Henri Nouwen, a Catholic theologian, has a small booklet entitled the “Spirituality of Fundraising,” which I require my fundraising class to read. It never ceases to impact the readers in the way they view fundraising as a spiritual activity. Viewed as a ministry, Nouwen says that “fundraising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry!”
According to Nouwen, fundraising ministry is a proclamation, an invitation, and a conversion. When we approach a donor to contribute to our church or non-profit organization, we are inviting them to partner with what God is doing in our midst. We are actually giving people an opportunity to give their resources for the use of the Kingdom and advance God’s work.
To view fundraising in this manner requires conversion on both the fundraiser and the donor. The one asking the money and the one giving the money both need to acknowledge that God owns it. It requires a new way of relating to money and possessions that will liberate people to let go of “ownership mentality” and allow God to use these for his purposes.
Fundraising as Ministry
Many people are embarrassed to ask for money and some even consider fundraising as begging. To treat fundraising as a ministry, means that fundraisers are the ones that need to be converted first. Nouwen speaks of conversion in relation to their needs and their resources. God is able to provide for the needs of His people. He told the church in Macedonia that “He is able to provide you with every blessings in abundance so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work,” (2 Cor. 9:8) [cite what translation used].
I always tell my fundraising students that they must be givers themselves before they can encourage others to give. Giving frees us from materialism and selfishness. Freedom from the bondage of money is very liberating. For the Christian fundraisers, such freedom enables them to treat fundraising as ministry. The fear of asking is converted into a joyful act that leads to the worship of God.
No Scarcity Mentality
God in his abundance is able to freely give us all that we need in accordance with his will. A “scarcity mentality” has no place in Christian fundraising. Jesus fed 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew [14:13]-21). This clearly shows that God is able to multiply the outcomes of our generosity if we only have faith.
Community is built through relationships and friendships. We are not pursuing money when we nurture generous givers. We are developing partners who share the same mission and vision for the ministry. These partners become part of the community that we seek to build and grow.
I know of some wealthy people in the church who feel that they are treated like ATM machines by fundraisers who remember them only when there is a fundraising project. Some wealthy people maybe cash-rich but spiritually-poor. They have needs that we can minister to and pray for which makes fundraising an even more spiritually activity.
Reference: Nouwen, J.M. Henri. The Spirituality of Fundraising. Upper Room Ministries, 2004.