I Quit My $100K Job to Fundraise My Salary. Here’s Why:

Everyone has to jump over three hurdles to become a FOCUS Missionary: a willingness to serve wherever the mission calls, a one year dating fast and to fundraise your entire salary. I practically walked over the hurdles of going where the mission called and the dating fast. Fundraising, on the other hand, was my biggest challenge in becoming a FOCUS Missionary.

Fundraising clashes with everything our culture exemplifies. American strength is the freedom of independence. Especially for men, the providers, fundraising seems to be the description of weakness. Even after I had committed to become a FOCUS Missionary I continued to wrestle with the idea of fundraising. How could I ask people for money when I could continue working and make more than many I might ask? It was in conflict with my entire past life working in the oil business. There, I strove to outperform my coworkers in the workplace. I was given greater responsibility than men older than myself. However, eventually, it wasn’t enough to fulfill my restless heart.

Eventually I realized that I had fallen prey to our culture’s bourgeois mentality of the self-made man: that through my own efforts I could prosper and become self-sufficient. In short, that I could depend on no one but myself. At FOCUS summer training, my fundraising coach helped me realize that I was too proud to become dependent. That was the root of my fundraising impasse. He said, “Ben, It’s not about you. Get over yourself. It’s about the mission.”

What is this mission? As St. Paul writes, “To become all things to all men so that we might save at least some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). It means to build intentional friendships to accompany college students on a journey of faith. It means taking the risk to invite others to partner in the mission through their financial and prayerful sacrifice. It means always being ready to give anyone (everyone) a reason for our hope.

Primarily, the heart of fundraising is having the courage to risk inviting others to take part in the Great Commission.

That’s right. Fundraising is an opportunity to bring Christ into the hearts of those who don’t know the gospel. Of course, I’ll admit that it can be  uncomfortable and a little awkward. It’s like dating. You begin with a nervous phone call and you ask to meet face-to-face. If you are wise, you were clear about your intentions over the phone and mentioned you were seeking financial support. This gives them time to prepare interiorly. You meet in person and make small talk. Then you seek to know them deeper through inquiring about their life. The moment arises when you have the opportunity to ask about their journey of faith. Finally, you ask them to support you financially. Ask any FOCUS missionary and we typically have had the same experience. “I was so anxious/reserved/unwilling to fundraise until I did it. Now, I love it.” My story is the same. I can’t really think how to describe it. So, I’ll share just one fundraising story.

I have known my friend Will since high school. In our college years he assumed the name “Wild Bill” during the late night party scene. When I was beginning to fundraise, it’d been four years since his graduation. The glory years were behind us and Will was back in our hometown living at his parents’ house. Can you believe I’d known Will for 12 years and we had never had a deep conversation about faith? I made the phone call and asked if I could take him to dinner.

We met at a local burger restaurant and talked about the good old times. I shared with him what I would be doing with FOCUS. The moment came for me to intentionally pursue his heart. I asked him, “Will, what is your journey of faith like?” I was surprised by the openness of his response. He said, “You know Ben, I don’t really know what happened. I used to pray and go to church, but I guess I just slowly fell away.” We talked more about where he was at and more importantly where he wanted to be. I shared of my experience of faith. Then it was the right time to make “The ASK.” I asked him if he would support me financially. I was inspired by his response. He said, “Ben, I’m honored that you thought I was worthy of being asked. To be honest, I look at this as an opportunity for my faith to grow.” I knew in that moment that he would say yes to whatever I would be willing to ask him. He recognized the risk I took to reach out to him. What joy it is to have Will partner with me in this mission!

Making “the Ask” is not always like that. Sometimes I get turned down.  Still, each experience I’ve had in asking others to join me on my mission was necessary for the mission itself. They help to inspire me as to why I am giving myself to this mission: to love college students. They also remind me that God will do amazing things if we allow Him to use us,  if we trust less in our weakness and more in His goodness. It’s all about TRUST. The little way is the only way.

Have you thought about applying to be a FOCUS Missionary? Especially men, you are needed. So many college guys need an older brother to teach them how to become the men they want to be-that their truest mission is to become a servant: to their wife, their kids, to all.

Are you hesitant to the idea of fundraising? So was I. Don’t let fundraising be the reason you don’t take the shot. I am asking you to Trust more. Let the arrow fly.

Ben O'Neill
Ben O'Neill
Ben has a tendency to jump into water! In fact, it's his favorite thing to do in life. He is the true romantic who risks all of himself to follow his desire. He uses no safety net but knows only the holy wildness of all or nothing, in search of the 'pearl of great price.' His journey to FOCUS was an unexpected joy. It is not clear where this journey will lead. That is why it will be an adventure. Walk with Ben on his blog at https://benjaminoneill1.wordpress.com/

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