How do you transform your donors into champions?

It’s definitely a question that demands to be answered, as I’ve been asked it twice in the last 24 hours! First, my buddy John Lee at World Gospel Mission inquired on behalf of a missionary who’s asking this question after nearly two decades in the field. And then at our Colorado Springs seminar this past Friday, a similarly tenured missionary asked the same question.

In short, the question is this:

I’ve been doing development according to the traditional/transactional principles for the better part of my ministry. In so doing I’ve acquired some tremendous ‘supporters’ who tell me that it doesn’t matter if I’m doing ministry in Timbuktu or Toronto, or whether I’m doing evangelism or crisis pregnancy; they’re going to support me no matter what. They support me because they love me and trust me. So do I go back to them now and say, ‘It’s not enough for you to love me and trust me. It’s time for you to become a champion’?

Short answer:

Yes. Absolutely.

Transformational Giving Principle #5 (click here for the whole list, or click here to register for the seminars this week in San Francisco or LA and I’ll run down the whole list for you myself) says:

A Transformational Giving relationship between a champion and an organization is primarily a peer-level accountability relationship, not merely a friendship or a support relationship.

In traditional/transactional development, there are typically two prime determinants in the relationship between donor and organization. The first is what the donor feels comfortable/passionate/able to do. The second is what the organization/missionary needs. Add a dollop of friendship in there and you have a pretty good donation sandwich.

In Transformational Giving, however, the measurement is different. The parameters of the relationship are not defined by the donor’s passion nor the organization’s need. Instead, they’re defined by the scriptures. We ask:

  1. What does the Bible call my ministry? In other words, what are the words and concepts the Bible uses to define what God has called me to do?
  2. What does the Bible call all Christians to do in relation to this cause?

A Transformational Giving relationship is thus an accountability relationship, in which the champion and the organization hold each other accountable to grow into the fullness of Christ in relation to the cause they share, as defined by the scriptures.

It can’t be coincidence that I was reading Acts 18 yesterday. In it, Luke gives kudos to Apollos for being learned, well-spoken, and teaching about Jesus accurately…and then he mentions that Priscilla and Aquila pull him aside to ‘explain to him the way of God more adequately’. And then later in the chapter, Paul runs into the same thing in Ephesus: believers who hadn’t quite yet heard the part about the Holy Spirit.

In both cases, the correction that’s brought (by Prescilla/Aquila and Paul) is brought gently but clearly to Christians who were clearly committed and sincere. I think it lays out a great model for us to follow as we share Transformational Giving with our ‘supporters’, who we now realize are called to be ‘champions’.

After all, I doubt that Apollos responded to Prescilla and Aquila’s correction by saying, ‘OK, I’ll try to get it right from now on.’ I imagine his first reaction was to try to find a way to share these new insights with everyone he’d previously taught.

So we should not think, ‘Well, with my best/longest-term/friendliest supporters, I’ll let them continue to be supporters. But I’ll start this champion thing with everyone from now on.’

Instead, we need to go back to our best/longest-term/friendliest folks and share Transformational Giving with them. Heck, send them a link to this blog. Bring ’em to a Mission Increase Foundation training event. Show ’em the Coach Your Champions book (you could even study a chapter a week with a group of them via conference call) or watch the TG video together.

After all, as we’ve been teaching in the Transformational Giving seminars this month, Development isn’t something you do to champions. It’s something you do with them.

So say to your supporters-cum-champions:

For twenty years you’ve supported me. Who could ask for more?

Would you believe: The Bible?

I’ve been reading and studying about how God calls all Christians to be involved in missions. It’s exhilirating. It’s exciting. It terrifies me. It grabs me.

I want to share it with you.

God has more for you–more that He wants to give you, as well as more that’s He’s holding you accountable for–than simply being the best supporter of my ministry that I could ever ask for.

I feel like Apollos in the book of Acts 18. I’ve learned the way of God between a missionary and a supporter more completely. And I’d like to talk about it–and walk in it fully–with you.

Is it the world’s easiest conversation? No.

Is it possible the supporter will misunderstand, and their love will turn to hate, with them cancelling the auto-deposit? Possible, perhaps.

But God never sent us supporters. He sent us champions. We’re the ones who converted them into supporters.

It’s time to convert them back. And God is holding us accountable now that we know.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. 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 Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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