Book Review: Growing Givers' Hearts


Here's my simple summary: if you are Christian who fundraises, this books is for you.  If you are working for an organization that regards fundraising as a necessary evil, you might need to buy more than one copy! I have been recommending this book on Christian fundraising for over a decade now.  Its message on Christian fundraising as ministry still rings true.  It's hard to underestimate how influential this book has been for me.  Really I could file this one under self-help: it helped me realize I was not crazy for wanting to connect fundraising and theology. I found it at a time when resources on the theology of fundraising were scarce.

An early set of my scribbly notes quotes page 10 "We believe that the central goal of a Christian fundraising program should be to help its donors' hearts grow bigger." Fundraising must connect to the spiritual values of the organization and to the faith of its supporters.  Does your organization believe in God's abundance, that God will provide enough resources to support your ministry?  How would your donors answer that question?  Jeavons and Basinger's chapter on "Confidence in God's Abundance" navigates the scarcity minefield many fundraisers tiptoe through.

I'm grateful to have found this book.  It's still out there on Amazon, enormous wisdom at a modest price.  A classic!

Getting past the "secrecy doctrine" of Christian giving

"Giving, like every other gift, ... is taught best when it is modelled."  MEDA board member Peter Dueck helps us get past the left hand/right hand "secrecy doctrine."   YES! He points out that Jesus announces how much the widow gave.  I would add the story of Zaccheus' public declaration of giving too.  Helpful article from the Marketplace, a magazine for Christians in business published by Mennonite Economic Development Agency (MEDA).

Scraping off old paint: Cultural change in faith-based organizations


Scraping layers of vintage paint offers lots of time to think.  Being me, I was thinking about cultural change in faith-based organizations.  It's a very similar undertaking. Some patches peel off easily, where the types of paint were totally incompatible and failed to stick.  Some paint had been there for decades and had NO intention of leaving.  I persisted.

What could be easier than repainting a bathroom, or changing an element of worship, or updating the website?  What could be harder?

First, the challenge of deciding on the colour.  People who are silent on theological matters will not hesitate to weigh in on the colour of the sanctuary.  In Heifetz' language, what seems like a simple technical change--tan will now be purple--is not always simple.

Will the new paint stick?

If the surface is well-prepared and the new paint is compatible, then yes, painting is relatively easy.

Is your faith-based organization undamaged?  Smooth and in good repair?  Do you know what lies beneath the surface? Will your new paint stick?

Some of the people who contributed a layer of history might not be around any longer, but they've left their mark. Persevere: expect tough going. What seems like a small change to you will be a big deal to someone else.

Know when to stop scraping

Dig though the layers but don't try to deal with every last remnant of paint.  Save your strength and don't spend too much energy on the small group of the most resistant to change. At some point, you sand it all down and put down a new base coat.

Seeing the fresh new colour will really help sell your change.  Who wants to get stuck in the awkward and ugly stage where all the layers are showing and it looks worse than before?  No one.

I raise my paint scraper to all of you with a vision of how your organization might change.  Scrape on friends!



Funding Charity Head Office: Take a Sad Song and Make it Better


I'm applying wisdom from Beatles' lyrics to charity finances here.  Something new, after hearing a couple of sad songs about charities who were running deficits in their operating budgets. Let's start with an organization I'm intimately involved with - my family.  No matter what else is going on--university, saving for a big trip, fixing the roof--we put money aside each and every month to pay the bills.  You probably do too. Paying the electricity bill is not glamourous but everyone benefits from attention to that little detail.

Charities generally put some money aside from every gift they receive. In order to keep the lights on, they can't spend 100% of donations helping puppies.  Charities call this something unexciting like administration or overhead.  It's too bad they don't see head office as part of the mission because that can lead to a bigger mistake.

In an emergency or disaster situation, the charity might be tempted to send 100% of designated gifts to that disaster.  They figure it wouldn't be right for head office to benefit from the crisis.  This sounds short-sighted I know, but I've heard this same sad song more than once recently.

And it is a sad song because at year-end, the charity has an operating deficit.  They still bought stamps to send out thank-you letters to the emergency donors, still paid the auditor, the insurance and the electricity bill.  So, now they are in trouble.  Making an appeal for "overhead" is a tough sell.

Simple lesson here: don't sabotage your charity in an emergency (or anytime really.)  You can't spend 100% of donations on puppy food.  You will help more puppies in the long term if you are a thriving organization.  You want to have resources to screen and train volunteers, to host your website, and yes, to pay the electricity bill.

So, charity head office people, hear this: you are doing important work!  The charity simply wouldn't exist if people didn't raise funds, pay the bills and do all the other innumerable tasks behind the scenes.  Stagehands are part of the play and administrators are part of the charity. Value yourselves and your work.  Take a sad song, and make it better...