Fundraising is a form of ministry.
Fundraising is a call to conversion.
Theologian Henri Nouwen’s transformational book, The Spirituality of Fundraising, makes these two extraordinary assertions that have helped many of us reframe our approach to asking donors for money.
“From the perspective of the gospel, fund-raising is not a response to a crisis,” he writes. “Fund-raising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry. It is a way of announcing our vision and inviting other people into our mission.”
Nouwen assures us that fundraising doesn’t need to feel awkward, desperate, or intrusive. Fundraising is ministry, and Nowen provides an important Biblical framework for understanding a donor’s relationship to God and money, and perhaps as importantly, the spiritual role of the fundraiser. We, as those seeking funds, have to be confident in the many ways giving to our ministry will bless and enrich the giver.
He reminds us that we’re providing an invitation to those with resources to fuel the restoration of all things and advance God’s kingdom here on earth. That unifying of the asker and the giver is what Noewen aptly names “conversion” – where unmet need is fulfilled in a unique coming together as part of God’s missional call.
“Whether we are asking for money or giving money, we are drawn together by God, who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration,” Nouwen writes.
This sacred space of conversion – where donor and seeker unite – is the focus of this blog series, “The Three Characteristics of the Cheerful Giver.” Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore how churches and pastors ignite the passion of donors by honing in on the characteristics that define a cheerful giver.
Using Nouwen’s lens of spiritual fundraising, it becomes clear that what the Bible teaches us about generosity points to the very best practices that churches and ministries should have in place to steward donors.
One of those fundamentals is that generous people give in response to a great cause. In 2 Corinthians II: 8-9, we see an example of the church giving faithfully to help a community of people they have never met. I’ve sponsored a child with a great organization for many years. I have never met this child. I’ve seen his picture, and I’ve read about his education and health care, but I’ve never met him. But one of the most fulfilling things I do every month is read the updates I get about his progress and spiritual growth. I will probably never meet him. But I believe so much in the cause championed by this sponsorship organization, I trust them to help this child through my giving. They’ve given me that sacred space of conversion.
But too often, churches forget to tell their story, which is what creates those opportunities. Each week, someone new in the pew or tuning in online doesn’t know your ministries or your impact. Each week, there is someone in the pew or tuning in online who knows you well but needs to be re-energized about the Kingdom work your congregation is doing. Generous people give generously to great causes – it’s our job as fundraisers to keep them informed and excited about what their giving is helping us achieve. Look for ways for those being blessed by your donors’ generosity to share that impact regularly. Invite your members into the vision and provide them ways to fuel that work through prayer and resources!
Over the next several weeks, we’ll explore more of Nouwen’s encouragement to us as those fundraising for the gospel. We’ll unpack the key characteristics, needs, and expectations of cheerful givers…and how we can create them and grow them in our own congregations.
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.