Overcoming low self-efficacy esteem

There’s no shortage of huge, seemingly intractable challenges waiting for solutions, and all clamoring for our philanthropic support. So many challenges in fact, that everyday folk – families and individuals more generous than wealthy – can become overwhelmed by the immensity of global needs and back off from giving anything at all. I see it every day, good-hearted folks struggling with low self-efficacy esteem.


“What difference will my puny gift make?” they say. And fundraisers confirm the efficacy inferiority complexes by rushing after major donors.

But truth be told, for the majority of nonprofits and ministry organizations, including churches, small gifts can/do accomplish much. Mega-gifts are wonderful and the stuff of CEO’s dreams. On most days, however, gifts that don’t seem like a lot – a box of diapers to an economically strapped family, for example — can be the start of significant change.

As Joanne Samuel Goldblum, executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network (yes, there really is such an organization), explained to a writer for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “If a parent doesn’t have access to an adequate supply of diapers, they can’t drop their kids off at day care. Diapers can be the difference between a mom or dad being able to work.”

And that by anyone’s standard is (or should be) a big deal. As are the countless other low-cost, not very glamorous, high-impact opportunities available to donors for whom mega-giving isn’t in the cards.

I thank God for the Bill and Melinda Gateses of this world, but I am also grateful for the regular folk who do what they can, day in and day out, in communities all across North America. We can rejoice that the giving table is expansive and round, without head or foot. All are welcome and every guest is valued for what he or she can contribute.

I’m reminded of the nursery rhyme linking the want of a nail to a kingdom lost. The world’s way is to glorify the warrior donors who slay great enemies with their massive giving power. But as the children’s poem reminds, nail bearers matter too.

“What difference will my puny gift make?” we wonder. God knows and that is enough.

For more in praise of everyday donors, see:

Money talks. Are you listening?

Yes, Virginia, there is a generosity gene

Gifts that feel like a million bucks




  1. Matthew 25:23 (NIRV) says, “You have done well, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

    When we hear our donors say “I wish we could do more” I am reminded of this verse. It is because of the faithfulness of our smaller donors that our organizations are put in charge of many things, thus allowing us all, donors and leaders alike, to “Come and share your Master’s happiness!”

    • Thank you, William, for your beautiful comment and for pointing us to the words of Jesus, which are always the best words. You’ve described fundraising as ministry at it’s best and that is the wonderful work of inviting others — regardless their financial circumstances — to share in the Master’s happiness. When we make that our goal, hearts grow bigger and donors more generous toward God.

  2. This post reminded me of how Dr. Robert A. Cook, long time president of The King’s College in Briarcliff Manor, NY, closed his weekly radio program. He asked those viewers blessed by his radio ministry to remember TKC and its radio ministry by sending a donation to The King’s College, Radio Ministry, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510. “Remember folks, that’s 10510, a five between two tens.” Dozens of listeners heard and heeded that announcement because every week envelope after envelope would arrive with a $5 bill pressed between two $10 bills.

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