Worldview, theology, and the way we ask

In a recent post, best-selling author and blogger extraordinaire Seth Godin urges marketers to honor the “worldview” of the folks they are trying to reach. Why? As Godin explains, failing to do so sells short the influence that worldview wields in three key areas: attention, bias, and vernacular.

Attention, because we choose to pay attention to those things that we’ve decided matters. Bias, because our worldview alters the way we filter and interpret what we hear. And vernacular, because words and images resonate with people differently based on their worldview.

Thom Jeavons and I make a similar point in Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry, when we suggest that  

The distinctive Christian beliefs at the core of the organization [worldview] are often as important to donors as they are to operation leaders. That is why an organization and its fundraising program must be clear about the essential theological tenets of its own tradition and how that tradition should shape the work of raising money. Indeed, the desire to meet donors on the common ground of a shared faith is a primary characteristic of programs committed to fundraising as ministry.

Ministry-centered development programs work hard at choosing words that will connect with donor hearts and encourage right motives for giving. These programs are intentional about fitting fundraising into the larger scheme of pastoral work and to do so in ways that are appropriate to the theological tradition within which the organization operates. When this happens, donors notice and respond accordingly.

The fundraising program is often the public voice of an organization, articulating the operative assumptions of its founders and continuing leadership. Most fundraisers do not naturally think about this level of communication, but these connections are the more enduring in terms growing givers’ hearts. It is important, therefore, that fundraisers are clear about, and consistent in, what they say and do.

So ask yourself: What are the theological assumptions held by the majority of donors to your organization? How well and consistently do your fundraising messages match up with that theology?

Why? Because theology [worldview] matters to the way we ask. Believe it.

What's your take on this topic?

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