We at Dare 2 Share, like many of those in the ministry-minded portion of the non profit world, depend on God to move in the hearts of our donors to give generously so that we can keep seeking to accomplish the mission that God has given us. We pray, ask our donors to give and pray some more.
As I’m sure you can guess these have been lean times for philanthropy. Ministries across America are struggling with an economic slump of big, if not Biblical, proportions. We at Dare 2 Share are doing the same. Donations are down significantly and we are feeling it in a huge way. Our excellent staff has worked hard to cut expenses, evaluate programs, find new revenue streams and keep pushing forward against the strong headwinds of this tanked economy.
When faced with such huge financial struggles a ministry encounters different kinds of temptations. These temptations seek to lure you into compromising a God-honoring approach to raising money. But when the “do whatever it takes” philosophy causes a ministry to cross Biblical boundaries the hand of God goes off of that ministry and, even if it gets a temporary bump of cash for it’s coffers, it inevitably begins a downward slide toward kingdom irrelevance.
In 1 Samuel 13 Samuel instructs Saul to wait for seven days for him to come and make the sacrifice so the Israelites could fight and win against the large and powerful army of the Philistines. Here’s what happened with Saul instead, “He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, ‘Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.’ And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived….” 1 Samuel 13:8-10
Instead of waiting on the Lord to send Samuel at just the right time Saul resorted to the arm of flesh and made the offerings on his own (a no-no). Samuel shows up, rebukes Saul and tells him that God was going to give his kingdom to someone else as a result.
Before we’re too hard on Saul let’s pull the burnt offering out of our own eye. How many times do we encounter a financial crisis in our ministry and resort to the arm of flesh? Instead of waiting on the Lord we freak out and write some non budgeted, emergency fundraising letter that begs donors to give “before its too late.”
We stopped writing emergency fundraising letters a year or two ago at Dare 2 Share. Why? Because these kinds of letters tend to emphasize the organization instead of the mission. And, in this economic climate, these desperation letters have simply become white noise. If I get one more “help us! help us!” letter from one more needy ministry I think I’m going to kick over a pseudo Santa’s red kettle and break his bell. Okay, then I will feel guilty and will pick up the change, put it back in the red kettle, add to it all of my loose change, deal with any cops who have been called to the scene and, finally, buy the fake Santa a new and better bell. But you get my point…Desperation Fundraising Tactics stink.
Not too long ago I resorted to DFT out of sheer, well, desperation. I asked a guy for a large gift and he hesitated. So I asked him for a lesser gift and told him of the urgency. I kind of poured it on. In my spirit I felt like I crossed the line from motivation to manipulation. I could tell that I was making him feel uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons so I backed down. Immediately afterward I felt dirty. I felt like I had compromised my own standards of not crying wolf even when the wolf is staring you in the eye. I don’t ever want to do it again. Nor do I want to cower before a donor again by playing “Let’s make a deal.” Instead I want to ask him or her to prayerfully consider a generous gift to the mission of what God is doing through Dare 2 Share. Sure I will share the need, the potential strategic impact of the gift and even the urgency of the need. But I never want him or her to feel like if they don’t give exactly what I asked them to give at this exact moment that our ministry is going to tank.
I believe in fundraising. But I believe that we are called to ask for money that flows from a generous heart and a pure motive, not out of fear of “what if” doomsday scenarios of what will happen if they don’t act now. I think that this kind of attitude gives an over-inflated view of our importance in the Divine design of things.
We shouldn’t flatter ourselves, even if our ministry shuts down, the kingdom of God will still keep marching forward. That’s why I love the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:12, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing…” The kingdom of God is advancing and we get the privilege of joining Him in His kingdom cause whether it is in the form of our current ministry situation or something else. That’s why our development tactics should never be reactionary and desperate. Instead they should be prayer soaked and strategic. Let us pray, act decisively and trust in the Lord to strategically advance the kingdom in us and through us in whatever ways He deems best.
By the way, I’m preaching to myself now.
We must remember who the real Fundraiser is. God is the One who determines how much money comes into a ministry. He works in the hearts of the donors to cause them to give. That doesn’t mean that we don’t ask our donors to give. We simply refuse to manipulate. We don’t “kiss up” to our donors so that they give more. Paul writes, “You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed-God is our witness” 1 Thessalonians 2:5. Instead we pray, make a strong case to God’s people about the strategic impact of our ministry, ask them to prayerfully considering joining us in what God is doing and then trust the Lord to move in their hearts to do what God is calling them to do. Anything more is manipulation. Anything less is laziness.
“But times are tough Greg! Desperate times call for desperate measures!”
Yes, I agree. And those “desperate measures” begin with and end with prayer! Sandwiched in between are all of our God-honoring development strategies and activities.
Are we as a ministry going through a tough time right now? Yes! Are we taking action through intentional fundraising and aggressive cost cutting? Yes! Are we freaking out? No! Why? Because this ministry is the Lord’s. He is our Daddy and He will provide exactly what we need just when we need it most.
He will do the same for you and your ministry no matter how dire your situation looks. Philippians 4:19 gives us this promise to stand on, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”