As you wade through your refrigerator of Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, make sure to check out Jan Edmiston’s phenomenal post, What Turkey Baskets Can Teach Us About Evangelism, at A Church for Starving Artists blog. Her lessons apply as equally to fundraising as to evangelism; hence, my cribbing her blog title in plagiarized tribute.
Edmiston discusses how that old charitable staple–the Thanksgiving turkey basket given to “those in need” by the churches and nonprofit organizations with which we’re associated–sends one of two messages to the recipients:
- We took the time to get to know you, and we wanted to give you something that showed that we learned about you and want to get to know you even better; or
- We eat turkey for Thanksgiving, and, since we are the haves and you are the have nots, we are giving you a turkey to eat for Thanksgiving. And you should be grateful for it.
She writes about Casa Chirilagua, a DC-area nonprofit that provided Thanksgiving baskets containing beans and rice and maseca to their Latino neighbors.
(Do check out the link to Casa Chirilagua. Worth noting that the organization’s motto is “Learning Together to Love Our Neighbors As Ourselves”–a tremendous Transformational Giving-type motto. Not only do my toes tingle at the thought of a Christian nonprofit taking as its purpose “learning together”; I also value the recognition that loving our neighbors as ourselves is something altogether different than loving our neighbors as if they were the same as us–a common ailment among us churches and nonprofits.)
We in the church are slowly learning that we need to minister to the people who happen to be around us, without assuming that we know what they like/want/need. We might assume that pumpkin pie is the only way to go. But they might actually be mango pudding people.
How do we know?
We recognize our relationship as neighbors. Love each other. Talk with each other. See each other as equals and friends. For too long, the church has come in, taken charge, and then gone home…
It’s so much easier to make a convenient plan (convenient for us) and deliver the goods to “the needy” rather than nurture relationships with people who need support to the point that their issues become ours. We congratulate ourselves for sending checks to faraway lands without any followup. How much harder it is to have authentic relationships with the pregnant teens in Huntsville or the blind students in Kerala.
Application to fundraising:
Use even the simplest and most common “drives”–clothing drive, turkey drive, sock drive–to upend stereotypes about the population you serve. Enable your donors to “learn together” to love these individuals as real people, not as stereotypical objects of pity but as fascinating subjects of God’s purpose, worth our time to get to know well so that we can love them in the same way Christ does–i.e., as personally as possible.