When does fundraising become unethical? When fundraisers act as takers, not lead givers

Jim Harries had me from hello.

Even the title of his post on the Lausanne Global Conversation site–Biblical Giving, Holding Donors Accountable–is about the best five word summary of why Biblical fundraising and development is–and must be–different than any secular fundraising approach.

  • In secular fundraising, the trendy battle cry these days is “Hold nonprofits accountable!”
  • In Biblical fundraising, the core truth has always been that the giver must be held to account–namely, to carry out that which God commands the giver to do in relation to the causes and attendant courses of action He explicitly commends.

Lest Christian fundraisers cheer too quickly, though, Harries notes that they more than anyone bear a primary sort of accountability, one which, tragically, they exercise all too rarely. The result?

An ethics fail which happens in broad daylight every day.

These days we have many charitable specialists in the West.  That is, those who act as ‘middle men’ between the conscience-stricken and the poor.  Their raison d’être obliges them to promote and defend the notion that ‘giving’ is both helpful and effective in impact.  Yet they themselves are not ‘givers’ in the normal sense of the word, because the ‘giving’ they do is of the money of others, from which their own incomes have already been extracted.  This unfortunately leaves them suspect. These ‘middle men’ can be accused of profiteering from the maladies of others.  Their self-interest often has them promote strategies against poverty that are actually oriented to the perpetuation of their own activities.

Responsibility for the ethics of giving is delegated to the above group.  Those who give to the middle-men have to trust that they pass on their funds in an appropriate way.

From a Transformational Giving standpoint we’d say it like this:

  • The role of the Christian fundraiser is to be the lead giver to the cause.
  • This leadership is drawn from knowing, doing, and teaching what the Bible calls all Christians to do in relation to the cause.
  • In other words, Christian fundraisers are not solicitors of funds but player-coaches of giving.
  • They encourage others to imitate their actions, not merely respond to their solicitations.

Sum it up and say:

If you seek to be good at Christian fundraising, let it be through growing into the fullness of Christ in relation to your cause and then coaching others to imitate that same maturity. Let it not be because you learned tools, techniques, and strategies that made it possible for you to solicit like the pros.

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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3 Responses to When does fundraising become unethical? When fundraisers act as takers, not lead givers

  1. Herb R says:

    Hello Eric:
    My question does not apply to this post specifically, but TG in general. I have been reading your blog and the Mission Increase web site for some weeks now. I have also bought several resources (books, DVDs) that I am in the process of reviewing. What I am trying to understand is this: From a TG perspective, is there any situation where it is ‘valid’ for a Christian ministry to ask for donations simply because there is a need and not have their primary focus be on developing champions, at least initially, with respect to a particular fundraising event. Many Christian schools and ministries, for example, conduct various ‘a-thon’ events: walk-a-thon, jog-a-thon, bowl-a-thon, etc. to help meet their budget. So how does one reconcile verses such as the following with TG as it relates to schools or ministries conducting a walk-a-thon or other ‘a-thon’ event?

    Exodus 12:35-36 – “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and ASKED the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for, so they plundered the Egyptians.”

    Also, verses in the NT such as: “Now to him is able to do immeasurably more than all we ASK or imagine…” (Ephesians 3:20); and “You do not have, because you do not ASK.” (James 4:2).

    I recall seeing somewhere on your blog (or perhaps it was the MIF web site) a diagram showing a small TTF circle within a larger TG circle. As I try to wrap my head around the principles of TG, that diagram seems to be saying (at least to me), “OK, it is o.k. for a ministry to conduct a TTF fundraising event such as a walk-a-thon, but ultimately the focus should be on the bigger (Biblical) picture and not the $$’s, in other words, coaching a donor to spiritual maturity and transforming them into champions.” Am I getting it or am I missing something?

    Thank you,

    • EFoley says:

      Herb, thanks for your good question–and for all of your efforts to think through and process Transformational Giving. Your question deserves a fuller answer than a quick reply, so I’ll plan on answering it via a blog post next week.

  2. survivalist says:

    Yes..I agree with you..the reason for the people hesitation to give is the trust, which the fundraisers are not able to assure. I think genuine people are less now a days..basic trust is also becoming doubtful. Enough measures are to be taken to come out of this..situation.

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