Fundraising and Biblical Stewardship

Billy Fisher

August 1, 2014

EDU 5515 Forum Discussion

Posted with author's permission

 

When we take a step back and look at the overall fundraising process, fundraisers are working with donors who are looking to steward their resources bestowed upon them by God to maximize an impact that brings them joy and satisfaction.  In order for fundraisers to steward donations effectively from these donors, it is critical that they develop relationships with these donors to know what donors value and motivates them to give.  This is a process that takes time as Kim Gattle states, “Securing a gift commitment is not a moment in time; it is an evolutionary process. Solicitation is the culmination of strategic cultivation, a process through which the fundraiser designs and implements specific steps to strengthen the relationship between the donor and the organization, which ultimately leads to a gift” (Gattle, 2011, p. 214-15).  Thus, fundraisers must work to create meaningful, genuine relationships with donors in an effort to understand them and maximize the donor’s own stewardship of their resources.

Getting to know donors and your donor base is critical for fundraisers who seek to connect with their donors and develop effective systems and programs of fundraising.  In the textbook this week, we were presented different categories of donors and different methods of solicitation.  Times are changing, and so too are the donors with whom we work.  Heil and Bate state, “Those who study the field of philanthropy observe that today’s donors have greater wealth, are more engaged with their charities of choice, are more sophisticated in philanthropic activities, and are more knowledgeable about gifting vehicles than ever before” (Heil, 2011, p. 172).  In addition, Mesch and Pactor state, “Fundraisers cannot assume that what works well for men will work well for women, too” (Mesch, 2011, p. 163).  Finally, when it comes to diversity in giving, Lilya Wagner states, “No longer can they (fundraisers) function under the assumption of ‘one size fits all,’ something the Rosso model taught us to avoid.  Diverse groups have identifiable, valuable, and significant philanthropic characteristics and traits” (Wagner, 2011, p. 184).  Each of these quotes demonstrates that our donor constituency needs to be understood if they are to be leveraged for stewardship gifts to our ministry.  Figuring out what their passions, values, and motivations are in giving is the task of the fundraiser.  Once those relationships are made and those characteristics discovered, then a fundraiser can decide what is the best vehicle to fundraise, whether it be through email, personal, internet, telephone, or event fundraising, as Heil and Bate state, “As always in the field of fundraising, there is no substitute for knowing and understanding donors” (Heil, 2011, p. 177).

I see the relationship building between fundraisers and donors is strongly related to stewardship in three ways.  First, the fundraiser has a responsibility to be a faithful steward of the budgetary resources at his disposal.  A fundraiser who does not get to know his donors will spend his development budget in areas that may not be good stewardship of those funds, which are really our Master’s funds.  Without cultivating a relationship, he may pour this money into direct mail marketing, when if he had cultivated relationships with his donors, he would have found they value convenience and the ability to have their dollars impact immediately.  Thus, creating a vehicle for internet giving would have been a better stewardship of the budget.  When we are working with the Master’s money, it is important that we are faithful to put it to good use and not waste it.

Secondly, fundraisers demonstrate good stewardship of the organization when they work within the framework of a strategic plan with donors.  It is incumbent upon fundraisers to know their strategic plan and work with donors who have a passion and value helping make that plan a reality.  Fundraisers who go out and just seek donations from donors for projects unrelated to the strategic plan are not stewarding those relationships and opportunities well.  Enright and Seiler confirm this point when they state, “In the fundraising process, stewardship is the sacred trust that nonprofit organizations accept in their role as servants of the public good. They demonstrate good stewardship first by faithfulness to their philanthropic mission” (Enright, 2011, p. 269).  We are simply stewards of the Master’s organization and mission, and thus, we must remember that we are to prove faithful in how we conduct our jobs and raise funds to support the mission.

Lastly, through getting to know what donors value and what motivates them to give, fundraisers have the opportunity to help the donors practice their own stewardship of their resources.  Engel and Seiler state, “For fundraisers who take this discernment concept seriously, their stewardship role is to guide donors to discerning how best to make philanthropic gifts” (Enright, 2011, p. 272).  Both fundraisers and donors have an obligation to stewardship.  The fundraiser is seeking to best steward a donor’s gift in line with the strategic plan and mission of the organization, and the donor is seeking how best to steward their resources in a way that aligns with their values and passions.  Fundraisers then have the task of taking what they learned about their donors and discerning the ways in which the donor can give to the organization that will maximize the donor’s stewardship goals.  These donors have been entrusted with their resources by the Master to be leveraged into another area of the Master’s kingdom.  This then becomes a great privilege in our efforts to be faithful stewards of the Master’s organization to help other stewards act faithfully with what the Master has given them.

 

References

Enright, W. G., and Seiler, T. L. (2011). The Practice of Stewardship. In E. Tempel, T. Seiler, and E. Aldrich (Eds.), Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (p. 268-272). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gattle, K. (2011). Personal Solicitation. In E. Tempel, T. Seiler, and E. Aldrich (Eds.), Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (p. 213-222). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Heil, M. K. S., and Bate, S. (2011). High-Net Worth Donors. In E. Tempel, T. Seiler, and E. Aldrich (Eds.), Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (p. 172-182). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mesch, D. J., and Pactor, A. (2011). Women as Donors. In E. Tempel, T. Seiler, and E. Aldrich (Eds.), Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (p. 162-171). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wagner, L. (2011). Ethnicity and Giving. In E. Tempel, T. Seiler, and E. Aldrich (Eds.), Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (p. 183-198). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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