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Transforming Your Donors
Stop begging for money and start developing donors!
In tough economic times such as these, ministry leaders often think, If only we could bring in new donors or land some major gifts, then we could avoid cutting staff or programs. If people out there knew of our crisis, surely they would pitch in. But is it logical or wise for nonprofit leaders to reach out to their constituents, or complete strangers, with a crisis appeal for money?
Statements like, "We need more money to do our work and grow our ministry," while standard in nonprofit settings, miss the mark as far as biblical truth. They also turn potential donors away faster than they draw donors to a cause.
Donor Growth vs. Ministry Growth
Most people understand this Scripture passage in light of equipping the saints to serve in the church. Our pastors lead us, guide us, and equip us to do ministry. But this verse talks about developing and growing believers to serve. Must that service occur only inside church walls?
The fact that people are created to serve applies not just to the person in the pew but also to the donor sup¬porting your cause. All Christians are to be prepared to do works of service. They can complete that service in the church or through your ministry. They have been called and prepared to do God’s work right along with you.
In the nonprofit sector we have created a false dichot¬omy: that some people serve and others give. So long as we have a good supply of donors, staff, and volunteers, the nonprofit appears healthy. That false dichotomy is harmful to the growth of all believers.
While both serving and giving are good, Paul clearly states that all believers are to be prepared to serve so that they may be built up and become mature in Christ. The issue for Paul is not differentiating between serving and giving; the issue is that through works of service, God brings people to maturity in Christ and into unity. True donor development is not about getting a bigger check from the giver but about developing greater faith and maturity in Christ in each giver. Sadly, only a few nonprofit leaders see their work with donors as key to maturing them in Christ.
One nonprofit leader we trained said, "My fundraising doesn't impact or transform my donors." Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:21). When a ministry is in a donor relationship with someone, it is in deep spiritual waters. Yet most nonprofit leaders intentionally keep donor relationships shallow.
Most ministry leaders in a recession like this tighten their financial belts and focus on the highest priorities. We relentlessly focus on what we don’t have: enough money, enough resources, or enough staff to do the work. But our self-focus belies the principle that God has placed others in our midst who need our leadership to help them serve and grow to fullness in Christ. In good times and bad, we need to focus on what God has already provided, not on what we lack. Every ministry has been given caring donors who need to move from being check-writers to owners of the cause right alongside the ministry leaders.
Transforming a donor into an owner is not based on the size of a gift or even the transaction of money but on the transformation of the heart. God wants to see all his children grow to maturity in Christ, and he has placed these people, your donors, right next to you so you can disciple them and guide them to maturity. The result God seeks is for those we traditionally call donors to hear the call to serve and, through serving, grow to the fullness in Christ.
Paul's words clearly remind us that God is holding us accountable as ministry leaders for stewarding resources and people he has entrusted to us. Perhaps he would ask this question: How are you preparing these people to minister alongside you, to shape them into the image of my Son?
Paul's words serve as the cornerstone of a biblical model of development called transformational giving, a refreshing paradigm that focuses on the biblical framework for true donor development. Transformational giving focuses on the personal growth of the believer rather than on the transaction of a donation. The focus is on discipleship rather than dollars. Unlike traditional fundraising approaches, it puts into practice the scriptural mandate to make disciples and see them serve in community.
Transformational giving recaptures an old way of working with people, one that's radically different from conventional fundraising approaches. Giving and disciple¬ship are woven together in a beautiful fabric of Christian growth and maturity.
Your Donors Need To Serve Alongside You
Christ's teaching presumed imitation, a word that carries a negative connotation today. Christ expected his followers to mimic his behavior. He intended for those who imitated and followed him to one day do greater things than himself. Jesus said in John 14:12, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." The donors who come alongside you will help do greater things.
A donor who serves in your cause does not have to serve in the field next to you. They primarily serve in their spheres of influence, carrying your shared cause as God directs them. They can imitate a shared calling in the workplace, neighborhoods, families, or next to you in your field of service, but they need your guidance. In this light donors are co-laborers, not just supporters.
If you want to develop donors, stop the transaction cycle in which donors are human ATMs and equip them for works of service. True development is not about developing a bigger bank account for your ministry, but about developing people in Christ. That will require each ministry leader to pour into each donor's heart rather than lightening the donor's wallet. The key is that the donor who is mature in Christ will glorify God by becoming a more sacrificial giver while on earth. After all, God is a giver, and those who grow to be like him give their lives away – just like God's Son.
Dave Farquhar is the president and Jenny Printz, CFRE, is a regional giving and training officer of Mission Increase Foundation (mif.org). Reprinted with permission from Outcomes magazine © 2010, a publication of the Christian Leadership Alliance - (949) 487-0900. Visit CLA's website to see what they offer your organization to help build leaders and enhance organizational effectiveness!
© 2011 Focus
on the Family