by Rick Dunham, Founder+CEO
Over my 39-year career in fundraising with Christian nonprofits, I’ve been exposed to a number of what I would consider pseudo-spiritual myths about fundraising. They’re always well-meaning, but unfortunately, they reflect a flawed theology. And they tend to give fundraisers or the leadership of a ministry or church a pass on accountability.
Over the next few posts I’m going to address some of these myths and hopefully provide you some needed perspective.
Pseudo-Spiritual Fundraising Myth #1: God will provide without you asking for money
This myth is the oldest one in the book and the granddaddy of them all. In my experience, it’s used by two primary audiences.
The first group that loves to spout this pseudo-spiritual notion are donors who feel guilty when asked for money. Why? Because in their heart they know they’re not generous. And they don’t like being reminded of that painful truth. So they get hot and bothered when they’re asked for money. They try to control the pain of that guilt.
So when someone complains about being asked for support, the first thing you need to do is to check that person’s giving history. My bet is that they haven’t been all that generous toward your work, if they’ve supported it at all.
The second group that will trot out this pseudo-spiritual line are leaders and board members who are uncomfortable with asking people to support their cause. I’ve always been puzzled by this because you’d think these folks would be the most evangelistic for their cause.
If this is you, my encouragement is to understand that the role you play in fundraising is vital to the funding of God’s work in the world today.
Just take a look at what the Bible says about this.
If it’s true that God provides without asking for money, then we’d need to ignore whole portions of scripture where God’s leaders ask His followers to support His work. David is a classic example.
In 1 Chronicles 29, David has gathered the leaders of the nation of Israel together in his final challenge to build the temple that he’d never been able to build. It’s an amazing passage. In it David not only lays out the case for why they should give, but also sets up the first challenge grant: he outlines all he’s given and challenges the leaders to step up as he’s done!
So you have to ask, was David out of line here? Was he showing a lack of faith that God would provide for the building of the temple? Was what he did inappropriate?
I don’t think so. Why? Because in the very next verse it says that the leaders gave willingly in response.
David had made such a case for support that the leadership of Israel had only one response, and that was to give. In fact, scripture tells us:
The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord.
Then there’s Paul. In 1 Corinthians 8-9 he challenges the Corinthian church to fulfill their pledge to help the suffering believers in Jerusalem.
Was Paul out of line in asking the Corinthian believers to give as they had promised? Was he showing a lack of faith in God’s provision to ask the Corinthians to fulfill their commitment? And was he wrong to point them to the churches of Macedonia who had not only completed their pledge but had done so far beyond what Paul had expected?
Then there’s God’s command to Moses in Exodus 25:1-2. Was God out of line when He commanded Moses to do a fundraiser to procure the needed resources to build the tabernacle?
God certainly could have provided Moses and the people of Israel everything they needed for that task without Moses asking the people to give, but He didn’t. Instead He commanded Moses to raise up the needed resources from the people of Israel by doing a fundraiser, which is recorded in Exodus 35-36.
The bottom line is this: Not asking for money is not more spiritual nor does it show more faith. God knows that our flesh is not inclined to give. It’s not a feature of our fallen human nature. Our natural tendency is to hold on to our stuff. We become greedy, unwilling to be generous.
In fact, Paul tells us in Colossians 3:5 that we’re to put to death greed because it’s part of our “earthly nature” and because it’s idolatry. You can only put something to death that’s alive, which means greed is alive and well in our flesh. It’s part of our natural human state.
That’s why I believe Jesus calls us out in Matthew 6 to stop hoarding our treasure here on earth and to start investing in the stuff of heaven. Because, in His words, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And, “You cannot serve both God and money.”
What you and I do with our money will direct where our hearts really are… on earthly stuff or heavenly. And to make the earthly our priority means we are serving money, not God. And that is idolatry.
There’s no clearer picture of this than the church at Laodecia. In Revelation 3, Jesus takes them to task for their lukewarm spirituality. The cause? Their wealth. They had become rich and those riches became more important to them than their Lord. That’s why Jesus challenged them to invest those riches in what is holy and righteous… Kingdom priorities. Then He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
Why would Jesus say that? Because their wealth had become a barrier to their relationship with Him.
So if you’re a Christian leader or fundraiser, understand that motivating and inspiring God’s people to invest in His work is a truly spiritual exercise. The fleshly inclination of God’s people is NOT to give their stuff away, but to hold onto it. And when they do, they bar their heart from a deep, personal walk with God.
Embrace your role as an instrument in the hand of God to help direct His people to invest in His work so that ultimately God gets what He really wants, and that’s the hearts of His people.
Join Dunham+Company’s CEO Rick Dunham as he shares from his 40 years of fundraising leadership to help you build a comprehensive framework for fundraising success. Watch ‘If God Will Provide, Why Do We Have to Ask for Money?’ from the Dunham Institute.