Exploring the Connection Between Faith and Giving
Like thousands of us each day, we seek time, talent and treasure from a variety of sources. In some cases, we are prospecting for new funds. In other cases, we are cultivating current donors for increased gifts. Still others are seeking new ways to influence people to give in a positive and generous way.
In my practitioner role I train an array of people to do what I do every day. I also have a unique role as I attempt to educate, inform, stimulate and encourage ministers to direct fundraising programs with a long-term emphasis on major and planned gifts. We all know it is a process that involves relationship building.
As I recently dealt with a number of ministers, I thought of a different way to better educate and stimulate them to learn about philanthropy.
I work with a number of churches as a lay-individual. I am currently chairman of my parish council and have served in that capacity several times over the last three decades. Through my fundraising expertise I have chaired a number of annual stewardship drives, capital campaigns, direct-mail endeavors and festival sponsorship roles. I also have played the role of planned-giving director through consulting for churches. I have found religious giving very satisfying but also challenging. Religious fundraising involves elements of connecting the relationship of body, mind and spirit.
In my various roles I have been an educator and promoter of concepts that benefit churches and individual families. I believe the key to total success in the field of religious fundraising is fostering the ministry of Jesus Christ. I also seek help from others to provide a message of faith and giving. When I recently was asked to engage a group of ministers at a daylong seminar, I remembered a wonderful resource for this purpose that does what I was asked to do, every day—provide a message of faith and giving. That resource was the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. This program communicates through a ministerial approach to administer dialogue and degree that enhances what lay-professional is attempting to effect.
The Lake Institute of Faith and Giving is located in Indianapolis. It was created in 2002 and exists through the generosity of the late Tom and Marjorie Lake, their daughter Karen Lake Buttrey and the Lilly Endowment. The mission of the Lake Institute of Faith and Giving is to foster a greater understanding of the ways in which faith both inspires and informs giving by providing knowledge, education and training. Why is this training important? It is estimated that about a third of all charitable dollars annually given in the U.S. ($358 billion total in 2014) go to religion, and research shows that faith inspires an even larger percentage of individual giving to multiple causes. The director of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving is Dr. David King.
Dr. King and his staff provide research and publications that provide insights on the relationship between faith and giving. His recent daylong teaching to Salvation Army ministers focused on the landscape of religious giving, the shift in religious giving from institutional-centered to donor-centered fundraising, fundraising as ministry, how one thinks about money, and building a culture of generosity.
Some key takeaways from this engaging discussion included the following:
- Fundraising is relationship building!
- No. 1 reason people don’t give is they are not asked.
- Engage both husband and wife in a discussion about giving.
- Ask prospects and donors for advice, and strive for a long-term engagement.
- If you view working with prospects as informational ministry, when it is time for a financial ask, it will be part of your natural and ongoing discussion with them.
- If people engage in something that interests them and that they believe in, they will support it long term.
- Ministry is sowing seeds and is a continuous process that never ends.
- Seek a transformational relationship, not just a transactional relationship.
- Understand that priorities are real, and have honest conversations with others.
- The concept of giving is definitely a form of ministry. If people believe they are giving with their hearts and souls for the right reasons, generous and spiritually engaged donors will joyfully ask others to join them in support of the institution.
Jesus Christ talked a great deal about money and giving in the Bible. The act and process of giving is all about how you perceive it. Whether the giver is religious or not, the proper way of engaging a prospect is to consider the giving process a form of ministry for you and those you work with on a daily basis.
I enjoyed Dr. King’s presentation very much, especially how he sent a positive message to others. I recommend the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving to anyone interested in learning more about how to explore the connection between faith and giving. While there are implications for religious giving in this message, these same principles apply to any aspect of giving for any purpose. The more you understand human nature and human communication, the more successful you will be in this profession.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.