Fundraising is a Dirty Word

Sowing transformation in a transaction-dominated world

Maybe fundraising is second nature for you, but fundraising can bring up a lot of insecurity for me. It has a way of transporting me back to feeling like an undersized middle-schooler—awkward and insecure. The reason for this is simple. I've gotten off course. I have gradually and thoughtlessly drifted into a paradigm of fundraising that prioritizes successful transactions rather than life transformations. Luckily for me, God redeems middle school.

Fundraising, according to Christ the King, is not awkward. That is because fundraising is not really about money at all. Fundraising is about relationships, discipleship, and partnership. That is to say, fundraising isn't about our bank accounts, it is about the advancement of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Losing Our Bearings

In Revolution in Generosity, Craig Blomberg laments the dearth of discussion on "the central biblical truths that giving is a part of whole-life transformation." Philip Yancey corroborates in his book Finding God in Unexpected Places where he concludes that Christians are broadly using the same transactional techniques that secular marketers use when inviting others to give to support kingdom work. Of the 62 invitations to giving Yancey received in one month, not one addressed biblical teaching on giving.

Christians of various stripes are increasingly adopting a results-driven paradigm to fundraising. But, despite this, the most statistically generous group—evangelicals—are barely giving four percent per capita. By adopting results-driven approaches to fundraising we are finding some success in keeping our ministries afloat, but are we succeeding in developing sincere relationships, Christ-centered transformation, or generous and joyful givers? Are we even becoming these things ourselves?

From Transaction to Transformation

Hypothetical situation: If you set out to raise $5,000 and you end up raising 16¢, but in the process you become a more Christ-like person, were you a success or failure?

In a world that rotates around the bottom line, Christian fundraisers can easily be deceived into thinking success or failure is determined by the dollar amount a ministry receives. As fund givers, we may be tempted to equate dollars and cents with generosity. Yet scripture makes this very plain: the Lord is primarily concerned with the condition of the heart.

I Make Things Grow

Who is in control, you or God? We know the right answer, but do we live it out? As fundraisers, we can trust any number of things besides God to grow our ministries—from the choice of our organization's president to the graphic design on our prayer letters. As a result of our self-reliance, we do ourselves to death trying to force outward results while neglecting the spiritual nature of the process.

God's word brings freedom to this slavery of doing. In 1 Corinthians 3:7, Paul writes, "So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." Because it is God who grows, the fundraiser's focus is freed to go from forcing outward results to cultivating inward Christ-likeness in ourselves and in our partners in ministry.

This paradigm shift reveals God's heart in two important ways:

1. God cares more about who we are than what we do.

Fruitful doing flows from genuine abiding. We are made generous (like Christ) by being with Christ. As fundraisers, how can we invite others to be generous toward the ministry God entrusts to us if we are not also being transformed in generosity? Kingdom fundraising, then, does not begin with a prayer letter, it begins with our hearts before the Lord.

2. God cares more about the transformation of our hearts than the transactions of our business.

Imagine you're six years old and your mom suggests you set up a curbside lemonade stand one hot summer day. Sure, it'd be nice if you made a little money at the end of the day, but for a six year-old, the point is not the profit. The point is learning about money, hard work, taking risks, being kind, using manners, etc.

So it is with the ministries God has set us at. Through the successes and failures of our ministry, our Father's heart is for our good. Our good is not reflected by whether we're in the red or the black. Our good—and that of our partners—is to become more like Christ.

If a fundraiser operates out of a transaction paradigm, her interactions with donors will be driven by need, seeking to seal the deal. If a fundraiser operates out of a transformation paradigm, she is freed to build authentic relationships because her interactions will be driven by love, trusting in God alone to bring about growth.

You Don't Own Squat

Have you ever leaned in for a hug while the other person seems strangely committed to a formal handshake? My social anxiety immediately spikes to forehead sweat levels. It's awkward. It's almost as awkward as [spoiler alert] crying in front of your father-in-law when Fantine dies in Les Misérables.

So I'm told.

You know what else is awkward? Owning things. Why? Because you don't own anything. Genesis 1, Psalm 24:1, 1 Chronicles 29:12 and a host of other scriptures explicitly proclaim this truth: Everything belongs to God. Ours is not a reality with two realms, one of my stuff where I'm in control and another of God's stuff where God is in control. There is only one kingdom and one Lord and everything belongs to him.

All our stuff and all our relationships are all part of the kingdom of God and in this kingdom God has made us managers of his resources, not owners. And this is good news! When we don't try to own things, we're unburdened of the weight of trying to control that which is beyond our control anyway.

If you're a fundraiser, this is not only an important principle for your own health and freedom, it's a seed of health and freedom you can sow in others' lives as well. You can help people move from two-kingdom bondage into one-kingdom freedom where Christ, whose yoke is easy and burden, light, reigns supreme.

We Sow, God Grows

The farmer sows the seeds, but does not control the rain. God is in control, not us. While ministries may be able to raise funds while prioritizing transactions over transformation, this is not God's way of resourcing ministry. When we live as managers of God's resources not owners, we are freed from frantic doing and are able to prioritize what God prioritizes—Christ-likeness in ourselves and others.

In Matthew 19, the rich young ruler refused to let Jesus be king of his resources, and so he could not follow him. In Matthew 13:44, a man joyfully sold all that he had to buy a field with hidden treasure.

Which am I? Do I really believe that the kingdom of God is this hidden treasure worth giving up everything for? As a fundraiser, am I inviting supporters into this freedom?

This article is inspired by The Sower: Redefining the Ministry of Raising Kingdom Resources by Rodin, R. Scott, and Gary G. Hoag, copyright 2010, ECFAPress. Portions of the article have been adapted from the same.



Thanks for posting this! I took time to read this because first, I saw the title, & i was struck with curiosity. I'm in the midst of "fundraising" for Urbana and now, I've a new perspective on it. Good reminder!!

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