Fundraising as Ministry: Overcoming the Oxymoron – Part Two

The Winkler Group’s last blog introduced the disconnect between philanthropy and ministry, and the perils of their separation.  In today’s blog, we’ll explore four concepts that fuse the best practices of the fundraising world with the Biblical concepts developed into stewardship principles.


#1: Building Relationships.

Relationships position fundraising and ministry as complementary.

The fundraiser’s mantra: people give to people. Our bookshelves are lined with titles like Relationship Fundraising or Friendraising. Even the word “philanthropy” implies relationship–for the love of mankind.

But relationships are also vital in ministry. Discipleship models for thousands of years have centered upon relationships. So why the disconnect? 

As our diverse group of ministers and fundraisers gathered at Luther Seminary, guided by leaders from the Lake Institute of Faith and Giving, we explored why—and how we could get back on track towards a balance. 

From prosperity teaching to high pressure fundraising techniques, fault lies on both sides.  Many ministry leaders have downplayed financial development best practices for fear of showing favoritism, as James cautioned.

But ministries are uniquely positioned to bridge the relationship gap. In ministries, we come together as one regardless of need or wealth. If any sector can excel in relationships, it should be the faith-based sector.

Action Step: Create time to build relationships with the members of your congregation, and facilitate opportunities for them to build relationships with each other. Approach relationships with an eye toward life change and spiritual growth, not as a way to secure a future gift.


#2 Casting Vision.

Ministry leaders often fear looking like a beggar when they fundraise. Henri Nouwen challenges these perceptions. “Fundraising is precisely the opposite of begging…. Fundraising is declaring that we have a vision that is amazing and exciting. It is an invitation to other people to join us in our mission.”

We are inviting donors to be co-laborers in ministry. Even if a donor cannot sprinkle the glitter on craft projects at Vacation Bible School, their gift helps purchase supplies used in this ministry. As faith-based fundraisers, we need to cast our vision. We need to show donors how they can impact the Kingdom in ways they may not realize. 

Action Step: Whenever possible, cast a God-sized vision that your members can embrace. Make it so big that only God could accomplish it and only God could receive the praise when it is done. Use all different communication channels to cast the vision: Sunday mornings prior to worship, newsletter articles, email articles, videos, and social media.


#3 Establishing Trust.

Church members and donors want to know their gifts make a difference.  That’s why it’s critical to handle money ethically, be open about finances, honor donors’ wishes, and ensure integrity. 

Expressing appreciation is also important in building trust, but within the church, we tend to drop this ball.  Because people give frequently, some even weekly, we see gifts as just “what you do” as members. Let members know how their gift was used. 

We are quick to thank someone for donating time or talent – like throwing a party for Sunday School teachers at the end of the year. Yet we shy away from thanking the donors who made possible the curriculum, supplies, and snacks. Celebrating generosity will help build trust and encourage future giving.

Action Items: If your church already sends quarterly giving statements, include a separate page in each mailing that is a thank you. Fill it with pictures and stories so your members can see their money in action. If your ministry does not send quarterly statements, consider starting as a way of thanking your donors and having open communication about your finances.


#4 Living in the Calling.

Most importantly, at the Lake Institute’s training we explored our personal journeys.  Thought-provoking questions explored our own path to generosity and the lens through which we view wealth, material possessions, and giving.

We were challenged to view fundraising as a calling…one that shepherds people on their spiritual journey. Because stewardship is discipleship, we as church leaders should actively encourage people to manage their possessions in ways that glorify God.  Churches have mentoring programs, small group networks, and classes to spur growth in other areas. Yet we seem to lag in methodologies that inspiring growth in generosity.

We need to recognize that by helping donors express their giving priorities, we are guiding them to a closer walk with God.  Henri Nouwen captures it best in saying, “Fundraising is first and foremost a ministry.”


Action Item: Read Henri Nouwen’s short book, The Spirituality of Fundraising. It will raise your sights on the role of fundraising in your own life and the lives of others.

As we build relationships, cast vision, establish trust and live out our calling, we will serve more passionately. We will also connect deeply with our donors and encourage them to express their spiritual journey through a generous lifestyle.  We can bridge the gap between fundraising and ministry, and find an unleashing of resources.  

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