A ministry response to the challenges of nonprofit fundraising

News flash. The morale of nonprofit fundraisers in America is rock-bottom low, and for good reason. The majority of development folks toil in settings where even the most senior find it hard to flourish.  So concludes “UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising” — a joint project of CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Based on feedback from 2,700 or so executive directors and chief development officers, the study identifies a lengthy list of challenges to fundraising success, including:

  • Insufficient planning, funding, and infrastructure;
  • Unrealistic fundraising goals;
  • AWOL EDs and boards; and
  • Development officers departing in droves, discouraged by the weight of the work.

As a way beyond these and other challenges, the study’s authors urge organizational leaders to nurture cultures of philanthropy. This begins

with their own beliefs and behaviors about cultivating and stewarding donors. It includes prioritizing and investing in fundraising capacity. It includes having a passion for asking for money for their organizations and movements. It includes ensuring a strong partnership with their development directors. And it includes partnering with their board chairs to engage the full board in ambassadorship and donor cultivation.

To which I add a hearty “amen,” and a “don’t stop there.”

PHILANTHROPY AND MORE

As I preach wherever I go, the focus of faith-based organizations must be about more than philanthropy (the love of humanity), as noble as that is.  When an organization operates from a religious base, love of God should be the ultimate driver of everything that’s done — including how resources are generated. In pursuit of fundraising excellence in God’s name, faith-based organizations must pursue the best of a culture of philanthropy, plus an important more — a commitment to fundraising as ministry.

In Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry, Thom Jeavons and I explain that 

whether fundraising becomes a ministry has to do with the motivations that under gird it and the purposes it serves. It has to do with the spiritual experiences and the theological perspectives that shape the fundraising process. It has to do – perhaps more than anything else – with the spiritual and theological values and visions that the process seeks to embody and promote.

In short, the goal for God-centered organizations isn’t simply greater philanthropy. The goal is greater faith.

Where fundraising is pursued as ministry, requests for gifts are shaped as invitations to cooperate with God’s grace. As donors step into that  grace, they grow in faith and in generosity. Because of their participation in that grace and growth, morale among fundraisers lifts and the doors of development offices revolve less often.

This I believe. This is the news flash for which I am waiting.

 

 

Comments

  1. Rebekah, Amen to that! I look forward to that news flash as well. I loved when you wrote that the goal for God-centered organizations isn’t simply greater philanthropy. The goal is greater faith. Isn’t that the case for all in life — that each of our experiences brings us into a closer experience with God. Can you imagine what all can flow out of us – if we do that? God’s name will be praised. And I know that part of that praising is more lives changed through these God-centered organizations – the people being helped, and those donating. I just got off the phone from a small organization here in Canada that has built into their mission statement the purpose of showing people in North America (that they) can also be confident that God longs to work here as well. From the materials I have received as a donor – I see that this organization is walking the talk. Oh that more organizations would show the world that God is faithful.

  2. Generous Matters says:

    You’re right, Susan. Striving for greater faith in all aspects of life should be our ultimate goal — individually and through our organizational commitments. Thank you for sharing the example of the Canadian organization that includes helping North Americans think more faithfully about their money as part of its mission. Their example has encouraged me to push harder on this point with the organizations with which I work. I’ve said as much, but not often or forcefully enough.

  3. That’s a really challenging and exciting idea… that the work of our ministry is driven by our love for God. It reframes even the idea of evangelism: God is deserving and worthy of praise, and if we love God, we want more people to know of Him and direct their lives to honor Him. As that posture impacts our fundraising, I’m challenged to think how to help donors view our ministry work in that same way and view their lives in the same way.

  4. Generous Matters says:

    I am delighted that you found this article helpful, Dan.Your comment about the ministry of fundraising being about evangelism mirrors Martin Luther’s admonition that “there are three conversions necessary for the Christian life: the conversation of the heart, the mind, and the purse.” Understanding the development role in this way really does change everything — or at least it should.

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