Magazines 2018 May - Jun Can fundraising be a spiritual exercise?

Can fundraising be a spiritual exercise?

14 May 2018 , 2018 May - Jun

Fundraising has always been an essential element of the Christian life: churches, schools, and many other organizations rely on it to function. But it is a risky enterprise, fraught with questions and challenges. How can Christians raise funds with integrity? Our most recent Faith Today features a review of recent Christian books about fundraising, including Keeping Faith in Fundraising by Peter Harris and Rod Wilson. We asked Rod Wilson to go deeper with us about this topic.

Fundraising has always been an essential element of the Christian life: churches, schools, and many other organizations rely on it to function. But it is a risky enterprise, fraught with questions and challenges. How can Christians raise funds with integrity? Our most recent Faith Today features a review of recent Christian books about fundraising, including Keeping Faith in Fundraising by Peter Harris and Rod Wilson. We asked Rod Wilson to go deeper with us about this topic.

Read more about this book in the May/Jun issue of Faith Today, available now.

Rod, why did you write this book? What prompted it?

My co-author Peter Harris (co-founder with his wife of A Rocha) and I found ourselves in roles where we were expected to raise funds. In our wildest imaginations we would have never expected that our lives would take such an unusual turn.  Fundraising was a dirty business, a necessary evil, a less than virtuous enterprise. But as we started to interact together and immerse ourselves in the role we experienced a conversion of sorts, a conversion that would bring the world of fundraising back to its rightful place in God’s economy.

How is fundraising, and fund-giving, a spiritual activity?

The secular-sacred divide is still alive in various parts of the church.  There are ‘sacred things’ like Bible, church, prayer, ministry, and worship, along with ‘secular things’ like work, money, houses, and food.  We argue that every aspect of everything we do needs to reflect the triune God so fund raising should not viewed through a ‘secular’ lens.

God, the giver of every good and perfect gift invites us into relationship with him, so we walk with him whether we are giving or asking for money. We need to value people and organizations in a way that is separate from money, measure success with metrics that are bathed in grace, frame our service not just in terms of need but call, and have attentiveness to the work of God rather than mere technique.

What is the biggest obstacle to generosity right now?

Generosity does seem to be a challenge right now.  Although we have over 85,000 charities in Canada with 1000 new ones being added every year over the past decade, donations are dropping across all age categories.  While 14 billion is given per year to charities, 74% of donations come from those who are over 50.  Reaching its peak in 1999 the number of people claiming tax credit for charitable giving is now one-third less.

This is a complex subject but while some people in Canada are generous many have not developed the holy habit or rooted it in worship. Generosity suffers when it flows from what is ‘left’ at the end of the month, rather than something that is prioritized at the beginning of the month.

How can Christian organizations better ignite excitement for giving to their mission?

Donor fatigue is a term that is being used more frequently by those with significant financial resources.  They are inundated by ‘asks’ and there is a growing sense that there is too much duplication in the charitable sector.  New organizations are starting up that look very much like other ones. Having a clear value proposition that articulates the unique contribution you are making will be appealing.

The other dynamic that is operative is worthy cause entitlement.  Organizations that tell themselves they are doing amazing things that are worthy of large donations are frequently seen as entitled and not deserving of funds.  Ministries that are focused out and have impact on others will have more success in raising funds.

Ironically this is the dance of fundraising in the non-profit world.  Present your unique contribution but do it in a way that does not reflect entitlement.

What do you wish people to take away from your book?

We hope both donors and fundraisers receive practical encouragement, learn to grapple with the relevance of the biblical and spiritual issues to these matters, and begin to thoughtfully critique the contemporary industry of fundraising.

Thanks Rod!

Read Raising Funds Without Losing our Souls in the most recent Faith Today.