The Spirituality of Fundraising

When I tell people that I work in fundraising, they’re surprised. “And you enjoy it? Asking people for money?” It doesn’t sound fun when you say it like that, but fundraising is a very important and balanced skill. Whether it’s your school, church, a non-profit you support, sorority, university—the organizations are endless—your ability to help fundraise for an organization or cause you’re invested in can show you care. Thus, your passion for a cause can translate into people wanting to fund that cause, and your helping makes a tangible, lasting impact. I enjoy working for an organization with a mission I align with, and when I was discussing this with my church pastor, he recommended I read The Spirituality of Fundraising.

In The Spirituality of Fundraising, the late author, Henri Nouwen, tries to not only help you be less uncomfortable when asking for money, but also frame fundraising through a spiritual lens. I thought that some of the messages in the book felt a little forced—can you really tie every Bible verse somehow into fundraising? Doubtful—but it was a different read, and one that is especially enjoyable if you have had experience with fundraising. Throughout the (brief) book, I was thinking of one of my favorite quotes by Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” If you feel called to help a cause, and you help that cause through fundraising, it is the best feeling because you can enjoy it and make a difference at the same time. You can buy the book online or read the PDF for free, but below are some quotes and lessons I took away from the book and summarized for you:

  • “Fund-raising is not a response to a crisis. Fund-raising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry.” (2)
  • “Fund-raising is precisely the opposite of begging. When we seek to raise funds we are not saying, ‘Please, could you help us out because lately it’s been hard.’ Rather, we are declaring, ‘We have a vision that is amazing and exciting. We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources [you’ve been given] in [our] work.’ Our invitation is clear and confident because we trust our vision and mission.” (3-4)
  • “‘You won’t become poorer, you will become richer by giving.’ We can confidently declare with the Apostle Paul: ‘You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity…’” (2 Cor. 9:11) (5)
  • Nouwen says we need to be confident in our approach to asking for money and people to join a cause, because if that confidence is lacking, we are disconnected from our mission and find ourselves begging for money, and the donors are merely handing us a check. We need to make a real connection and engage.
    • “We may have completed a successful transaction, but we have not entered into a successful relationship.” (6)
  • “Those of us who ask for money need to look carefully at ourselves. The question is not how to get money. Rather, the question is about our relationship with money. We will never be able to ask for money if we do not know how we ourselves relate to money.” (11)
  • “Money and power go together.” (13)
  • “Talking about money is one of the greatest taboos around.” (13)
  • “’Do not store up treasures for yourself on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too.’” (Matt. 6:19-21) (15)
  • Do not let a concern for the poor cause a prejudice against the rich. “More and more, my experience is that rich people are also poor, but in other ways.” (18).
  • “Once we have learned to love the rich for who they are rather than what they have, and once we believe that we have something of great value to give them, then we will have no trouble at all in asking someone for a large sum of money. We are free to ask for whatever we need with the confidence that we will get it….If for some reason a person says ‘No,’ we are free to respond gratefully.” (24)
  • Fund-raising should = community-building.
    • “Asking for money is a way to call people into this communion with us. It is saying, ‘We want you to get to know us.’ Gathered together by our common yearning, we begin to know this communion as we move together toward our vision.” (28)
    • Community is one of the greatest things we have to offer.
    • “If we ask for money, it means that we offer a new fellowship…a new way of belonging.” (28)
  • “Fund-raising must always aim to create new, lasting relationships.” (30)
  • “How can we ask for money without pleading, and call people to a new [community] without coercing? How can we express not only in our way of speaking but also in our way of being with others the joy, vitality, and promise of our mission and vision? In short, how do we move from perceiving fund-raising as an unpleasant but unavoidable activity to recognizing fund-raising as a life-giving, hope-filled expression of ministry?” (33)

© Rissponsible Living, 2018


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