Churches—Yes, this really does happen from time to time. My husband received money from a church to buy a new bass cabinet and amp! If you have a church where you attend and serve regularly, don’t hesitate to ask when your band needs help. (For example, my husband played bass as a volunteer at the church at almost every service for over a year. When his old amp died, they were happy to help.) Most churches have money in the budget to help other ministries. If a church supports your ministry by attending your shows, they may also be willing to help a little financially.

Fundraisers from Church Groups—Youth groups do car washes, women’s groups do bazaars. Ask some of these groups to put on a fundraiser to benefit your band. You will have to do some work and participate, but you will recruit some new fans as well as receive a little cash.

Fundraisers Put on by Band Families—Do you want to build camaraderie among the band member’s families and make some money? Ask them to get together and do fundraisers for the band. Garage sales are particularly effective.

Equipment Sales—Admit it, we all have more equipment than we actually use. Some of us are downright equipment hoarders; others have just upgraded and never sold the old stuff. Sell EVERYTHING you are not currently using. Equipment generally does not hold its value as new technology is constantly making improvements. Stop tripping over that old stuff—bless someone else with it! You are sowing into future music ministers.

Crowdfunding online at platforms like Faithlauncher.com or Kickstarter.com—Bands are flocking here to raise money for their next project. It seems to be working, but you have to get the word out. Don’t just post your project and hope for the best; promote, promote, promote! The next section will address this in more depth.

The LAST place to look for money: Donations from band members. Unfortunately, this is often where bands look first for cash. All too often bands (or the band leader) decide that the band needs to spend money on something. They divide the total expenses by the number of band members and tell each person they have to donate that much. It sounds fair, but each member has different levels of discretionary money in their personal budget. What is easy for one family to donate may be a huge challenge for another. Bitterness on the part of the families can creep in. If that happens, it won’t be long before the band will be missing a member.

Some bands decide that every member must tithe to the band. Again, it sounds fair, but not everyone is OK giving their tithe to anyplace other than their local church. Other people feel awkward allowing the band to know how much they make based on their tithe. Still others may not believe in tithing. You are treading on personal choice and doctrine here and you may just alienate a close friend over it.

The worst scenario is the member that donates the most money feels they can control the band. It is human nature—fallen nature. The only way to combat this is for the person doing the giving to remember that once the money is given it is no longer theirs. It belongs to the ministry. If the person does not trust the ministry to spend it well, they should not give it. Otherwise, they should designate the use of the money and allow the ministry to decide if they want to accept the gift with the designation.

If the band must look to their members for funding, or if any member wants to donate to the band, follow these rules:

● Keep it totally voluntary.
● Keep it transparent. Let every member know who is giving what and why.
● Keep it honest. Don’t say you will give and not do it. If you really cannot afford to give, say so.
● Keep amounts of donations within the individual’s ability to give (no pressure, no expectations for each other or yourself). Do not make your family give more than they should to support your ministry.
● Remember that your relationships are truly more important than the band’s finances (or lack thereof). Do not offend your brother over money.

In the end, even if you do all these things well, the band may not have enough money to do everything you hoped to do. At that point you will have to apply discernment. Ask yourselves if you really should be doing everything or just certain things. Are you doing the right things at the right time? Is God saying “No” or “Wait”? Recognize that God uses our finances to guide us and to protect us. Do everything you know to do, seek wisdom, and be patient. God will provide what you need when you need it.

This article is an excerpt from The Christian Band Handbook.


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