Traditional Fundraising vs. Transformational Giving, Part II: Why Traditional Fundraising is so Appealing

What makes traditional transactional fundraising (ttf) so appealing when compared to Transformational Giving (TG)? I mean, the very premise of TG–that “followers become something different than they were before the encounter”–is so much more appealing and ennobling on the face of it than the premise of ttf, that we enter into relationships for the sake of furthering objectives we find personally valuable.

Liberty University’s Dr. Michael R. Mitchell, author of Leading, Teaching, and Making Disciples, suggests that the transactional is always more appealing than the transformational because anyone can do it and it’s much easier to succeed at: transactional results, after all, are entirely within the power of the two people effecting the transaction.

[A]nyone can function as a transactional leader, providing information, direction, assistance, and skills that influence others to go somewhere or do something different than they had been previously (p. 12).

But transformation? That is outside of the control of the transactors. That requires humility and submission to God, and following His leading. And even on our best days, we can’t force it to happen.

But ttf can be forced on our bad days, with the right combinations of brochures, websites, relationship skills, and persuasion, transactions can happen anytime we can cobble together a transaction both sides consider fair.

We like transactions, in other words, because they depend wholly on us and on our skills.

Transformation, on the other hand, can only happen when God permits. And that scares the pants off of us, because we’re not entirely convinced that He has the best interests of our organization at heart.

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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7 Responses to Traditional Fundraising vs. Transformational Giving, Part II: Why Traditional Fundraising is so Appealing

  1. John Lee says:

    I guess a struggle that I have with the transformation giving development approach is that it is so unpredictable. AND, people hire and keep a person according to the results they produce. It seems that a person could be completely faithful from their transformational approach with a donor, and not have much to show for it. (i.e.-transformation- “totally outside the control of the transactors”

  2. EFoley says:

    Always good to hear from you, John!

    In response to the thoughts you’ve shared, yes–if what a nonprofit or church is seeking through its development program is money so that the organization can do ministry, then the various forms of manipulation undertaken in transactional giving can indeed be more predictable and reliable in generating funds–depending on the skill of the development officer in those various manipulations and the ability of the organization to out-duel other organizations for the wealthiest givers.

    If, however, the goal of a nonprofit is the growth to full maturity in Christ of those entrusted to the ministry’s care, then this can only be done in partnership with God. From the first page of scripture to the last, God does not delegate the power to change the human heart to anyone outside of himself.

    That being said, I have not found God to be unpredictable or neutral in regard to our spiritual growth. He not only desires it but has promised it! We’re on track to be remade like Christ, and I have the firm conviction that God is eager and willing to use any nonprofit that genuinely undertakes this as their purpose.

    This of course means that the nonprofit will have to be willing to lose its life for his sake. But there’s a promise in the Scripture about what happens when you try to save your own life and when you are willing to lay it down for his purposes…

    I have found that ministries often equate their will with his will (i.e., of COURSE God wants us to meet our payroll this month and operate every program we consider to be important!), and they thus become disappointed or upset when God doesn’t simply bless their plan. This, I think, accounts for the unpredictability that you mention. This, however, is not so much the unpredictability of God in bringing personal transformation but rather the unpredictability of organizations in submitting to God’s will and purpose in the lives of his children. When nonprofits see themselves as the subject of God’s purpose and blessing rather than vehicles for that purpose and blessing in the lives of others, I agree that they will often be sorely disappointed by what God chooses to grant them–or not–with regard to funding.

  3. John Lee says:

    Woo! Those are heavy words for the capitalistic, revenue growth culture in which we live. Love these words of truth:

    “This of course means that the nonprofit will have to be willing to lose its life for his sake. But there’s a promise in the Scripture about what happens when you try to save your own life and when you are willing to lay it down for his purposes…”

    This discipline of laying our lives down is no easy task. It sure is awesome when we can see some reward on this side of heaven though:).

  4. Fred Palmerton says:

    Hi Eric,
    Today’s blog seemed to bring TG into focus for me.

    • EFoley says:

      Thanks for the kudos, Fred! I highly recommend the book by Dr. Mitchell. It really gave me a whole new slant on the subject.

      • Mike Brown says:

        Could not agree more heartily. Thanks for your bold insights.
        By the way, what is the title of Dr. Mitchell’s book?

        Prison Fellowship Ministries

      • EFoley says:

        Good to hear from you, Mike. Dr. Mitchell’s book is entitled Leading, Teaching, and Making Disciples. You can see the title, some quotes from the book, and a link to the book on in this post and the others in this series on the blog.

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