As tax day approaches, be glad you are not the IRS

As we count down to April 15 (April 18 this year), income taxes are on my mind. And I suspect this is true for most Generous Matters readers. My passion for fundraising as ministry has me on high alert for requests for funds that connect tax season and faith-filled giving.  Such an example showed up in my mailbox this week.

The model letter comes from Shirley Mullen, president of Houghton College (in the spirit of full disclosure, I served as VP for Advancement at Houghton in the mid-1990s). Here’s what President Mullen wrote:

Last weekend I finished doing my income taxes. Once again I was reminded how much of my annual salary is taken automatically and used for purposes and projects over which I have very little choice. For a few moments I fantasized a world in which these automatic deductions went for organizations and causes that I had special and personal reasons to believe in, and the government had to write year-end appeal letters asking for voluntary support from its citizens.

As a college president, I must admit that a world like that would hold certain attractions. In the end I would not choose it. I would much prefer the back and forth relationship of gratitude-and-gift; gift-and-gratitude that characterizes interaction between a college like Houghton and its friends rather than the back and forth relationship of entitlement that we have with the government.

President Mullen gets what it takes to grow givers’ hearts. Nurturing relationships with the folks who care enough about our causes to voluntarily part with their hard-earned money, is both a privilege and a responsiblity. Sure, relationship building demands a lot more time than what the IRS invests in getting my annual “contribution” to the public good. But it’s also a lot more rewarding — for the person doing the asking and for the one being asked.

So, as tax day approaches, be glad you are not the IRS. Be glad you are called to the exciting, rewarding ministry called fundraising.

And if you come across other good examples of fundraising appeal letters that jump from taxes to faithful giving, send them my way. I have a folder waiting.

What's your take on this topic?

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