When faced with raising $15,000 for new sidewalks at O’Neill Assembly of God, north-central Nebraska pastor Mike D. Durre started small. In a town of 3,600 residents, Durre didn’t want to petition local business owners for donations.
“I come from a business background,” says Durre, 58. “When I became the pastor here 16 years ago, I said I wasn’t going to bombard local businesses with nonprofit requests.” So, he started with a few announcements from the pulpit, his Facebook page, and a donation jar.
O’Neill Assembly needed several new sidewalks, including a walkway leading to the church entrance from the parking lot, sidewalks along the street, and a handicapped accessible entrance for the back door and office, which is in a building separate from the church. After collecting change for a couple of months, the project had gathered just a few hundred dollars.
“At that point, several local businesses became aware of the project and stepped in to help with fundraising efforts,” Durre says. “Over the years, I had become involved with the Chamber of Commerce and built relationships with local business owners. They offered to help all on their own.”
Word began to spread, and Neko’s Pub, a local bar and pizza restaurant owned by Amanda Nekolite, joined the effort. Her daughter attends O’Neill Assembly.
For a limited time, Neko’s donated $5 from every large pizza ordered on Thursday nights.
“I have had several customers tell me thank you and that it is really kind of us for doing that,” Nekolite says. A local roofing service pledged to match the pizza sales and several more businesses stepped up with matching offers. In just a three-week stretch, O’Neill Assembly exceeded its goal by $900. The businesses did all the publicizing, and the church had no promotional or advertising costs whatsoever.
Durre attributes the support of local firms and the success of the fundraiser to O’Neill Assembly’s years of community involvement. For instance, the church hosts an annual Easter egg hunt attended by 700 children, and at Halloween a trunk-or-treat event that serves almost as many.
“High community visibility and connecting with business owners makes a difference,” Durre says. “We want them to know we’re here to encourage the people and business owners in our town.”
O’Neill Assembly also strives to maintain good relationships with other churches.