Editor’s Note: This is the first article in our Faithful Fundraising series. Our series focus is to highlight the intersection of fundraising with Biblical principles—what Henri Nouwen called the “Spirituality of Fundraising.”
“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” – 2 Corinthians 8:1-6
This passage and chapter, along with 2 Corinthians 9, inspire me because they provide a clear framework about what the Bible says concerning the grace of giving or generosity.
Since 2008, I have asked for charitable investments scores of times. Out of all the personal requests that I’ve made, I’ve only had one person to directly communicate to me that he didn’t want to be asked. Most often, those that I’ve asked to make a charitable investment towards annual-fund programming, capital, or legacy gifts are blessed by the experience and grow in their practice of generosity.
As a former major gifts officer and CEO, and even in my current role at times, doing my job and serving the donor or prospective donor well means that I present challenging and compelling opportunities to them that advance the Kingdom, increase their heavenly rewards, and grow them in building the virtue of generosity.
Moreover, asking someone as a manager of God’s resources to make a Kingdom investment not only helps them to build virtue; if done in faith, it helps even the asker to grow in building the virtue of generosity and is good stewardship of God’s calling and gifting of the asker. This means that a person’s giving is not a private thing because the asker and the giver both need each other if they are to grow in their generosity and overall stewardship.
Scripture teaches that practicing a lifestyle of generosity is an important part of a believer’s sanctification; and scripture is unambiguous that sanctification occurs by the Holy Spirit using circumstances, God’s Word, and relationships with others to help each child of God to grow “…into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” Ephesians 4:13. Even God lives in community because He’s a Trinity!
An interesting story that comes to mind is about one of the first asks that I made in my first fundraising position. In this case the donor made it so easy for me because he reversed our roles of asker and giver just for a moment. When sensing that I was getting ready to ask him to deepen his support, he stopped me and said, “Shawn, I believe in this organization and want to grow my Kingdom bank account, so you go ahead and ask me precisely what you want me to do and how much.” Essentially, the donor expressed to me that I was doing him a favor by presenting a compelling request. And although my request was aggressive because it was three times the amount that he was currently investing year over year, this donor said yes and actually became a champion for our “Daily Bread Club.”
This experience brought me directly into the biblical message of practicing and building a lifestyle of generosity. This experience took me away from an all too common message in Christian circles that giving is a private matter best left to God, the giver, and no one else.
The Bible conveys in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that gracious giving is a virtue, and that it’s a virtue that believers should excel in.
How does one excel or grow in this virtue? The model is the same as growing in all other virtues. Growth or sanctification transpires in redemptive community and requires practicing with others. It occurs through intentional, life–on-life relationships. The Bible teaches that these types of relationships are how disciples are made. In verse 7 of chapter 8 Paul doesn’t write that Titus should wait for the harvest to come in all by itself. Instead, Paul treats generosity like any other virtue and exhorts Titus to complete this grace of giving in them.
As a fundraising professional, you have the same opportunity to help your donors “excel in the grace of giving.” Your work is one that challenges your donors to grow and mature in the virtue of generosity as well as deepen their faith. It is noble, pastoral work that reaps big rewards for the donor, you (the fundraiser), your mission, and the Kingdom. When put that way, is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to ask for the gift?