Mar 18, 2010
A thought occurred to me today: despite the reality that those of us involved in fundraising are intimately connected with money, we are all too often afraid or unwilling to speak the word money. We treat the word money with fear and disdain. We use all manner of illusion and simile to avoid the word money. We say things like funds, resources, and assets; we ask for financial participation, contributions, and generous gifts. Can we just get over it? What we are really saying is will you prayerfully, in collaboration with God, give my organization and the cause we represent some of your money.
I just read a fabulous booklet published from a talk given by Henri J. M Nouwen called The Spirituality of Fundraising which can be purchased here. Nouwen contends that our efforts at fundraising may be spiritually unfulfilling, frustrating, and altogether futile at least in some part because of our own warped relationship with money. Make no mistake, Nouwen gives first priority to our relationship with God and to the people who have the money we must ask for, but his questions and conclusions about the importance of our relationship to money are provocative and compelling.
Here are a few of Nouwen’s particularly poignant thoughts:
“We will never be able to ask for money if we do not know how we ourselves relate to money.” p11
“How does having, or not having, money affect our self-esteem, our sense of value?” p13
“What is our security base? God or mammon? That is what Jesus would ask.” p15
“But sometimes our concern for the poor may carry with it a prejudice against the rich…But nobody says we should love the rich less than we love the poor.” p18 (Consider the Bible’s declaration of Jesus’ love for the rich young ruler right before he asked the young man to sell all he had).
“Already we have seen that many people have a hard time asking for money because our own insecurities are connected with it, and so we are not free. We also are not free if we are jealous of the rich and envy their money.” p23
“Once we are prayerfully committed to placing our whole trust in God, and have become clear that we are concerned only for the Kingdom; once we have learned to love the rich for who they are rather than what they have; and once we believe that we have something of great value to give them, then we will have no trouble at all in asking someone for a large sum of money.” p24
Could it be that our inhibitions about asking for money are connected to a level of guesswork? We too often guess about how much money a champion could, should or might be led to give. We guess about whether they are called by God to impact the cause we are dedicated to. We guess about what their response might be because we lack communion with them. We’ve not first known them. And we’ve been afraid to have the conversations that will actually foster the kind of relationship that will remove the fear of asking for their money.
Once we settle our own issues about money, we will be free to interact with people as people and we’ll cease to count money in the list of unspeakable words. And, our asking will be done with confidence in the Holy Spirit’s ability to create collaboration with our champions and the guesswork will be gone.