Should a pastor know who gives?

I will always remember the phone conversation. The church treasurer told me that she is the only person to know when someone is about to leave the church. In such cases, the giving stops before the involvement does. Secrecy around giving means that the pastor doesn’t know what is going on. Recalling the conversation still makes me sad. The knowledge of who is leaving the church is a heavy burden for one treasurer to carry alone.

When someone stops giving to their church, it is likely a pastoral care moment. Job loss? Marriage problems? Financial troubles? Illness? It could be an expression of anger at the church too. If someone stopped singing in the choir or volunteering at the food bank, folks from church might check in to see if everything is okay. But if someone stops giving (or never gives at all), the church doesn’t respond.

I do stewardship webinars for church folks and I learn so much - the questions are excellent. Recently someone asked me, “should I ask my terminally ill parishioner for a bequest?” Imagine answering that one in real time. I prayed fast. The best time to have the planned giving conversation would have been as part of a group conversation with the whole congregation. So that minister will also need to pray fast and rely on God’s guidance. I’ve been a pastor and I’ve been at that bedside moment. The conversation I’d like to have with my dying parishioner is thank-you. Thank you for your faithful giving to this church over many years. Thank you for your prayers, for your caring, for the jars of soup and the cookies. I’m so grateful that we will be able to keep saying your name and to continue to say thank you as we thank God for your bequest too.

For a pastor to have this final thank-you conversation, she would need to know if that person gave to the church. (Usually there’s 20 to 40% of church members who don’t give, so it can’t be assumed.)

Many Christian leaders - folks whom I respect a great deal - have trouble with the idea of pastors knowing about who gives. A concern I’ve heard a lot is that if pastors know about giving, they will treat people differently. This is true, just as a pastor should treat the couple who just had a miscarriage differently than the couple with a new baby. Pastors have such intimate involvements with people in the church. Life, death, loss. Why is money off limits?

One person wondered how a pastor could address someone’s adultery if the pastor knew that person was a big giver. I don’t know the statistics on adultery among women in their 80s but I think it’s a low risk, all things considered.

That said, I’m not here to pile more on pastors’ plates. I’ve heard concerns of financial abuse. Our church has a sexual abuse policy which includes having windows on Sunday School room doors, including the pastor’s door. We value transparency. So there needs to be ways to handle money both to honour God and to honour people (2 Cor 8:20-21). I’m still thinking this through. For starters, I would want to check in with the pastor. Is he in debt? Does she owe $45,000 in student loans? Henri Nouwen writes about The Wounded Healer - the idea that Christians can’t minister to others until their own wounds are tended. So pastor’s fiscal health might be one starting place in the pastors and money discussion.

Silence and secrecy around money in church gives money more power than it deserves. The spiritual discipline of giving is part of Christian discipleship, and discipleship teaching requires conversation. I hope pastors can be part of that discipleship conversation.

Eleven ways a church can send thank you cards


Generosity starts with a grateful heart.

Gratitude is foundational to generosity.

How can churches say thank you? Sending a thank you card is an easy starting point.  Churches can do this! I met with Susan Graham Walker from the United Church of Canada today and she gave me a thank you card that they have created for congregations.  Yay!  It's encouraging to see the national church making it easier for congregations to share their gratitude.

Eleven ways to use thank you cards

Here's 11 ways these cards could be used, I'm sure you can think of more:

  1. Begin meetings with gratitude - each member of council (or elders, deacons etc.) write one card at the beginning of each meeting to express gratitude for someone in the church
  2. Thank church custodians who keep the building welcoming
  3. Thank seniors who faithfully give despite have difficulty attending worship services
  4. Thank students who volunteer
  5. Thank donors - don't wait until the end of the year, send a thank you now and a receipt later (with another thank you)
  6. Thank members - pastors could send out three cards a month to thank members for their involvement
  7. Thank clergy - church members could send an encouraging note to clergy, teacher or denominational leader
  8. Thank Sunday School teachers
  9. Thank church admin staff who keep the church running
  10. Thank people who make coffee (perhaps this should be in the next list, but I hold this gift in special regard because people will forget a bad sermon but remember a bad cup of coffee....)
  11. Thank people who contribute to the church by baking, shoveling, encouraging, sharing, listening, singing, playing music, smiling, dancing, praying, speaking, reading, debating, affirming, welcoming, organizing, giggling, doubting, crying, hugging or simply by their presence.

Imperfect is fine

Simple, short and sincere will be fine.  Long works too.  Quote Scripture if you like.  Tell stories if you can.  Try not to stress about the content: an imperfect thank you card still expresses gratitude.

The author Laura Ingalls Wilder also wrote a newspaper column.  She wrote about a boy who had to write about what he was thankful for.  His mother sent him on a walk around the block to reflect.  Wilder noted that being able to walk and having a mother was already much to be thankful for.  Congregations who worship God and pray together have much to be thankful for too; sometimes we overlook the obvious.

We are called to be the church!  Thanks be to God.





Thank-you letters for people who didn’t give


If you give a wedding gift, you expect to receive a thank-you note.  It’s common courtesy.  If you don’t give a gift, you generally don’t get a thank-you note.  Obvious, right? However, in church giving often nobody gets a thank-you note.  Nobody gets thanked.  Really.  In many churches, donors get an annual receipt with no thank-you letter.

Gratitude makes a springboard into generosity

I’m proposing here that everybody gets a thank-you note. Here’s why: gratitude generally and thank-you letters in particular make a good springboard into generosity.

When I propose sending thank-you letters to donors, some church members object. Not everyone gives; not everyone will get a letter. In this way of thinking, silence around giving seems fairer somehow.  Silence is certainly easier, but generosity is too important to keep the lid on it.

How can we encourage generosity if we don’t talk about it?

If someone doesn’t give, they don’t get a receipt and they may never be personally asked to give. This situation is not unique to faith communities – does your organization have board members who don’t give?  It’s a fundraising concern for charities of all kinds. For churches, it’s a discipleship question as well: how can we promote the spiritual practice of generosity if we don’t talk about it?

In the spirit of the KISS principle (Keep it Simple Steward) I offer a sample thank-you letter for people who didn’t give (in a receiptable way).  This idea comes courtesy of Sherri Grosz from Abundance Canada.  I’m thinking of annual receipt time but with a little creativity, this letter could work in other contexts, like after a fundraising event.

Sample letter

Dear <name>,

Thank you for your support of Peach Blossom.  We are glad you are part of our community.  So many people take time to listen, to shovel the snow, to wash the dishes after a meal or to share a friendly smile.

Many people contribute cash and food to our monthly food bank offering that helped many families in our neighbourhood have healthy food to eat.  Children and adults donated $1,872 to our Christmas giving project to buy coats for refugee families arriving in Canada.  Likely you have been part of these projects and we are thankful.  Perhaps you put money in the offering plate and we didn’t know your name.  Again, we are grateful.

This is the time of year when we send out annual receipts to our donors.  These charitable receipts can be used for income tax purposes and depending on your situation, can reduce the amount of income tax you need to pay.

If you would like a tax receipt for your donations in future, we have options.

Envelopes: please donate cash or cheques using the enclosed envelopes, or ask an usher to help you find one. Write your name on the outside and also designate your giving: “food bank”, “Christmas project” etc.

If you don’t designate, we’ll assume your donation supports the general work of the church.  Throughout the week, our building provides a welcoming space used by musicians, recovering addicts, knitters and more!  Your donations benefit many.

Online: Did you know that you can give to Peach Blossom online using your computer or smart phone?  You will receive a receipt via email. Please visit our website at…

Through your bank account:  Regular monthly giving makes it easy to give and is now about 40% of our donations at Peach Blossom.  We are thrilled when people support the church in this way!  Please email... or call…

Thank you for being part of our congregation! We appreciate you. If you need help doing your taxes, or would like to meet with someone to talk, we are here.  Please call at …

Blessings to you,

Peach Blossom Church

P.S. Did you know we are hosting afternoon tea next Tuesday and Saturday afternoons?  It’s a great chance to chat.  Guests welcome!

Make it your own

There’s a 100% chance that this letter needs to be changed. Go ahead and borrow this template if you like, customize it to make it your own.

I am trying to keep this template fairly generic; I’d probably make this letter even ‘churchier’.  “Did you know that you can give to Peach Blossom in your will?” would be a good addition and a great topic to discuss at the afternoon tea.

Invite me over

Here’s another suggestion: invite me to come speak to your congregation, denomination or small charity. I have lots of ideas to share and I’m really good with questions. Talking about money need not be scary! “Jesus talks about money; we can too!”

Digital Giving - some numbers and tips for churches


In US, "the number of checks written between 2000 and 2015 declined by 50 percent." Also, 50% of Americans have less than $50 in their wallet. This stat surprises me - I'm surprised it's that low. Who has more than $50 in their purse? Tim Horton's takes debit - I often have $0. So what? Stats like this matter to churches, who have been slower to embrace digital giving.  Hence, my reminder that the Holy Spirit also speaks to people who don't have a cheque book.  Make giving easier with this helpful primer on digital giving by Alex Benson via the Lewis Center on Church Leadership.

Online giving increases every year. Canadian friends: if your church or charity website doesn't have a donate button, Canada Helps should be your first stop here.  They make it easy!

I first published this post on LinkedIn.  So much to say on this topic, one day I'll post on digital giving and 1 Corinthians 16...

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!

Dying well for congregations

I help congregations with generosity assessments.

One of the big questions I ask churches is: "Are you two or three funerals away from disaster?"

It's joyful, challenging and sometimes vulnerable work (for both me and the congregation!)  This is a great article on ending well for congregations.

As with individuals, I encourage congregations to talk about money.  Silence and secrecy seldom serve us well.

"Young families can't give"?


"Young families can't give."  Twice recently I've heard exactly the same statement from church leaders.  I believe what they meant was "young families with mortgages, daycare fees and mouths to feed can't afford to give to the church."  I surely hope it wasn't a theological statement! Let me start with a story:

Once there was a big family with lots of kids.  They arrived in Canada as refugees, supported by a small-town church. This family settled in and worked hard. Then something surprising happened: this family started giving more than some of the regular donors to the church.  They had learned tithing back home and they actually did it - they gave 10% of their income to the church. No one had expected them to give; they did it on their own.

Yes, this is an exceptional story.  I heard it on my church basement tour of Canada during my D.Min. research into Christian giving. It was a privilege and an honour to hear from so many faithful stewards. I recorded and transcribed these conversations.  Here's a sampling of their wisdom:

  • as our kids grow up, there’s so many voices calling for their dollars, except the church
  • Don’t feel  bad the time that you can’t give, because you also give in time and talent, and that’s part of giving
  • 10% a good number but if you can give more, give more.  If you can only give 6,7% that’s okay
  • in 1961 we were just married a year and the baby came along.  I had just got laid off, I worked in construction.  The church had a fundraiser and they were asking for money.  We made a commitment by faith.  That Sunday the Ford motor called me...and I got the job.  God is faithful

If someone in church said "I don't have enough time to pray", the church would find creative ways to respond.  Maybe the family needs some caregiving help, networking support for job-hunting.  I doubt that "you can learn to pray later when you have more time" would be the response.

Many of the faithful stewards I talked with learned to give when they were young.  They saw their dad get paid in cash and count out the church pile on the kitchen table. Some generous folks learned from their employers or other role models.  And so I think it's important that churches talk about giving.  Not as a guilt trip, but as a joyous spiritual discipline.  Don't assume people can't give - talk about how they can give.  Model generosity. Tell stories.  Here are more quotes:

You can’t outgive God, it’s a little game we have [laughter]  that’s certainly been very influential.

“I don’t notice that it’s almost seems like I have more money when I give it away”

“we run on a pretty tight budget and we make it through every month”

for some people budget is tight, but instead they volunteer more

“it’s hard to figure out”

“if you’re just pleasing yourself... it’s a lot harder to give away because it feels like its yours but if you approach it as it’s not mine... it’s a lot easier”

“it’s not your stuff, it’s God’s stuff - once you make that leap, it changes everything”

“if Jesus puts something on your heart, then you should support that thing both in prayer and financially, and both are just as equally as important”

I think it's more important to be faithful or to use what we do have..that’s more important  than the amount

try to find that balance – don’t want to be living on the last of every paycheque “but you still want to have that giving heart”

I can't say it better - "you still want to have that giving heart."  May we lean into God's abundant grace.

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).

Gratitude interrupts fear


Gratitude interrupts fear

It's easy to be scared.  Even in church.  If the rest of our lives seem out of control, then it's tempting to want church to be a predictable place.  Our routine could be sitting in the fourth pew with a hymnbook or having an espresso just before the worship band gets going. In my home church, we get upset if there is no coffee after the service.  We want church to be a comfortable place. (There's scant theological basis for this desire, but that's another blog!)

Fear of talking about money

Stewardship, fundraising, money, giving, fundraising - call it what you will - this is my work.  And people get uncomfortable.  Money is a scary topic. There's powerful taboos against talking about money in our North American culture. It's easier not to talk about giving.  Wait until the financial situation gets really bad, then send the treasurer up to the front.  Tip: a year-end guilt trip is not a long-term stewardship solution.  I'm sure you knew this already. So, where to start in talking about money?

Start with gratitude

Christians give in grateful response to God's generosity to us.  Gratitude makes a wonderful starting point for stewardship. A generosity assessment (contact me for info here) begins with a short survey asking people to name three things they are grateful for about their church. Then the church can celebrate together.  And build on a foundation of gratitude as they learn generosity together.

Three ways to start now

Say thank you. It's impossible to be too grateful.  Here's three ways to say thank you:

  1. Call. Tell someone at your church that you appreciate them. Call, email, send a hand-written note, reach on on social media - whatever.  If you know they are a donor, thank them for their support.  Repeat often, as grace abounds.
  2. Pray. In worship, take time to thank God for people at your church who mow the lawn, maintain the website, make coffee, clean up, teach Sunday School and more.  Thank God for people who contribute money to keep the church going.  Repeat often, as grace abounds.
  3. Tell stories. What is God doing among you? The bulletin, website, church newsletter provide a forum to tell stories.  Celebrate the small moments too. Did the church office take a call this week from someone who needed a listening ear?  How long has the AA group been meeting in the church basement?  Be grateful for these interactions, and for people who share their time, talent and treasure. Repeat often, as grace abounds.

There are more than three ways to be grateful; the Psalmist reminds us that every day gives us new opportunities.  In a world that tells us scary stories, practicing gratitude interrupts our fear.  Gratitude reminds us that God gives us all we need and that we can always afford to be generous.


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!



In praise of regrets


At yoga this morning, the woman beside me had 'no regrets' tattooed on her foot.  I assume she means - live life to the fullest.  Being literal-minded though, I wondered - what would it mean to have no regrets? For a ministerial screening program, I remember answering a question something like "Is there anything about you, that if people found out, would be damaging to your ministry?"  My reply - Absolutely! It would be weird if I didn't have any baggage. How could I be a good leader if I didn't have any regrets?  I think this applies to all sorts of people - fundraisers, pastors, parents etc.

No regrets = narcissist?

At one extreme, no regrets could mean you just don't care about anyone besides yourself.  Sure, you hurt someone but so what? Having regrets means you care. Caring is good!

No regrets = timid?

At the other extreme, no regrets could mean that you have not ventured out of the safe zone enough.  Not taken enough risks, nor failed enough. Failing offers a terrific learning experience (at least in retrospect!)

Embracing regret

I'm not suggesting we should wallow in shame and guilt.  Forgiveness turns guilt into regret, and regret is easier to carry.  I'm wondering though, if a certain amount of regret might be healthy.  Remnants of regret provide an emotional early warning system that informs future decisions.

I am far too uncool to have tattoos but "Carrying some regret" might be the right words for me.

We can always afford to be generous


How and why Christians give is definitely changing, that's certain.  How can churches and denominations respond? I've summarized a lot of my research into an easy-to-read article in the Canadian Mennonite.  It's the story of Peach Blossom church, a composite of many congregations I've met in my travels.  Do we treat our donors like horses or like cows?  Should we say thank-you in church?

I needed to leave out a lot of material - the full article is on my About page - link below.

Data on Canadian Christian giving trends is scarce; it's hard for my Mennonite self to say this, but this longer paper is really a goldmine if you're interested the state of Christian giving in Canada.

Whom do you trust?

Happy reading!  Do be in touch if you'd like to chat more!

One final act of kindness


We had so much fun giving that money away

I heard those words while having lunch at a national church gathering earlier this month.  A pastor described how his church set up a bequest policy - before they ever received money through a will - so that the church would have clear directions on how to use that money.  And to reassure people who might be thinking of leaving money to the church in their will.  People do not want to leave money to their church if the church will argue about how to spend it.  That last sentence bears repeating: people do not want to leave money to their church if the church will argue about it.

It was a very encouraging conversation.  The church had a plan. They divided the money roughly in thirds: special projects at the church, causes the congregation supports and charitable causes associated with the specific donor.  Current living members were still the ones keeping the church going - a vital consideration for many congregations.  The donor was honoured through causes matched with the donor's interests and values.  And it was a celebration of generosity - an opportunity to continue the good work of the church and many other causes.

So the point of my post is: Hey churches!  Do you have a bequest policy? Here's an opportunity to encourage and to celebrate generosity.

This isn't a technical how-to post - talk to my friends at Mennonite Foundation of Canada or the many faith-based institutions that can help here.  It's a conversation-starter post. Maybe another example could help...

An example: Volunteers and bequests

Here in Ontario where I live, volunteers have been running the New Hamburg Relief Sale for 50 years, to raise funds for relief and development work of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).  Many, many people have been generous with their time, talents, money and energy through the years - quilting, cooking, singing and much more.  (And selling plants - that's where the flower in the photo comes from!) Millions have been raised to help with people in Canada and around the world. MCC and local congregations have a great opportunity to invite these faithful folks to leave a legacy.  It's a final act of kindness in keeping with many years of giving.  Imagine if all the churches involved had bequest policies.  What if MCC had a dinner celebrating the long-time volunteers and asked them to consider helping MCC in their wills?  Or, putting those two ideas together, a volunteer could leave money to her church in her will, knowing that the church would distribute the money in a way consistent with her values.

Instead of letting the words will, bequest and estate scare us, I really like reframing it as "we had so much fun giving that money away." Then we can make room for a discussion on one final act of kindness.


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...

The spirituality of mobile giving


I read everything I can find about fundraising and theology.  I have yet to read anything on the spirituality of mobile giving - please do share if I am missing something! Here's my belief:  the Holy Spirit can guide people who do not have a cheque book (or check book, depending).  We Christian church and charity types should make room for people to give in a variety of ways - including using their smart phone.

Christians believe in the Holy Spirit - God's presence working in mysterious ways.  Theologians have a fancy word for the study of this - pneumatology.

We also believe in promoting generosity, in the spiritual discipline of giving.

Put this together and Christians, more than anyone, should be about making it easy to give.  But we aren't.  Too often we assume potential givers have a cheque book, an envelope and a stamp.  And they don't.

I was at The Pursuit ministry conference last week.  I'm attaching a slide from my workshop on Best Practices for Giving in Churches to make my point.  It applies to any organization: can people donate using their smart phone?

At another workshop, the presenter (Darrell Keezer from Candybox Marketing) offered a box of chocolates to the first person who made a $5 gift to their organization using their phone.  I tried to give to my church but got hopelessly bogged down in the website.  I did not win the prize.

Mobile giving is also about efficiency, social media strategy etc.  There's lots of reasons to embrace it. But for me, it is a theological question at its core: do we want to encourage everyone to give, or only people who have cheque books?



Lori's picks for The Pursuit, Day 1- April 27


The Pursuit, a Christian ministry conference in London, Ontario runs from April 27-29.  I'm conducting two workshops (see post Lori speaking at the Pursuit) among the many riches on offer!  has a great website but so much to take in!  I thought it might help people if I shared my picks.  Here's what I'm looking forward to on Day 1 - Wednesday April 27.  I've chosen fundraising and stewardship themes, with a focus on technology.  Many, many more choices available!

April 27 Morning

9:25 a.m. John Stackhouse speaking on diversity in Canada.  I remember John from his insightful writing in the Globe and Mail.

11 a.m. Canada Helps demo from the always enthusiastic Paul Nazareth.  Every church and charity should become familiar with Canada Helps - such a useful service! Gateway to online giving for many!

April 27 Afternoon

There's an abundance of good choices for learning sessions - fortunately, I can watch videos for sessions I can't attend. I'm looking forward to meeting these folks in person, so many of whom I'm already familiar with through social media and/or their books.

12 p.m. Website tips from Darrell Keezer from Candybox Marketing 37 ways your website died (1 min) Other great choices include charity regulation from a seasoned pro, Gil Langerak from the Canadian Council of Christian Charities.

1 p.m. Harry Whyte from Ray of Hope (Kitchener ON) will share how he rebranded and rebuilt Ray of Hope into a more resilent charity.Ray of Hope 2 min

2:20 p.m. Demos - mobile and web giving - definitely the way things are headed!

Silent Partner donor software.  It will be good to see how this software is being updated.

3 p.m. Human Cloning Time!  How can I choose between these?

Growing Givers' Hearts - Rebekah Basinger.  I have never met Rebekah but I feel like I know her because I have been so inspired by her book Growing Givers' Hearts. She really gets that fundraising is ministry. Growing Givers' Hearts 1 min

Rapid Fire Stewardship - Tim Jenkins, Scott Rodin and Lorne Jackson.  Should be lively! Rapid Fire Stewardship 2 min

Online Engagement & Building Community - by the wonderful folks from Tech Soup. Tech Soup Online Engagement

So that's Day 1.  I'll blog about the rest of the conference on Wednesday!





Imagining Abundance: Book review


I recently read Imagining Abundance by Kerry Alys Robinson.  It's part fundraising story, part spiritual autobiography - its strength is showing how to integrate fundraising and spirituality. Robinson helped the Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale raise $75 million, starting not just from scratch, but from debt and diminishment.  I'd say her central thesis is faith: fundraising requires a deep trust in God's generosity.  How can we ask donors to participate in what God is doing in our ministry if we don't believe God is at work? My favourite story involves food (I'm Mennonite so this is an inherent bias!): Robinson initiated monthly spaghetti dinners where students were invited to hear Catholic faculty tell their faith stories.  It was very low budget but the gatherings really grew the community.  Robinson shared these stories with prospective donors, inviting them to imagine what more they could do at Yale if they built a center.  She invited them to join in with what God was already doing.  That's powerful.

Even more recently, I was at a board meeting where the proposed budget included salary cuts for staff: salaries could be increased if more money comes in during the year.  I guess the title for the budget would be Imagining Scarcity. This charity is largely funded by individuals and small foundations.  Individual donations are steady and increasing. I understand the fear and uncertainty: grants are variable.  Foundations might give a charity money one year and not the next, support certain types of causes for a season and then shift.  The mood was in contrast to Robinson's themes.  Rather than telling donors what we need (see my post on asking for 3 loaves of bread here ), it feels safer just to hunker down with lower salaries.  Robinson did not play it safe. She dared boldly, made herself vulnerable and clung to God for dear life.  I recommend this book for Christian fundraisers.

Other Good Fundraising Reads

Robinson cites Growing Givers' Hearts:Treating Fundraising as Ministry by Thomas H. Jeavons and Rebekah Burch Basinger in her resource list, as well as Henri Nouwen's classic The Spirituality of Fundraising.  Neither choice surprised me. Growing Givers' Hearts is foundational for me - until I read it (many years ago now), I thought I was alone in thinking theologically about fundraising. Fundraising is ministry, not the science of extracting money efficiently.

Here's an example of how counter-cultural these books are. Robinson tells the story of meeting a wealthy donor in his apartment in New York City.  She is raising money for a Catholic center at Yale. Midway through the conversation, realizing that the donor's heart is really inclined toward primary education, she tells him about a network of donors focused on making quality Catholic primary school education available to all income brackets.  In other words, she directs the donor to a different cause - not the one she's fundraising for!  I can't think of many fundraising books that would counsel this, yet all of the books I mention in this post would not hesitate to advise this: growing the donor's heart is ministry.  Fundraising as ministry is bigger than any one cause. When generosity grows, we all benefit.

Three things a church can be thankful for, even in tough times


We're reminded to be thankful in all circumstances.  But sometimes our circumstances can seem overwhelming! I offer this short reminder of three things a church can always be grateful for:

God. God doesn't change.  God is faithful today, next Tuesday, next week and next year.

Worship. Our congregation can gather to worship.  It's easy to take this for granted.  Even without a building, strategies, programs or goals, we can worship.

Hope. We have hope.  God is faithful, we can worship and we are not alone.  We have hope.

There's lots more that we might add to this list.  I'm sure you can think of some already, I've intentionally left some glaring omissions!  I hope you find encouragement in whatever circumstances you find yourself in.




Lori speaking at The Pursuit, April 2016


I'm looking forward to conducting two workshops about church and money in April, at a conference called The Pursuit.

What's the Pursuit?

It's a new Christian ministry event, jointly hosted by three different groups and supported by many.  Canadians, Americans, and many denominations and types of ministry.  It's good to push the envelope!

Marcia Shetler from the Ecumenical Stewardship Center (an insider!) says an important part of the conference is how "faithful stewardship and generous giving" intersects with the church.   The list of speakers is impressive and stewardship component is part of a conference serving a larger constituency and offering other organizationally-related topics.  (many, many topics in fact - fortunately videos will be available to see the sessions you missed!)

I tried to think of what that would look like and came up with a Venn diagram (when people study Math and then theology, these things happen!)the pursuit

Video links for Lori's workshops

Here's the links to one minutes videos highlighting my two workshops (these will open in new tabs)

Best Practices for Giving in Churches

What (apostle) Paul taught me about Church and Money

How do I attend this conference?

The Pursuit website explains all the details.