We get letters: When is it OK for a nonprofit to ask for money to meet a need?

Great question arrived over the comment transom this week from faithful blog buddy Herb R:

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?

These are super questions, Herb. Let me lay out a reply that links you to further information from some of the previous posts on the site here.

  1. It’s crucial to distinguish between a church and a nonprofit organization. We want to make sure we don’t take verses from the scripture that apply to the church and/or to the people of God in general and apply them across the board to the Christian nonprofit. A Christian nonprofit organization is not a church. It’s a church renewal movement. Its purpose is to prophetically call the church to own and embody a cause central to God’s purpose that has, over time, fallen out of the church and either become professionalized or neglected by the society at large and/or Christians in particular.

    And here’s the key point, Herb: The church does not exist to resource the nonprofit. The nonprofit exists to resource the church.

    Check out more on this idea of the Christian nonprofit as church renewal movement in this previous post.

  2. Some folks harbor the major league misconception that embracing Transformational Giving means never having to talk to your constituents about their giving. Nothing could be further from the truth!

    Check out one of my favorite posts of all time on this site for an in-depth discussion of this topic. Here’s the gist of the piece:

    “What drives the giving process in Transformational Giving is not our organization’s need or the champion’s comfort level, but what Scripture calls them to do generally and what the Holy Spirit is calling them to do specifically. As leaders, we’re called to help each champion walk in the works God has prepared for them. That requires open and honest conversation, even–and often especially–in the area of giving.”

    Dang, that was a good post. Now make sure to click the link and read the rest of it, Herb.

  3. TG has a way of causing jog-a-thons and read-a-thons and cheese-a-thons and all-a-thons to be blown apart into a million pieces as you approach TG warp speed. Here’s why, from a previous post that I encourage you to read on the subject:

    “The key is that the event needs to provide the occasion, the equipping, and the opportunity for your owner-level champions to invite those in their sphere of influence to actually do the word related to your cause. Not just learn about it. Not just be emotionally impacted by it. Not just to give money towards it. But to be it.”

    The problem with a-thons is that they attract people to participate based on two data points–the need of the organization and the willingness of a sponsor to underwrite the cost of someone doing something other than participating directly in the cause–neither of which enables the champion to grow to full maturity in Christ. Since that’s the key point of our work as Christian leaders (see Ephesians 4:11-13), we need to rethink (translation: discontinue) our use of these events. More in the past post, so do make sure to read that.

Thanks again, Herb, for hitting up with some excellent questions and giving me a chance to reprise some of my favorite prior posts. It’s like memory lane today.

And if you yourself, dear reader, have a Transformational Giving question, use the comment section on this or any post to grab my attention, and I’ll be happy to mess with your mind, life, and career as well.

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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