Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry

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by Thomas H. Jeavons and Rebekah Burch Basinger. (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2000), ISBN: 0-7879-4829-2, 211 pp., $22.95US, hardcover.

Review by Michael Meier, director for leadership development, Stewardship Team, Division for Congregational Ministries, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

There are those who insist on a wall of separation between “stewardship” and “fundraising.” Proponents of this view tend to value “stewardship” highly and denigrate “fundraising” as something not only separate, but also distinctly inferior. The authors of this volume might succeed in causing such “separationists” to rethink their derisive certainties.

The authors intend to show how Christian fundraising can and should be ministry. They believe fundraising not only should raise funds, but also empower spiritual growth within its participants. (See “Aim for the Heart: Fundraising as Ministry”).

As the introduction states:

The focus of the book, as the title suggests, is on the connections that can and should be made between the ways Christian organizations cultivate donor relationships and ask for money. Also, the ways and reasons that people do their giving, and the possibilities that can be created in all of this to nurture and express the faith of both the donors and the fundraisers themselves.The central purpose of this book is to explore how Christian fundraisers can make the process of fundraising one that nurtures and facilitates growth in faith for the donors. (p. 2)

The authors focus on fundraising in a variety of parachurch organizations. In fact, they studied seven such organizations in detail, but what they have to say is useful for pastors and other congregational leaders. This is due to the fact that the rich potential for spiritual growth in the practice of giving…is just as important in congregational life as it is in the giving church members do to parachurch organizations (p. 3).

Further, more and more congregations are getting involved in fundraising, and pastors are becoming increasingly aware of their special responsibility to educate their members about the broader vision of stewardship and about matters of faith and finance (p. 3).

The model of fundraising proposed here puts the humane and spiritual first. It rests on the idea that relationships with donors should be built around the desire to spur their spiritual growth. (p. 4)

In Part One the authors seek to answer the question, What is Christian fundraising? Three chapters explore the importance of creating resources for God’s work, what the Bible says about giving and asking, and the history of Christian fundraising. This section is instructive and by itself worth the price of the book.

In Part Two the authors introduce the six essential characteristics of fundraising as ministry. Each of these characteristics is explored in a separate chapter: Confidence in God’s AbundanceA Holistic Perspective on ‘Kingdom Work’Clarity about Core Theological BeliefsGiving Donors Opportunities for ParticipationIntegrated Organizational Planning; and Spiritually Mature Leadership.

In the first of these chapters, Jeavons and Basinger boldly confess their faith that God is an abundant God. At the same time they argue that such trust does not excuse a false dependence on God or sloppy and manipulative practices. They insist that faithful Christian fundraisers must engage in appropriate goal setting, refrain from crisis-centered appeals, and accentuate the positive.

The next chapter argues for a spirit of cooperation. The authors say that the work of the outstanding organizations that they studied is characterized by the following freedoms:

  • To let donors follow their hearts.
  • To confront problematic motives for and conditions on gifts.
  • To share resources and wisdom with other organizations and fundraisers.
  • To rejoice in the triumphs of other ministries.

An excellent chapter delineates the importance of clarity about core theological beliefs. Though the Christian household shares much commonly-held theology, there are individual and denominational differences. Christians do no service to themselves or others when they fail to recognize and communicate their particular theological perspective or foundational beliefs.

The authors argue vigorously for inclusion of donors in the life of the organization. Their primary concern is not the added potential for giving that often results from such participation. True to the overall theme of their book, their interest is in spiritual growth that takes place when donors actually participate with their lives and their time in the ministries they are underwriting through their gifts of money.

The two final chapters in this section provide guidance for structural processes. They also underscore the importance of insisting on the spiritual maturity of those charged with fundraising leadership responsibilities. This latter issue is about integrating faith and practice—in other words, integrity.

In a final section Jeavons and Basinger discuss fundraising as a calling and as an invitation to cooperate with God’s grace.

This book is essential for any stewardship leader, lay or clergy. It is a positive step forward in helping Christians understand the relationship between stewardship and fundraising.

Thomas Jeavons, who is the general secretary of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, and Rebekah Burch Basinger, an independent consultant in fundraising and stewardship education, have written an outstanding resource.

Available now in our webstore.

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