Development as Donor Catechesis, Part I: What Fundraisers Can Learn from the Worship Wars

Maybe you and I should order copies of T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns–right after we order copies of my new The Whole Life Offering: Christianity As Philanthropy, of course. The books have a surprising amount in common.

Check out Gordon’s comments in a recent CT interview:

I’m not so sure that accommodation to an individual’s consumerist preferences is consistent with the gospel call. The gospel doesn’t say, “You’ve got most things right, you just need to throw some Jesus in there.” Rather, it says, “You’ve got everything wrong, because you’re not correctly related to God. Therefore, you’ve got to be willing to give up everything—mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, whatever—to follow Christ. And if not, you’re not worthy of him.”

Will some people swallow hard and say no to that? Yes. But I’m not sure we should say, “Well, what kind of music do you like? After all, we’re just worshiping God here, and we have no standards other than what you like.” Saying “it’s all about you” isn’t the way to go about evangelism.

It might be better to say, “You may wonder why we sang a hymn today written by Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century. We do it because we think it’s a good reflection on what our Redeemer did. We don’t really care whether it’s new or old.” That might cause a person to say, “Here’s one institution in the entirety of our culture that isn’t driven by consumer preference. Isn’t that curious?”

It’s that last comment that grabs and inspires me: With fundraising today reduced to little more than an effort to figure out how to talk about our causes so that people will throw money at them, what would it be like to be the kind of nonprofit about which people would say, “Here’s one institution in the entirety of our culture that isn’t driven by consumer preference. Isn’t that curious?”

So what would it look like for fundraising to be driven by something other than consumer preference?

I’m suggesting–as I do in The Whole Life Offering book–that we be driven by whatever it takes to bring donors to fullness in Christ in relation to the cause we’ve been given to steward. I believe that faithfulness to that goal would lead us to some very unusual donor development practices, things like:

  • Supplying donors with study materials…and then removing them from our mailing lists if they fail the required tests that we supply
  • Requiring donors to reflect on and then share with us why they are giving…before we are willing to accept their gifts
  • Evaluating the success of our fundraising activities not on the basis of which produce the highest percent response or the most money…but rather the most quantifiable growth according to biblically-based standards of personal maturity in Christ

That’s the tall order we’ve placed for ourselves in this latest series we’re undertaking, entitled, “Development as Donor Catechesis.” So pull up a copy of The Whole Life Offering as in our next post we explore–and commend–the practice of testing donors as a means of determining who stays on our donor files…and who does not.

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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