Growing Our Givers' Hearts


For fundraisers who are also Christian, the most vital mission is to grow the giver's heart. Here for the first time is a truly spiritual way of looking at fundraising as an opportunity to nurture current and prospective donors and facilitate their growth in faith. While the traditional focus of the fundraising process tAnds to be utilitarian before it is humane or spiritual, the empowering new model proposed here-fundraising as ministry-puts the humane and the spiritual first. It rests on the idea that ...

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For fundraisers who are also Christian, the most vital mission is to grow the giver's heart. Here for the first time is a truly spiritual way of looking at fundraising as an opportunity to nurture current and prospective donors and facilitate their growth in faith. While the traditional focus of the fundraising process tAnds to be utilitarian before it is humane or spiritual, the empowering new model proposed here-fundraising as ministry-puts the humane and the spiritual first. It rests on the idea that relationships with donors should be built upon a desire to encourage their generosity and spiritual growth. This unusual and highly effective approach is rooted in the Gospel vision. It goes beyond respecting our neighbors to loving them.Growing Givers' Hearts is based on the authors' in-depth study of seven successful Christian organizations whose fundraising efforts reveal the dynamic interplay between encouraging spiritual development of donors and raising essential resources. Such organizations share several key characteristics, including their assumption of God's abundant grace, their clear use of theology in the way they approach resource development, their practice of offering donors opportunities to participate in the ministry, and their ability to cultivate spiritually mature leadership.The book explores in detail these essential aspects of fundraising as ministry, giving readers a unique way to reflect on what they can do to make their work more personally satisfying and spiritually rewarding. Growing Givers' Hearts offers exceptional insights not only for development staff, but for executives, board members, and other leaders of Christian organizations across the theological spectrum.Based on a three-year, nationwide study of Christian organizations whose efforts are successful both in raising needed financial or material resources and in encouraging the spiritual development of their donors, this groundbreaking book identifies key charact

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Most Christians who raise money say they want to serve, love, and nurture their donors. Finally, here is a book which can turn that desire into reality." (Robert C. Andringa, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities)

"Practical and inspirational. A book for organizational leaders and fundraisers of faith-based groups, large and small, as well as for donors and people of faith." (Kara Newell, executive director, American FriAnds Service Committee)

"This is not a how-to-do-it, but rather a why-to-do-it written for (church) leaders...and excellent resource..." (, 8/01)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787948290
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 2/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,225,121
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

THOMAS H. JEAVONS H. is general secretary of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of FriAnds. He was founding director of the Center on Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Grand Valley State University and has served in staff and board positions with several nonprofit organizations. REBEKAH BURCH BASINGER is an indepAndent consultant in fundraising and stewardship education. She has served on the administrations of three church-related colleges and directed a Lilly Endowment-funded project on fundraising effectiveness for the Council for Christian Churches and Universities.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: Fundraising and the Expression of Faith.


Creating Resources for God's Work.

What the Bible Says About Giving and Asking.

A Brief History of Christian Fundraising.


Confidence in God's Abundance.

A Holistic Perspective on 'Kingdom Work'.

Clarity About Core Theological Beliefs.

Giving Donors Opportunities for Participation.

Integrated Organizational Planning.

Spiritually Mature Leadership.


Fundraising As a Calling.

Fundraising As an Invitation to Cooperate with God's Grace.


The Authors.


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First Chapter


Preach the Gospel always; and when necessary, use words.
--Saint Francis of Assisi

These words from Saint Francis remind us that the way we conduct ourselves in our day-to-day lives-whether with families and friends, with colleagues and customers, or with neighbors and strangers-does far more to convey the true extent of our commitment to the ideals of the faith we profess than anything we say or write. This book seeks to apply that insight to the work of Christian fundraising. So we begin with a question to which Saint Francis's words point: "Are we preaching the Gospel in the ways we do our work as Christian fundraisers?"

Is Christian Fundraising Different?

Coming at this question from a slightly different angle, after years of working in this field we found ourselves asking, Can fundraising become a way of preaching the Gospel for Christian organizations? And if it can, how will that differ from other approaches to fundraising?

Why Fundraising Might Be Thought of as a Ministry

These two assumptions may be crucial, but they are not always evident in the fundraising efforts of Christian organizations. Individuals who are engaged in resource development for Christian institutions and causes are frequently in a position to talk with people about the values and ideals of their faith. It is to be hoped that the works for which they are raising money are expressions of those ideals. When fundraisers for Christian organizations talk about why people should contribute financial support, they have the opportunity explain that these works are concrete manifestations of the values and vision of the faith. This is true whether these are efforts to help the poor, educate the young, care for the elderly, prepare persons for various ministries (as occurs in seminaries and colleges), or implement those and other ministries of service or evangelization.

In This Chapter

We begin this chapter by laying out in the briefest terms the findings of our research, in order to make clear that Christian fundraising can be practiced as a ministry and to show how it differs from other approaches to fundraising when this occurs. That permits us to explain why some current fundraising practices of Christian organizations are troubling and why it is so important that Christian fundraising programs do better. In doing so, we convey some of the frequently repeated concerns we heard from other Christian fundraisers during our study-concerns that added to our own. It is important to discuss the theological significance of these criticisms of current fundraising practice.

A Precis of Our Basic Findings

What we heard in many telephone interviews, on-site visits to seven different Christian organizations (with different fields of service and different theological traditions), and in two daylong symposia with Christian fundraisers convinced us that it is possible to practice fundraising as a ministry. And where that is happening, a set of common features-required conditions and operating principles-must be present in the development program. We shall simply identify them here, then discuss them in more detail in later chapters.

The Need for Reflection

To move toward this vision of fundraising as a ministry requires a commitment to self-examination, as individuals and as organizations, that some people will find challenging and perhaps even threatening. Nevertheless, creating and sustaining many development programs that really operate as ministries, given the personal and institutional differences in theology and style across many different traditions of the Christian faith, will require specific capacities for and commitments to self-examination and reflection. Chief development officers, chief staff officers, board members, and others will need tools and skills for the reflective examination and application of theological principles and spiritual dynamics in the active work of fundraising, and they need to become "reflective practitioners" (Schšn, 1974) of Christian fundraising.

Where Christian Fundraising Is Missing the Mark

On a number of occasions over the past several years, we sat with groups of Christian fundraisers who represented many different kinds of institutions and various theological traditions, and we listened to them talk about what made them uncomfortable in the fundraising being done by their own organizations or other Christian organizations. They identified a lengthy list of problems, in which some common themes were evident.

The third concern, the question of how to treat all donors with equal respect, is a tricky one. We are told plainly to "show no favoritism" on the basis of economic status in the conduct of worship or our life as a community (James 2:1-4). We know Jesus was no respecter of people's titles and status. We know too that he gave the highest praise to a very small gift in terms of monetary value, "the widow's mite" (Mark 12:41-44). Yet we also know that to be effective in this work, fundraisers have to approach different people differently, and often the variation in approaches does relate to the potential donor's economic or social status.

Christian fundraisers and organizations should be able to say more, though. They can appeal to something far more exciting, more transforming, and more beautiful than De Toqueville's phrase,"enlightened self-interest." They can talk about how the work of their organizations represents efforts to make the values of faith tangible and meaningful, to preach the Gospel (perhaps) without words, and to keep hope alive in a world that often lacks hope. Most important in that context, they can talk about how giving can both be an act of faith and lead to growth in faith.

Giving As the Occasion for Grace and Growth

So if they want to, Christian fundraisers can talk about the meaning of giving in these terms. They can talk about how giving can be an act of trust in the beneficence of God, in the abundance of God's grace, and in the possibilities for making a better world when we cooperate in that grace. They can talk about how taking the risk of making a "stretch gift" (when that is the right thing to do) can become the occasion to learn about how God sustains the faithful. Henri Nouwen once said, "Every time I take a step in the direction of generosity, I know I am moving from fear to love." Christian fundraisers can offer people a chance to take that step and explain its significance.

Giving in Faith

Martin Luther, in a particularly striking turn of a phrase, once spoke of the need for a "conversion of the heart, the mind, and the purse" in the Christian life (Foster, 1985, p. 19). There are numerous devotional works that speak of giving as a spiritual practice, something intentionally undertaken as a commitment of faith that is expected to lead the giver into a deeper relationship with God. The view that giving of one's material resources is a practice integral to being rooted and growing in faith runs through the writings of the Old Testament, is captured in Jewish traditions of Tzedakah, and is surely evident in the teachings of Jesus.

What Assumptions Have Shaped the Work of Christian Fundraisers?

Earlier we shared a list of concerns raised by Christian fundraisers about the fundraising techniques and strategies of parachurch organizations. We found these concerns widely shared among Christian fundraisers with whom we spoke, who observed troubling practices in many organizations. Why don't the fundraising programs of Christian organizations do better in these matters? Why do many become impersonal and manipulative, treating donors like "ciphers to be solved" and as "means to an end"? Why are many failing to respect the privacy and dignity of the people from whom they would seek support?

Fundraising and Our View of the Church:
Why This Matters

One Christian fundraiser said to us, "The concerns you are raising are interesting, but this cannot be our problem. It is the pastors' job to do stewardship education and cultivate the faith of their flocks. Our job is to raise the money needed to fund Christian ministries." Another said to us, "As long as a Christian fundraiser's efforts generate the financial resources needed to fund the good works his or her organization does and the fundraiser is honest and trustworthy, these other questions you are raising should not be their worry."

A Case in Point

One situation we encountered in our study was particularly striking in bringing this point home to us. We were visiting in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, interviewing staff, pastors, and members. This diocese is struggling to get out from under a large debt created by a failed venture into broadcasting about a decade ago. People there told us that at one point they found that they were having trouble getting any new initiatives going, even ones that were obviously needed, because everyone felt so burdened by this debt.

And Other Reasons

In addition, there is much evidence in the research we have on giving-and in the experience of many religious workers and leaders-to tell us that we cannot expect to raise much of the money we need for the church and its ministries from people whose lives are not rooted in faith. Extensive support for this is reported in Giving and Volunteering in the United States, 1994 (Hodgkinson and others, 1994). That research shows that members of religious organizations are significantly more likely to make charitable contributions than nonmembers. For example, only 58 percent of individuals who never attended religious services made charitable contributions; whereas 85 percent of those who attend weekly did so. And members of religious congregations were four times as likely as nonmembers to give to both religious and nonreligious groups. The percentage of household income going to charities rises with religious commitment as well, averaging 3.0 percent for those who attend services weekly but only 1.7 percent for all contributors and 0.8 percent for those who never attend services.


It is with this larger view of the needs of the whole church, for both now and the future, that we say the process of fundraising cannot be solely about getting a dollar in the door. It must also be concerned about nurturing the spiritual life and participation in a spiritual community, out of which generosity may grow. At the very least, Christian fundraisers and organizations, in the ways they ask for contributions, need to avoid both sending the wrong messages about Christian ideals and appealing to motives that are at odds with the teachings of their faith. Ideally, they should be creating relationships with donors wherein the act of giving can become for the donors an occasion both to feel and to celebrate their faith, their sense of God at work in their lives.

Where We Go Next

The next two chapters explore some of the theological and spiritual resources that can help us all shape and reflect on the work of fundraising as a ministry. In the Christian tradition, the faithful have usually turned to two places for insights in understanding and applying the teachings of Jesus and the values of our faith to daily life. One is the Bible, especially the New Testament and the Gospels. The other is the history of our own faith community, learning from the experiences, reflections, and teachings of our forebears in faith. Accordingly, we give one chapter to examining each of those sources to see what they have to tell us about the processes and implications-spiritual as well as practical-of giving and asking for money for and from members of the church and others.

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