Eat only what they donate: Sustainable fundraising practices for nonprofits, part II

Sustainable fundraising means embodying the cause in your, um, body:

In the 1980s, John and Leslie Miller owned several thriving retail businesses in Colorado Springs.

In 1992, the Millers sold their businesses to pay off their house mortgage and business loans, which John Miller said was to follow God’s directive to get out of debt. That same year they founded Crossfire Ministries, a [Colorado] Springs Christian nonprofit at 307 N. Union Blvd. that gives away food, clothes and toiletries to the needy.

Crossfire Ministries is within a sagging gabled house with loose and missing shingles. The building used to be a flower shop owned by the Millers….

The ministry averages 27,000 visits per year from thousands in the area, Crossfire records show. Its annual budget is about $90,000…

The Millers have no savings or investments. They live solely on monetary and in-kind donations made directly to them, John Miller told me. One person, for instance, pays the Millers’ home electric bill.

A no-frills kind of guy, Miller typically dresses in ministry-donated clothes and eats ministry-donated food. During my interview, he munched on a day-old Safeway muffin.

(Make sure to read the rest of Mark Barna’s article on Crossfire. In fact, make sure to sign up for Mark’s RSS feed. He’s a great local religion columnist–a genuine rarity, enjoyable and meaningful no matter what your locale.)

There’s something about restricting your diet to muffins donated to your ministry that is far more compelling to donors than handing them the most poignant brochure. You are the cause you eat, you know.

What would it look like for you to truly embody your cause, not just raise money to support it?

The practice is actually quite ancient. Check out poor Ezekiel as God speaks to him in Ezekiel 4:9-17:

9 “Also take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread of them for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it. 10 And your food which you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from time to time you shall eat it. 11 You shall also drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; from time to time you shall drink. 12 And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.”
13 Then the LORD said, “So shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them.”
14 So I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth.”
15 Then He said to me, “See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it.”
16 Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, surely I will cut off the supply of bread in Jerusalem; they shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and shall drink water by measure and with dread, 17 that they may lack bread and water, and be dismayed with one another, and waste away because of their iniquity.

Man. Be thankful for those day-old muffins, John and Leslie.

In our next post on sustainable fundraising practices for nonprofits: Make the cause viral, not the marketing campaign.

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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