Is that a choir I hear singing the praises of fundraising as ministry?

When a colleague commented on the ease with which I respond to questions about best practices in board governance, I shrugged off the compliment by pointing to my almost 30-year focus on the topic.

“There’s not much I haven’t said by now,” I quipped.

“Again and again and again,” he added with a chuckle.

My friend could have said the same about my championing of fundraising as ministry. Beginning with the publication in 2000 of Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry and continuing to the present as I prepare for a workshop with the same name at the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s upcoming Generosity NOW conference, there’s not much I haven’t said on this topic either.

I’m basically a two-sermon gal and likely always will be.

Back when Thom Jeavons and I set out on our Lilly Endowment-funded search for organizations that approached development work as ministry, we were met mostly by blank stares. A few folks regaled us with stories about vision trips and high-priced outings for mega-donors. Others pushed back, accusing us of trying to pretty-up shoddy development work with a holy patina. (It stings still when I remember the harsh critique of a publisher-hired reviewer who blasted our “holier than thou put-down of conventional fundraising practices.”)

Fast forward to 2017

and it’s a very different story. These days, the idea of fundraising as ministry feels almost old hat.

Books on the topic fill several sections of my office bookshelf and new titles could be added daily (or so it seems) to their number.  And based on conversations from my travels, it seems the books are being read and internalized. Everywhere I go, I bump into development folk who describe themselves as called to the ministry of fundraising.

Writing about a survey of the 600-plus members of the Association of Lutheran Development Executives (ALDE), David King, director of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving, reports that

Ninety percent of the fundraisers see their work ‘as an expression of a calling or vocation rooted in faith,’ and 88 percent connect fundraising to their faith.

Faith-based fundraisers employ the language of vocation, calling, and ministry to describe their work. At a basic level, faith-based fundraisers understand calling as work that aligns with a life of faith.

Many respondents describe the process of working with donors as ‘pastoral’ and speak of their service as a public witness for the mission of God.

Many faith-based fundraisers, in contrast to the larger profession, highlight that fundraising is always more than the money raised. Fundraising necessitates celebrating and nurturing the joy of giving within donors. It means increased attention to the ethics of relational fundraising and the tensions that sometimes develop between relating to donors as spiritual advisors and asking for financial gifts.

To which I say praise God and amen. I’m loving the company.

Thom and I concluded Growing Givers’ Hearts in this way:

We envision a time when all of us who are involved in the business of asking for money for Christian organizations can do this in a way that offers people a clear view of God’s grace at work in the world. We envision a time when we collectively learn to use the mammon of the world to point to God’s love and grace as the single most important force at work in the world and in all our lives. When we come to that time, Christian fundraising will be a true ministry, a pastoral and prophetic activity, of the church. We hope this volume begins a dialogue that will enrich and ground the Christian fundraising practice of all who share this vision.

After all these years, it’s a joy to see our hope being realized.

Thank you, dear reader, for your part in keeping the dialogue going and growing. Welcome to the choir.

For more about fundraising as ministry, see:

Three reasons for focusing on givers’ hearts

Finding fun and ministry in fundraising

The accidental stewardship educator

 

Comments

  1. I just found your blog and absolutely love it. Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you, Morgan, for your encouraging word. I look forward to talking with you about our shared commitment to encouraging the hearts of God’s people to grow bigger in generosity and faith.

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