The Five Biggest Misconceptions About Transformational Giving, Part III: ‘It’s a great theory, but there’s not a lot of examples’

This misconception is predicated on the idea that Transformational Giving is like a switch that you throw. One minute your development efforts are transaction transaction transaction, the next they’re transformation transformation transformation.

That’s not how it works.

I began stumbling into the rudiments of what’s now Transformational Giving in 1996, while serving as a Vice President at the Russ Reid Company and working on the Million Man Gathering for Promise Keepers. Just seeing how certain individuals (who called themselves Promise Keepers, not Promise Keepers supporters) owned the Ten Promises of a Promise Keeper in their sphere of influence gave me pause for thought. ‘The organization is like the stage, the convening mechanism,’ I mused.

And then I came down from Transformation Mountain and promptly helped to create a January fund raising appeal package for the Los Angeles Mission called ‘Don’t Throw Christmas Out with the Tree’.

It was as traditional and transactional appeal as they come.

(It was also as bad an appeal as I’ve ever done. But I digress.)

The point is that at the very time that I was drawing up the first draft of the TG 10–the backbone of Transformational Giving–in 2005, I was still freely using the word ‘donor’ (which today I rue) and writing pieces like a ‘lapsed donor reactivation letter’ that began, ‘I haven’t heard from you this year, and frankly I’m concerned.’

The transition from trasactional fundraising to TG is almost always two steps forward and one step back.

Along the way, however, we see transformation busting out all over…sometimes even in transactional fund raising programs.

That became quite apparent to me in 1997, when, in a one-step-back reversion to transactional fundraising during my time as President of the Los Angeles Mission, I wrote a really moving appeal letter about Michael, a former crack addict who was now clean and serving on the staff of the mission as one of our work start chaplains helping our rehab program grads land jobs.

A ‘donor’ who normally sent in small gifts sent in a big gift–big enough to prompt me to call her.

‘What in the world did you send such a big check in for?’ I asked her.

‘Well,’ she replied. ‘It’s kind of personal. My son has been homeless for years. He may be dead, for all I know. When I saw the story about Michael, I thought that if I made a gift, maybe somehow it would be like helping my son.’

I invited her down to the mission to meet Michael personally. When they met right outside my office door, the woman collapsed into his arms and started sobbing.

Transformation’s been happening for years, you know, even in the most transactional places. All we’re doing through TG is to create a solid biblical foundation where transformation is the standard, rather than the exception. That takes time to learn. And you can’t force it to happen (true transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit, not marketing creativity). You can only foster it.

So in our monthly free workshops and labs, my question each month after teaching each different topic is:

What one step can you take towards implementing Transformational Giving in this area of your development efforts?

When you ask people that way, they rarely say, ‘Well, it’s just one great big theory.’ Instead, they say, ‘Well, I could probably do that one thing you talked about where…’

I’ve noticed in my years of teaching Transformational Giving that transformation is contagious. It’s like it breaks out in your development program, appearing first here and then there. Jesus said that’s the way it is with Kingdom things.  Like yeast in bread. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings and all that.

When you think about TG as the mustard seed, then what begins to happen is that you see it every day. It rarely appears in a super-systematized form (though it sometimes does). Instead it happens in a champion conversation here or a magazine article there.

Like tonight. I started writing this post, took a break to go to the Y, and then came back. I was thumbing through the latest issue of Christianity Today when I ran across an article about Bel Air Presbyterian Church pastor Mark Brewer’s effort to equip Los Angeles churches to fulfill their biblical responsibility to the homeless–a TG premise if ever there was one.

The project, Imagine LA, offers the following blessedly transformational math equation on their website home page:

8000 homeless families [that’s the total number in LA]
8000 faith-based organizations [that’s the total number of churches, synagogues, and mosques in LA]
0 homeless children

The website goes on to say:

Just imagine if each one of these faith-based organizations helped a homeless family achieve long-term stability and sufficiency.

Bingo. Transformation. It’s breaking out all over. Note the great P to E (Participation to Engagement) quote from Kurt Frederickson, the chair of the Faith Community Subcommittee of the Simi Valley Task Force on Homelessness:

It’s real easy to live in the suburbs and go to skid row and pass out sandwiches [editor’s note: that’s the P project]. It’s a whole lot harder to circle around another person and say, ‘I’m going to be with you for the long haul’ [editor’s note: hello E!].

Transformation, like the Kingdom of God from whence it comes, is among us.

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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1 Response to The Five Biggest Misconceptions About Transformational Giving, Part III: ‘It’s a great theory, but there’s not a lot of examples’

  1. Tracy Nordyke says:

    What a great story and connection; one people would often miss if God hadn’t called and equipped you to frame it so solidily and clearly.

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