Faith or Fundraising

This is a topic that I think about a great deal. How does what I believe impact how I work and how I fundraise? This may be a weird question for some of you but it is on my mind a great deal of the time.

I do believe that Jesus is the hope of the world and that I have a personal relationship with him. And it is my love for the world God created that motivates my work in nonprofit. Because fundraising is so relationship-based there are great opportunities for some incredible discussions.

My faith or fundraising dilemma is a conflict between building programs and changing people. Fundraising can become so mechanical about talking to the right people about the right things and almost looses the deep human relationship. Sometimes I get caught up in catering to the major donors and those that are the very most well off. I try and use my faith to remind me of the value of ever conversation and every giver.

Another difficulty I have is that I do not always see a direct connection to my beliefs and my passions. Providing scholarship opportunities, or keeping someone’s house warm are great things to do but they do not provide answers to heart problems in the world and in the lives of our clients.

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15 Responses to Faith or Fundraising

  1. Leanne says:

    I don’t have time to comment on this now (BUSY DAY!) but I will come back to this and add my experiences to this discussion because I think you speak of what many in the faith sectors struggle with.

    Good post, Jason.

  2. Ben Stroup says:

    Jason, I appreciate where you are coming from. As a fundraising professional, you get to help fully fund budgets of NPOs, religious organizations and churches as they seek to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people.

    In doing my work, I have coined the phrase: More Money. More Ministry. At the end of the day, more money really does translate into more ministry. Doing what you do is helping people and changing lives. In fact, you are multiplying your efforts by working with multiple organizations.

    Keep in mind to that while you seek to integrate your faith and your work, there is a difference between career and vocation. The work we find to do that supports our physical needs is different from the work we are called to do. (I think the Benedictines produced some of the best work about finding this balance. I would recommend Robert Benson’s “A Good Life.” It has been very helpful to me.)

    For you, there are places in where these two things overlap. That’s special. I would treasure that. Remember the Apostle Paul was a tentmaker and Jesus was a Carpenter.

    Keep up the great work, and keep struggling through this question. It’s in the struggle that we see God the clearest.

    Blessings, Ben.
    http://www.lifewaystores.com/domoreministry

    P.S. It’s because of your willingness to struggle with this issue that you’re a great fundraiser.

  3. Dennis says:

    We all have different beliefs, but most of us have good intentions. You have your spiritual beliefs and no doubt those beliefs motivate you to do the wonderful things that you do. I have my own beliefs, but in the end we accomplish the same things. As long as you know for yourself that your actions are an offshoot of your spirituality, then you’ve accomplished your goal.

  4. BethP says:

    Hey Jason,

    This is a great discussion, and the questions you raise are not exclusive to people who share your faith. Many people wrestle with this disconnect between the ideals or impulses that motivate them and the means by which they can accomplish their goals.

    I see a parallel discussion in the meta-narrative of international development, where there is always a lively debate about how best to go about aiding, or funding, or “developing” the poorer regions of the world. Do we focus on infrastructure or investing in entrepreneurs? Top-down or bottom-up? Free trade or protectionism?

    Also, a resource which may be useful to you in thinking about the integration of your faith and vocation: the Washington Institute, an organization invested in helping people think through matters of faith and work. http://www.washingtoninst.org/

  5. Leanne says:

    Okay, it’s slowed down a bit and I can finally start to write what’s been inside my head since you posted this.

    First, you and I share the same faith.

    Second, you and I share a similar job.

    Third, we live in a time where the lines between “vocation” and “calling” are becoming increasingly blurred. Your question about faith and fundraising is one I think needs to be discussed in depth.

    You said that one of your fundraising dilemmas was “the conflict between building programs and changing people.”

    My response is that there doesn’t need to be a conflict if you can turn your view around just a bit. I could tell you story after story where I felt frustrated that nothing of “spiritual value” was being accomplished in my work life because I was too busy taking care of “business”.

    What changed things for me was when I realized that “ministry” or “faith” isn’t something I do to a certain people group or only on Sunday but rather that letting my “light” shine, effecting change in His name, was something I could do even as I found myself stuck in meeting after boring meeting.

    Because my faith is so closely tied to how I define myself, I found that I could “minister” to my co-workers. (You wouldn’t believe what they thought Christians were like-sarcasm, btw) I could pray while working on a project with people who had different values than I did.

    I could let God refine me and the need to “steer” my course in the workplace by accepting that even if i thought what I was doing didn’t really matter, He did and as long as I was called to work somewhere, I was to do it as unto Him.

    I know this may sound like I’m “preaching” but, Jason, I believe strongly that no matter what we do (as long as it’s not against our beliefs or against the law) there is a way to “change people”. Usually, the person who gets changed the most is me.

    In regards to your awareness of how easy it is to “court” a donor rather than serve them, especially when dealing with high wealth individuals, let me say that I applaud your recognizing the danger in this, not just from a faith perspective but from a professional one as well.

    I have worked for a few very wealthy people. I know how easy it is to lose perspective because, truthfully, their reality, their world, is unlike 99% of the rest of us, right? What isn’t different about them, or working with/for them is their humanity. They have the same need for sincerity, transparency, honesty and respect both in business dealings and in relationships.

    They are no different than the rest of us and the way you can make sure you are being true to yourself is by making sure you are being true to them. Believe me, wealthy people are so used to being seen with dollar signs in front of them or accustomed to getting away with bad behavior because people want/need their money, that straight talk and fair treatment from you will go a long way to keeping things on the up and up.

    I guess I’d say to look at them with the same sense of compassion you have for any other person.

    Finally, ( I realize I have written a lot!) in regards to your passion and your faith and the sense that you don’t feel like securing scholarships for students or heating for low-income people does much in terms of “heart change”, let me remind you that “Even if we do not reap the harvest, it is still ours to plant the seeds.”

    Go back and look at the title of your blog, Jason. “Small change” is “good” change.

  6. Anthony says:

    Jason, thanks for making us think.

    I believe one of the biggest challenges in ministry or the non-profit sector is balance the mission with the business. In fact, many smaller organizations tend to have fear when in comes to fundraising as if people will look at them oddly if they ask for money.

    When you are led by deep convictions and passion, I believe that is when it is easy to overcome these fears and give your 100% to fundraising knowing that those that share your vision will partner their finances with you.

    To address your last point about not seeing a connection with your beliefs and passions, I do believe that meeting someones material needs is a practical way to open the door to sharing the faith behind your passion. I hope that makes sense.

    Best, Anthony

  7. Jason,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. The fact that you are fundraising and working for a cause should overshadow any guilt you may have for your method of reaching your goals. The fact that you are putting forth effort to make the World a Better Place should make all efforts “worth it”. We hope you’ll keep doing what you do because it’s what you believe in; and we hope you’ll try to feel comfort in your actions instead of guilt.

    Have a Nice Day!
    http://www.ImaNicePerson.com

  8. Jason,

    I’ll take a different spin on this. Faith is strongly tied to fundraising. If you are genuinely passionate and believe in the mission of your organization, that will come through in your conversations with donors. Your job should be that of a conduit. You need to link the needs of your organization, through your strong faith in the organization, to the needs and desires of the donor.

  9. Marita says:

    Hello Jason,
    Thought this was a great post and I’m sure you’re not the only one dealing with this conflict. But you know, just the fact that you’re aware of this conflict makes you a conscientious and trustworthy fundraiser, which I’m sure your supporters appreciate greatly. It makes you stand out from those who blindly go after numbers and forget who’s behind it all.

  10. Jason Dick says:

    Wow! Thank you for so many great responses. I am overwhelmed with how much people are thinking about these very same things. I am really glad to hear that we are challenging ourselves to reach beyond the day to day and find real meaning in the work that we do.

    Here is another question I’d love you thoughts on, if you’d be willing to continue the conversation. Are we “called” to specific organizations or can we work somewhere just because it’s a good opportunity? I find myself enjoying the people side, the relationship side, of fundraising often times more than the “world changing” side. I think that the causes I have worked for are good causes but they have not been the things I am the most passionate about.

  11. Leanne says:

    I definitely believe we are called. I’ve been on both sides and every time there was a purpose, whether it was to effect change from within an organization or to promote change for the cause.

    I think if you are listening hard enough, “you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk ye in it when you turn to the right and when you turn to the left’.

    That doesn’t always make for the smoothest ride career/life wise, but then we were told to expect “trials”. ;)

  12. Mary says:

    As a nonprofit fundraiser who is also working to become a Deacon in the United Methodist Church, this post really spoke to me. I completely believe that wherever you are working you can be doing God’s work! Each one of us are called to spread the message of Jesus Christ (as Christians) but we all aren’t called in the same way. As my mentor told me once … “If you were called to be Billy Graham, you’d be preaching from the ceiling, but you’re called to something different!” Not everyone of us is called to preach, but we can still minister. If we truly believe in our cause and know that it is noble and true then we are not only successful fundraisers, but we are also successful Christians because we are doing just what we are called to be doing!

    Thanks for the post, nice to know I’m not the only crazy who believes that ministry can be anywhere in the world! : )

  13. Bethany says:

    I am thrilled to have found this blog! Thank you for the questions you are raising, and keep it up! There is no shortage of great organizations with successful development professionals but I especially desire mentors in faith-based or ministry-based fundraising. I work for a ministry org I am very passionate about, so these questions are often at the forefront of my mind.

    I think fundraising in itself is a calling. It takes a person with a belief in the cause to do it well. That being said, I have largely pursued jobs based on alignment with the org’s mission. I simply know that regardless of perceived “opportunity” there is no way I could be happy working for certain orgs because my passions simply don’t align with the mission or I can’t support the org’s operational values. Unless I’m just desperately looking for a “job”, I would rather sacrifice a little in the “opportunity” arena than in the mission/values alignment arena. That’s just where I know my personal happiness quota lies. I don’t mean that choosing opportunity is universally a bad thing, or that choosing passion is universally a good thing. The overarching call to humanity is to be salt and light wherever we find ourselves.

  14. Fundraising Mercenary says:

    Getz, Gene A. Rich in Every Way: Everything God Says About Money and Possessions. West Monroe, LA: Howard. 2004.

    Jeavons, Thomas H., and Basinger, Rebekah Burch. Growing Giver’s Hearts: Treating Fundraising as a Ministry. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers, 2000.

    MacArthur, John. Whose Money is it Anyway? A Biblical Guide to Using God’s Wealth. Nashville: Word. 2000.

    Alcorn, Randy. Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003.

  15. anita says:

    the most important thing i have learned during the years of fundraising is that most organizations want to give to “popular” non-profits such as united way, etc.. I pray there comes a day where we on the “grass roots” stage are able to play on a level field. We should be feeling the great wealth transfer in our projects considering the “call” on our lives come from the highest authority. I believe each person responding to this blog is operating from a purely selfless state of being. I was a business owner with a unlimited potential base, but I made a choice to serve others as myself and I now created within my organization an opportunity for sustainability of my needs. If God gave us these missions to accomplish than surely the “re sources” will soon be released to us from the true “SOURCE”. I feel we all have made a committment to live by faith.

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