A Kingdom Path Perspective: Encouraging Major Gifts
Years ago, I attended a training session on “securing major gifts” for the ministry I served. The seminar shared tips for getting large gifts, and the presenters testified that if I followed their advice, I would reach my funding goals.
The instructors said things like “it’s all about relationships” and coached us to build them as a basis for making “asks” and getting huge financial commitments. The only focus on stewardship was linked to “donor stewardship” which was basically defined as “taking good care of people so they would continue to give.”
The process they outlined for “securing major gifts” had five steps that went something like this:
- identify major gift prospects
- set up appointments with them
- present the case for our cause
- make an ask with a proposal for a specific gift for a project
- close the gift
I wrestled with this training on at least three levels.
First, it presupposed I was the provider for the ministry. That caused me to feel tremendous stress and pressure. What if I don’t make the case clearly? What if I can’t close this gift? After taking this path for a while, I learned the hard way what was and what wasn’t my role in God’s work.
Second, I was not treating people the way I would want to be treated. Let me explain. There’s nothing wrong with “moves management” strategies linked to reminding staff to faithfully contact ministry partners. Where it goes wrong is when such strategies are employed to get people to follow our purposes for their lives and resources, rather than encouraging them to consider what God’s desires for them related to their participation in His work.
Third, as the process was ultimately about “closing” gifts, I found that it led me to become a slave to the wrong master, mammon. This path was (wrongly!) rooted in the idea that money is the driving force for ministry! Money does not make ministry happen, God does! So, I mapped a different course and offer it to you freely. It has five P’s.
Start with the giver and not the gift. Get to know people. Find out more than what they do for a living. Learn who they are as a brother or sister made in the image of God. Why start here? It frees us from going down the path of loving money and using people to accomplish our purposes. So get out there and love people!
Find out what facet of God’s work interests them. If their God-given desires match the ministry you serve then encourage their participation. If their passions are elsewhere, then help point them to other ministry settings. Remember, since God is our Provider, there is no competition in the Kingdom!
Next, seek permission to share about God’s work at the place where you serve. This is the opposite of trying to control the process of engaging them. It’s about inviting them to explore how their interests may or may not intersect with what you are doing.
Inviting people to participate with God in His work is rooted in texts like 2 Corinthians 12:14a, where Paul says: “What I want is not your possessions but you!” He says this because God has no deficiency! He does not need our money. We are the ones needing the transformation that comes through participation in His work.
Our role is not to try to close people. We want to do the opposite. By instructing people to pray about their participation in God’s work, we are asking them to be open to how God might have them deploy the gifts and goods that He has entrusted to them as stewards in a way that brings them joy and gives Him all the glory!
Why follow this kingdom path perspective?
This path keeps God in the rightful place as Provider. It does not manipulate people. It ensures that we maintain a posture of dependence upon God rather than slavery to mammon. And, it results in major gifts prompted by God’s work in hearts.
-- Gary G. Hoag, Ph. D.
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