At Work

Work, Faith, and Fundraising

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This is a post about fundraising.

I know, I know. I started hearing groans in my head before I started writing this post. I’ve sat through enough sermons on tithing to know they aren’t the most popular messages.

Fear not! I won’t be asking for money in this post.

Instead, I’d like to take a couple posts to discuss something I wish I had known about supporting nonprofits before I began my fundraising career: what are the responsibilities of donors and fundraisers?

Before tackling the responsibilities of fundraisers—to their organizations and their donors—I’d like to dive into the responsibilities of donors.

If you’re a donor, you’ve probably already viewed your giving through the lens of stewardship. But that stewardship extends beyond money—it applies to your influence, too.

Funding an organization gives you influence.

This may sound elementary to many of you, especially those with a long, rich history of generously supporting worthy causes. But this was a brand new concept for me when I started my career.

Funding gives you influence. It sounds shady. In my mind, it originally conjured images of crony capitalism and insider trading.

It’s much less devious than it sounds.

By financially supporting an organization, you become a stakeholder. As a stakeholder, you now wield influence over the organization’s future, for good or ill.

In the course of my career, I’ve seen donors use their influence in both ways.

Negative Influence

A big example of bad influence is when a donor steers an organization away from its mission. This is known as mission drift.

In their book Mission Drift, Chris Horst and Peter Greer define this occurrence as a process that slowly “carries an organization away from their core purpose and identity.”

For Christian organizations, the core purpose they often leave behind is their Christian foundation, beliefs, and values!

Horst and Greer cite donors and donor motivations as an “accurate predictor of whether or not an organization will deviate off mission.”

Donors–whether individuals, foundations, companies, or governments—who reject certain parts of an organization’s mission can use funding to push the organization in a direction they find more favorable.

In a post on the Veritus Group’s Passionate Giving blog, Veritus senior partner Jeff Schreifels recalls a non-profit that was offered $5 million by a donor towards the group’s capital campaign. The gift came with a caveat: the non-profit had to hire a specific company to construct the new building.

The company the donor preferred had bid on the contract already, but it wasn’t the winning bid. The non-profit turned down the gift to stay true to their original commitment.

While this group didn’t stray from their original decision, it’s certainly tempting with $5 million on the line.

Positive Influence

Fortunately, donors also positively influence the causes they fund.

Many years ago I sent out a fundraising email detailing a few projects IFWE had completed and asking for a donation. I received an email back from a subscriber pointing out how many times the email said “we did this,” while mentioning God only once.

After reading this subscriber’s response, I reviewed the email I’d sent with a new perspective. This person was absolutely right. I had neglected to give God the glory for the work he was using IFWE to accomplish.

Now, whenever I sit down to write an email I think about what this subscriber said. It holds me accountable.

On behalf of IFWE, I’m thankful for all of you who join us in our mission, steward your influence well, and hold us accountable to the biblical truth we profess.

On “Flashback Friday,” we publish some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was first published on January 22, 2016.

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