Fundraising is ministry.
In this series, we’re exploring lessons from theologian Henri Nouwen’s transformational book, The Spirituality of Fundraising, that can reframe how we ask donors for money. Growing cheerful givers in our churches means meeting their needs. This week, we’re unpacking one of the three key characteristics that motivate those critical donors.
Donors have needs that churches should anticipate and meet. One defining characteristic of a cheerful giver is a desire for community – an authentic relationship with the ministry they are supporting.
In churches, we often first have to reconcile that while God’s concern is for the poor, our communities of faith also provide a way for those with wealth to participate in advancing His Kingdom.
Henri Nouwen puts it this way: “The poor are indeed held in the heart of God. We need to remember that the rich are held there too. I have met a number of wealthy people over the years. More and more, my experience is that rich people are also poor, but in other ways,” he writes. “Many rich people are very lonely. Many struggle with a sense of being used. Others suffer from feelings of rejection or depression. It may seem strange to say, but the rich need a lot of attention and care.”
Part of our role as Christians fundraising for the gospel is to help create community and authentic relationships between those who have resources and those who need them. That is ministry.
Donors feel best stewarded when they are part of a community and a goal much bigger than themselves. In Luke 21:1-4, Jesus compares the widow’s mite to the rich man’s gifts — demonstrating that the gifts of all are needed and used in God’s economy. This is a well-known story — you’ve probably heard or read it many times — yet it never gets old for me as a fundraiser. In my world of working with donors and organizations raising needed funds, the most powerful moments are when I hear stories of sacrifice, whether big or small, in people’s giving.
I’ve seen young children give of their allowance. I’ve seen people of means reach for the largest gift they’ve ever given to take a stand for the Bible. In each and every case, it’s the sacrifice that counts. And what keeps donors engaged in those projects after they’ve given sacrificially is knowing the impact they’ve made as part of a community of generosity.
The truth is that generous people give more than just their money. In today’s culture, I see more and more that generous donors want to give of more than just their financial resources. This is especially true of younger givers. They want to get their feet on the ground with the causes they’re supporting. They want to get their hands dirty. Donors who are ministry volunteers are more passionate and better advocates than those who only give of their financial gifts.
Donors who have hands-on experiences in ministry build an authentic relationship with the church and form a community. How do churches create that space?
- Offer intentional opportunities for donors to experience the ministries they’re supporting.
- Ensure you’re communicating and celebrating with donors what they’ve made possible.
- Carve out the time to build communities among those donors. Thank you events, small group experiences, vision trips or tailored missional experiences all can be targeted to the needs of specific groups of donors and prospects.
Cultivate authentic communities where cheerful givers are assured they are fueling God’s mission in the world.
“I wonder how many churches and charitable organizations realize that community is one of the greatest gifts they have to offer. If we ask for money, it means that we offer a new fellowship, a new brotherhood, a new sisterhood, a new way of belonging,” Nouwen writes.
Next week, we’ll look at the difference between donors and tithers and the mistake many churches make in not meeting the second key need of the cheerful giver.
Tim Smith has over 30 years of experience in Church, Non-Profit Administration, Management, and Fund Development. Having served as an Executive Pastor and Chief Development Officer in growing Churches and Non-Profit Organizations has provided a wide range of expertise and resources. Tim serves as Founder and CEO for Non-Profit DNA, a boutique firm committed to helping nonprofits and churches build their capacity through fundraising, leadership, team building, staff recruiting, and coaching.