Fundraising as Ministry: Overcoming the Oxymoron – Part One

Jesus talked about money and possessions more than any other topic except the Kingdom of God.  Theologians over the centuries have linked philanthropy (stewardship) to discipleship.  And the latest Giving USA revealed that 55% of all donations are motivated by spiritual convictions.

So why do we, as fundraisers, neglect the spiritual aspects of philanthropy.  And why do far too many people in ministry shy away from fundraising?

Today, there is such a disconnect between these two worlds of philanthropy and ministry.  Fortunately, the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving is crossing that divide!

I recently joined a group of bishops, pastors, development directors, consultants, and CPAs to explore fundraising as a ministry, and better understand the concept of stewardship as discipleship. The diversity in the room electrified the conversation.

We gathered at Luther Seminary as part of the Executive Certificate for Religious Fundraising program.  Guided by leaders from the Lake Institute of Faith and Giving—a part of Indiana University’s Lily School of Philanthropy—we explored the perceptions that hinder a marriage of faith and philanthropy. 

We began by brainstorming what “fundraising” brings to mind. Benign descriptors like thermometers and car washes appeared on the board. Then it escalated to galas and telethons and was topped off with prosperity preachers urging people to call now! It became clear how the fundraising world has tainted its image within the faith community.

With these negative images in mind, the work began to unwrap the misperceptions and redeem the concept of stewardship and generosity for today’s leaders. What emerged were four concepts that are essential to bridging the divide: building relationships, casting vision, establishing trust, and living in the calling.

In next week’s blog, we will explore these four concepts and provide suggestions on how to pursue fundraising as ministry. 


Ms. Rach, Senior Consultant at the Winkler Group, serves on the faculty of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University.  She is the former Director of Development and Marketing at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and School in Oviedo, Florida.  A graduate of Concordia University, Ms. Rach is a Certified Fund Raising Executive.  

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