The very reason for fundraising as ministry

When looking for proof texts in support of their craft, fundraisers of faith know they can depend on the Apostle Paul. The Old Testament prophets, along with the Psalmist(s), are other mother lodes of useful passages. And of course there’s Jesus. He had a lot to say on the subjects of money, possessions, and our attitudes about both.

But Peter, that impetuous, crotchety, rough-around-the-edges fisherman turned disciple, turned early church father? It’s not often that his words make their way into modern-day fundraising counsel.  (Although I did write here about fishing as a metaphor for fundraising.)

Then recently, while reading in 2 Peter, I came upon a beautifully stated description of the development officer’s progression from first sense of call to a full-blown understanding of fundraising as ministry. Okay, so none of the commentators see what I saw in the text. But stick with me.


In response to queries by board members and/or executive directors interested in re-visioning an organization’s fundraising program as ministry, I point to hiring practices. Without exception, the staffs of ministry-centered development programs are professionally competent, spiritually mature, and theologically in tune with the organizations they represent.

I’m talking about more than attention to codes of ethics, straight-forward language, careful reporting, and honoring donor intent. All good development officers, religious or not, give attention to such things. For fundraisers who’ve committed to pursuing their work as ministry, it’s all about the add-ons.

Which brings me back to 2 Peter. In two short verses (1:5-6) we find the road map from personal faith to professional faithfulness. Step by step. One thing added to another. And in the case of development officers, not just as a means for raising more money – as important as money is to mission fulfillment.

When fundraising is pursued as ministry, the “very reason” is to “participate in the divine and escape the corruption in the world” (vs. 4). We promote good. We seek knowledge. We control our egos. We persevere. We strive for godliness – for ourselves and for those who support the organizations with which we work. And we love — the ones who give and the One from whom all gifts flow.

In Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry, Thom Jeavons and I refer to a parish priest from Tucson, AZ, who told us, “The bottom line is, we’re not hitting people up for money. We’re bringing the Gospel into their lives, and the Gospel demands a response.”

This is the very reason. This is our motivation to fundraising as ministry.

Talk back: Do you see what I see in these verses from 2 Peter or have I stretched the text too far?


  1. Carol Lytch says:

    I appreciate your thoughts on this passage from II Peter. It does capture the mission and the qualities of those who strive to fulfill it through resource gathering and otherwise. I especially like the quote from the minister that you and your colleague include in your book. Blessings to you–

  2. Generous Matters says:

    I consider it high praise for a seminary president to affirm my attempt at biblical exegesis. Thank you. I’m not certain if it’s a blessing or a curse, but I tend to read everything through the lens of fundraising and/or governance. This makes for some interesting applications. In this case, I’m glad it rang true — at least to you.

    I think often of the priest in Tuscon. He understood better than any minister I’ve met that money and faith must be discussed in concert. He required members of the Parish Stewardship Council to complete a course on evangelism before they were given “the privilege” (his words) of inviting others to give.

  3. Bill enright, Dirctor of the Lake institute, The Indiana University School of Philanthropy says:

    You continue to bless us with stimulating insights. Your story on hiring practices reminds me of a donor who left a ranch to a ministry with the intent to provide a lasting legacy for the glory of God and God’s kingdom. 15 years later the ranch was sold because the ministry was bankrupt. Who bought the ranch? A mega church ministry that two years earlier had laid off dozens of people because of the recession. Ethics matters: in buying and selling, hiring and firing, fundraising and honoring donor intent. in reprospect, would the donor of that ranch give a gift to either of the two ministries were they alive today?

  4. Generous Matters says:

    Thank you, Bill, for your kind affirmation of Generous Matters.

    What a sad story you’ve shared here — but a tale that has been repeated too many times over. It’s one thing to ask people to give in support of current ministry. We can hope that gifts in the present will contribute to Kingdom outcomes. And if not, the donor can walk away in the next giving cycle.

    But to ask people to make a legacy gift, well, that’s an awesome responsibility. These are not gifts given on a whim. A person’s whole heart and deep passion comes with a bequest or other planned gift. I suspect there are many instances where, were the donors living today they would be surprised — even heart-broken — at the purposes for which their gifts were used.

    The challenge for boards and other organizational leaders is to embrace change and adapt to new challenges or opportunities — without letting go of the best of a long-held mission.

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