Over the holiday weekend, I read Henri Nouwen’s short piece entitled, “The Spirituality of Fundraising”. A friend of mine suggested the book when she was in town a few months ago. She works for Mobile Loaves and Fishes which serves the homeless in Austin, Texas. She shared with me that their success did not result from events or major mailings, but rather through building relationships with members of the community and simply sharing the story of their vision and mission. It was lovely hearing her speak about her ministry and the passion behind the project. While I haven’t yet written a check, I am planning to visit the Village in Austin in the summer of 2020. And that’s exactly how she got me…when she said, “You should come visit sometime and meet the people we serve.”
I was invited to participate in the vision. I was invited to see it for myself. I was invited to belong to a community of generous people.
Powerful stuff. But even more powerful was the conviction I received from reading “The Spirituality of Fundraising”. The paradigm must shift in fundraising for the church. Written by a Catholic priest who died in 2006, his work poignantly states the obvious: no one is motivated to be generous without knowing your clear vision and mission.
As Fr. Nouwen said, “Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.” He also made it clear that fundraising is a MINISTRY. It’s not another business tactic or sterile, automated transaction. Fundraising for the Lord is “as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry!’
That was certainly encouraging to me. As a theology major and evangelist at heart, I always desire my so-called ‘job’ to ultimately help bring people to heaven. The invitation to give of your first-fruits is a Gospel based message of allowing God to be the king of your heart. As St. Paul says, “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity” (2 Cor. 9: 11).
Fundraising is not a response to a crisis.
Nouwen can be pegged as a prophet for this statement. IF your organization has already been floundering prior to the 2018 crisis of clergy sexual abuse, I highly doubt you will be able to flourish in the near future. Nouwen related the story of a friend who once told him, “If you never want to be fooled, you will never give your money.” That certainly is true as you can gather from unhappy tax payers, those who pull their funds from organizations without transparency, or those who leave a school or parish all together because of disappointment. We all know someone who has made this decision or even might have done so ourselves. Nouwen continued to examine this, “The reason for the taboo is that money has something to do with that intimate place in our heart where we need security, and we do not want to reveal our need or give away our security to someone who, maybe only accidentally, might betray us.”
The book was challenging. It challenged me and my attachment to money and material things. My attachment to the securities of life such as a home, a car, a job, a 401K, etc. How pressured are we in American society to be SECURE in finances? To control our future, to control our daily choices in order to reach the potential of the American dream? Is the American dream to go to heaven? Nope. Wealth, prosperity, long-life, ultimately cheating death!
“Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too.” (Matt 6:19-20)
Read the book. It’s only about 60 pages long. I will share more of my reflections in another post. Still feeling challenged and soaking in the wisdom!