Don’t asks for gifts that cost nothing

Gospel For Asia has done some great Transformational Giving work when it comes to development. Giving away their signature book is a great participation project. Their free MP3 and e-book downloads are equally cool.

Their Cost-Free Giving page, however, is not:

You can help Gospel for Asia share Jesus with those who have never heard His name, and it won’t cost you a thing!

Here are three reasons to steer away from cost-free appeals to your champions as you practice Transformational Giving:

  1. It’s problematic theologically.
    2 Samuel 24:24 is David’s reply to Araunah’s offer of cost-free giving. Says David, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” Sacrifice is one of the core characteristics of biblical offering. An offering that costs you nothing is not an offering. It’s a vapid sort of transaction in which you give up something that is of little value to you because it is of more value to someone else. That registers about a 0.000001 on the Transformation-o-meter.
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  2. It’s problematic practically.
    It may sound paradoxical, but as Kristin Ivie notes, “Research on what motivates people to give shows that people are more likely to give when there is a difficult event or action required along with the donation.” Click here for my earlier post on the subject, entitled, “Want to Increase Donations? Demand Difficult Deeds”.

    As I noted there, if you are presenting in a church and people ask, “How can we help?” and you say, “The most important thing I need is your prayers,” statistically you have less likelihood of garnering their ongoing, meaningful commitment than if you say, “The most important thing I need is for you to fly to Africa with me for a special Christmas outreach I’m planning there next month. We’ll be gone two weeks, and you’ll need to raise $1,000 towards the project above and beyond your airfare.” Even if they say no, you’ll be further ahead in coaching them to understand that the cause is real, serious…and costly.

    Moral of the story? Meaningful commitment breeds meaningful commitment. Meaningless commitment breeds meaningless commitment.
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  3. It denigrates non-financial forms of giving.
    The ironic thing about the GFA “Cost Free Giving” page is that each of the ideas that are listed there do have a cost. It’s just not a financial one. Using GoodSearch instead of Google means giving up some of the things I’ve come to expect in a search engine.  (No sleight to GoodSearch intended, but there’s a reason we talk about ‘googling’ a phrase rather than ‘goodsearching’ it, and it’s not simply a matter of Google’s superior marketing.)

    Likewise, GFA’s request that I change my shopping habits and give up my airline miles does translate into a sacrifice for me. And this is a good thing! Now we’re talking about the prospect of me offering to God through GFA something that is meaningful to me. That’s the stuff transformation is made of. So describe it that way! Help me see that I can–and should–be advancing the cause that GFA and I share with more than just my wallet. Put me on the horns of a dilemma: Should I use my frequent flier miles to upgrade to business class on my next international flight…or should I offer the miles to God through GFA so that the Gospel may travel yet further?

When non-financial gifts are treated this way, as sacrifices that move me towards holy living in relation to the cause GFA and I share rather than as “cost free giving”, you are helping me as a champion to be “all in”–committed in every dimension of my life–and thus far more likely to also consider a financial gift than when you try to appeal to me with words like “easy” and “no out-of-pocket expense”.

About EFoley

The Reverend Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Mrs. Hyun Sook Foley, of Seoul USA, a multinational, multicultural ministry supporting the work of the indigenous underground church in North Korea and the spreading of historic underground Christian discipleship practices worldwide. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Mrs. Foley oversee a far-flung staff in the US and across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. Pastor Foley is Dean of Underground University, a missionary training college for North Koreans. He is committed to equipping North Korean church leaders for comprehensive underground Christian service.
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3 Responses to Don’t asks for gifts that cost nothing

  1. Jon Hirst says:

    I appreciate your final point Eric. So much of our value in the West is seen through the eyes of capitalism – so much so that gifts that did not pull green out of our wallets are not valued at all.

    But some of the most precious gifts that we can give are those that do not cost money but instead cost a piece of ourselves.

  2. Matt Bates says:

    This kind of “giving which is not really giving” also appeals to our worst instincts as people– don’t step in and do anything because someone else will come along and solve the problem for you– that has crippled philanthropy over the past 50 years. The suggestion is that you can have significant impact on others “for free” which is just plain inaccurate. If there is any impact at all, assuredly someone somewhere is paying for it. And also, I’m not so sure God flies commercial.

  3. EFoley says:

    Great point, Bates–impact without personal cost–on a number of different axes–is really counterfeit impact.

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