The following reflections on money, faith, and fundraising as ministry come from Don Meyer, a Buffalo, NY businessman whose generosity is well-known in Christian circles. When Don speaks, ministry leaders listen. And speak he did at a recent meeting of the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International board, on which I serve alongside Don’s wife, the equally generous Doris.
In less than an hour, Don provided us with a master course in growing givers’ hearts and then gave me permission to summarize his advice here at Generous Matters.
Prepare “to be” givers
Don’s observation that “few people drift toward generosity, we have to help them” is deeply personal. In the mid 1960s, the Meyers were struggling to turn around the specialty lumber company they had recently purchased. Giving beyond a tithe was tough to do, what with barely meeting payroll some weeks.
When a fundraiser from Wheaton College — the couple’s alma mater — stopped by, the visit seemed pointless. However, rather than bolting for the door in search of better prospects, the development officer asked to pray with the couple, inviting them to hold their hands open, palms upward.
“God, you know Don and Doris don’t have money to give at this time, but someday they will,” he said. “When they do, I pray their hands will stay open to you.”
“I’ve thought of that prayer every day since,” Don recalls. “This was a fundraiser preparing us to be givers. He cared about our hearts as much as his goals. He started us on the road to radical giving.”
Ask tough questions
Don knows it’s not easy, yet he challenges ministry heads and fundraising staff to ask hard questions of wealthy people that they aren’t likely to be asked in church. Questions such as:
- Do you consider yourself to be a radical giver? Specifically, have you considered giving out of assets as well as income?
- Can you get over this tax deal that limits giving to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income?
- Are you tipping God and tipping small, keeping most of what you have for yourself?
He also suggests tough questions that organizational folks should ask before heading out the door in search of funds, including:
- Is this request likely to grow givers’ hearts?
- What must we do to help donors release funds joyfully?
- What would it take for the fundraising program to move from transactions to transformation?
Thank and thank again
“Connecting with hearts happens after the initial thank you, in the follow-up communication,” Don says. “If you’re interested in growing givers’ hearts, you need to tell stories. You need to give donors reasons to say ‘wow.’ It’s impossible to over communicate.”
“Donors don’t know they need you. Show them,” Don says. “When you’re reading, think of donors. You can be a resource to them. Dominate the donor’s desk, and do it without ulterior motives. “
Include the board
Drawing upon his long-time service on the Wheaton College Board of Trustees, Don identifies a three-part role for board members in growing givers’ hearts.
- The board must set the standard for giving. Before the ministry reaches out to other donors, board members need to be first in line with their joyful, passionate giving.
- The board must encourage and monitor the advancement team. This requires that the board educate itself to the fundamentals of fundraising and what it takes to shape the program in the direction of donors’ hearts.
- Individual board members can be a tremendous aid to the fundraising team. As Don notes, board members can ask questions and go places that the development staff can’t – if they’re willing to do so.