Creative Leadership

Ministry and Non-Profit Fundraising is Undergoing a Dramatic Change

This issue is true both with secular non-profits and religious organizations.  For the last generation, when people donated money they wanted to be noticed.  That’s why your local medical center, library, or university dorm is named after somebody.  How many churches – and religious radio and TV stations have a giant painted tree in the lobby with donor names on the leaves?  Or maybe your entrance has those names carved into bricks.

The last generation of givers needed something in return.  Is that why “seed faith” was invented?  Good question.  Having people realize they could get blessed with a miracle made it more easy to give.  Sure there is a Biblical basis for givers being blessed, but we should really be giving because it’s the right thing to do and God commands us to do it.

Now a new generation agrees.  We have yet to get accurate information, but early on, I’m finding that givers today don’t necessarily need to have their name engraved on a brick, or get a trinket in return.  Hopefully, that means the avalanche of “Jesus Junk” will decline.

Has the change already happened?  No.  The vast majority of ministry and non-profit supporters are still the older generation and they need to be communicated with on their terms.  But the winds of change are blowing, and we’re already seeing the impact.  That’s why if you’re putting all your eggs in the basket of traditional givers, you’re about to be caught with your pants down.  If you’re in this for the long haul, you need to start thinking now about how to reach the next generation of potential givers.

Don’t get me wrong – teaching the next generation to give to important causes will be tough.  This will be a difficult transition between generations, and some ministries will close their doors in the process – especially those who aren’t paying attention to the changes.  But hopefully, it also means this new generation will learn that it’s about others, not about them.

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  1. Great post Phil. I think the biggest challenge is defining what that "overlap" looks like. How do organizations connect with *both* the older demo (those who write checks and mail them consistently. also those who respond well to direct mail = 1996) and those who want to belong to a community, be a part of a movement and who give irregularly on sites like Facebook or use PayPal when they "feel like it."

    This of course has a huge impact on the types of events that get put together. For example, the traditional fundraising dinner with the nice filet, silent auction and entertainment from Sandy Patti (horrible example) is being redefined by a younger generation with money that wants to connect on the ground level (ie: see it, touch it, feel it, smell it, experience it).

    I've talked to several NPO's about this and it really comes down to creating an event where four times as many people come, give three times as much money as usual and it costs the organization a fraction of the cost to put it on. Lose the dinner & wait staff, lose the silent auction, massive tent or venue, lose the "entertainment" and let guests get their hands dirty. Invisible Children, Union Rescue Mission, charity : water and others are doing this quite well while keeping both demos engaged and satisfied (and they're raising more money than ever!)

    It'll be interesting to see what organizations do to better connect with both demographics while being sensitive to the economy, the environment, the older & younger generations, the governments, the grants, the donors and partners, etc…

    I think the new generation wants (read: demands) authenticity and real-time results. 


  2. My wife and I love to be blessed enough to be able to give, and I don't think either of us feels the need (much more, the requirement) to receive any recognition for it. God has seen fit to bless us and we are happy to give back monetarily, as well as with our time.

    In addition to this new generation of givers, we're also seeing people become more interested in community service. People are beginning to see that Christians aren't just self-righteous snobs, but individuals who care about their community, saved or not. I think that the same momentum behind giving carries over to how people respond to the call to serving their community.

    Just as church worship bands have had to learn how to please the hymn-lovers and the contemporary worship crowd, NPOs must learn to communicate effectively to the old and new generations of givers. 

  3. Teaching the next generation to give to important causes involves not losing the culture war, training our children to understand and defend the faith, and most importantly, teaching them how to share the truth with their friends. If we continue to lose 75% of our own Christian youth to secularism during their college years, every ministry will suffer. Jesus commanded us to go into all the world with the Good News. His goal was the dissemination of the Gospel message, not its stagnation, and especially not its decline.

    Blessings for a Christ-centered New Year,

    RC Metcalf ( 

  4. Hey Phil,

    Great post! I totally agree that the winds of change are coming in how ministries and non-profits receive support. My business supports both a Christian radio and television station on a monthly bases. I really don't care about the little toys they give you. I do it because I want my business to be a blessing to others.

    Recently, I was hired to work on a "Sharathon" for a local Christian Television station. First let me say the station is awesome! They are reaching people for Jesus. One thing that bothered me though is the CEO of the station kept saying on the air that, "God gave Christian television only one way to raise support, and that was through a telethon, (Share-a-thon)." By the end of the 4 day, 12 hours per day telethon they fell very far from their goal.

    They have amazing facilities and a staff that is ran by people in their twenties and their main target audience is 60+. Tell me if I wrong, but isn't that base eventual going to die off and if they spend no time trying to reach younger people, (ie. twenty somethings) won't the station go as well?

    I can't believe that the only way to raise funds is by the continual tapping of an already giving base. Why don't these stations partner with churches and business? And instead of asking for a simple hand out, why not untilize the station to the church as, dare I say it, a marketing tool? In exchange of continual monthly support give that church or business access to it producers and video equipment to create media material for the church or business. Help them start a television ministry, or if they already have a television ministry help them produce their show even better. They could offer commercials for business, promotional videos, the ideas seem endless.

    I think churches would be more on board to partner with Christian television if it took that approach. Give them something for their dedication monthly support. Given the present economy, I'm sure churches are receiving a lot of call for help with food and money. Along with that, I'm sure business are looking to market themselves and save money doing it.

    These are just some thoughts, what do you all think? Should I approach this station and speak with them about these ideas.

    Check out the blog!

  5. I believe there are 2 kinds of givers. One group that gives regardless of the gack offered but they simply get giving and they will give because there is a need they feel connected to. The other group is moved to give through emotional appeal and they usually expect to get something in return. I see the shift beginning to happen but this second group is huge and is going to be a big ship to turn.

  6. Doug – I think I know the station you're talking about, because years ago, I got that lecture too.  There are some TV station owners and managers who actually feel that God gave us telethons in order to pay for Christian TV.  I can't seem to find the scriptural support for that one…  It's one of the great questions about this type of limited thinking – why can't we utilize an avenue like this, but also be exploring other possilibities.  In my new book that I'll be announcing soon, I discuss this very issue at length and talk about how it's not about "age" – it's about how different generations communicate.  You should get the book for your station manager.  I'll announce it on this blog within a couple of weeks.

  7. Hey Phil,

    I’ll be getting your next book too! Thank for the feed back. When are you going to do a new podcast. Out of all the pod cast I find the Reach Conference meetings the best.

    Thanks again!

  8. A consultant once said to me "you have to bring in the younger crowd or face certain death in ministry. Your old folks will die off". Then one day I found myself looking at a video tape of a service in our church from 1970. To my surprise there was as much gray hair in the audience in 1970 as there is today. I then realized that just like the auto industry one car does not fit all. There are jettas and caddy's and lexus, only we have 38,000 denominations in our showrooms of America. When in comes to religion certainly one size does not fit all.

    The key questions then become how is your ministry positioned? Are you doing things that excite the base you are trying to reach? Some reach the young well, but soon learn that what excited them at 20 is now driving them to the door at 40 as the 40 year old's taste has changed in what they want in ministry. For Ministries whose base is made up of 50+, if that's your sweet spot, the key will be to find what will excite today's 40 year old when he or she turns 60. I'm 43 and I'm hard pressed to tell you what will excite me 20 years from now. But one thing does hold true, those past 50 will always have much more capacity to give. The kids are gone, expenses down, and if they've had any success professionally they have a nest egg that will go to family and charity.  

  9. Additionally there are a few other characteristics about younger generations that non-profits needs to consider:

    1.  They don't care much about personal recognition, but they care a whole lot about how their dollars are being used.  Ministry transparency will be very key in the years ahead.  Older generations give to people-centered ministries because they inherently trust the key person.  Younger generations don't have that level of trust – in fact they often are wary of "celebrity" religious figures.  Younger generations want to see how their dollars are impacting people under the mission of the ministry.

    2.  Younger generations want a personal connection.  No one has yet figured out how to properly raise funds using social networking – but that may not be the point.  Social networking may be a necessary tool for non-profits to help people connect relationally with key people inside a ministry but may not have a direct impact on immediate giving.  That's because younger generations want to see, feel, hear, or touch a real person before commiting dollars to it.  It is very likely non-profits are going to need to spend a lot more time on the road and sitting down with donors than they have in the past – and not just major donors.

     3.  Non-profits needs to look at ministry and fundraising wholistically.  TV, mail, donor reps, etc. in isolation don't work well with different generations.  The term "multi-channel integration" is overused but is still the most effective way to communicate.  It make sense – I watch TV, talk on the phone, use social networking, text message my friends, meet for breakfast, and play PS3 with strangers from Japan.  I communicate with others in many different ways.  Organizations will have to adapt to do the same. 

  10. My take on the future is simply look at how our next president made it to office. He created a buzz among the masses. People wanted to be a part of it from creating artwork to adding icons on Facebook and of course giving money. All they wanted was the promise of results (which we will soon see how that goes). So I agree with many of the above statements, people want a sense of belonging to something bigger than them, but at the same time know that their involvement makes a difference. Obama's campaign did a lot of market research that we all can learn (steal) from.

  11. One thing I would like to add is, is there anybody commenting here that are Christian Television station CEO’s or Managers?

    Because we can spout off all we want on what we think would fix the problem, but until you’ve been in the shoes of that station manager/CEO trying to raise funds, we just don’t know. I’m sure in private times they’ve cried out to God for help and had some sleepless nights wondering how it was all going to come together, how they were gonna support their family (i.e. “Our first ministry”) I would love to get a view point of someone who is actually running a Christian Television station right now and get there thoughts so we as Christian Producers can help, instead of just talk.

    Doug Dibert, Jr.

    “Check out the blog”

    “Check out the website”

  12. Having lived in both the UK and USA I was always interested in the differences between the two countries on charitable giving. In the USA you get a 'tax deductible receipt' to claim money off the tax bill of the donor. In the UK you sign a paper to enable the recipient charity to claim back the tax.

    Just recently I sat through a talk on a Sunday morning where the speaker radically misquoted scriptures about tithing making God out to be almost an ogre demanding back what He had given us, crying 'Thief!' if we get it wrong. Yes, God crying 'Thief!' at us were the actual words of the speaker.

    I work in a non-profit sharing God's love with Muslims in the Middle East. We are totally dependent, both as a family and as a ministry, on other followers of the Messiah giving money to let us reach out to Muslims. But I cannot feel it right when the motivation for the giving is wrong. It would be easy to 'pull on the heart strings' – especially when we see images of Palestinian children killed in an attack against a school – but God doesn't call us to give in that way out of guilt.

    My hope and prayer is that that changing generation will also be a change in attitude to giving. I long for a time when having your name on a plaque is not the motivation for giving generously. I long for a time when those who do not know the love of God come to know him through our generosity, outflowing and mirroring His generosity to us.

  13. Through the years leaders have told me that if I do this then God will do that. That is what the law does. It tells me to do this and do that and do this and that again. I must obey God in order to be blessed for instance. Yet at the same time we have also been taught that the law has been passed away and I am living under a “new and better covenant”. So, which is it? Do I do a work to move the hand of God in my favor or do I just trust He loves me and will help me no matter what?

    Paul in Romans 5 told me I have been made the righteousness of God in Christ. It is a gift, not a work. (Ephesians 2). In God's eyes I am perfect and just like John, I have discovered that I too, am the disciple that God loves. He loves me. His love for me has absolutely nothing to do with my obedience or “tithe” or “seed” or being nice or anything. If it did His love for me is all tied to works.

    The whole of the Pauline revelation is about grace and truth. Grace requires total trust in God's word (truth) and understanding God loves us and has MADE us righteous no matter what we have done or will do. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

    What does this have to do with this blog? Everything!

    Its been said 20% of the body of Christ gives 80% of the money to support the ministry. Sunday after Sunday pastors around will tell their members to tithe but after all these years the statistic remains unchanged. Why doesn't this teaching and soliciting of the tithe from the pulpit not caused more of the church to adhere to giving the tithe? It is because tithing is “the law”. The law is week, but His grace is sufficient for us.

    How can this change?

    Are you ready for a MAJOR doctrinal pillar to fall concerning the tithe? Most likely not, but here it goes anyway. We have been taught by our pastors to continue the law God gave to Israel concerning tithing. We have been taught to give 10% of our income to the church. I have a question I want to put to the pastors of our churches. Do you pastors give 10% of the 10% you receive from your members to your worship team? Good chances you don't. If you are going to live by the law of tithing you better take it to the full extend of the law given Israel concerning tithing. You'll have to give your “Levites” (worshipers: worship team members) 10% of the 10% …and you'll have to take the rest of the steps into the law as well. In following any of the law we are obligated to follow all the law. That means if anyone doesn't tithe they are under the curse of the law since they have broken the law. Maybe thats why we struggle in our lives so much. What am I getting at here? There is a new and better way than thinking. Our minds have to be renewed and baptized into “grace and truth”. Grace is the perfect law of liberty. Now I am free from the limitations of tithing.

    The first problem in the law of tithing principle is the church is told to follow the law. So, they are now under “the law of sin and death” and no longer in “grace and truth”.

    The next problem is that tithing limits the magnitude of giving in the church. You see, once I've given my tithe, as far as I'm concerned, I've met the 10% tithe obligation so I'm done giving until my next paycheck.

    Ah, but under grace, I am no longer limited to 10%. The limit has been lifted. I will give as much as I have in my heart to give. I will give and give and give because God first loved me, gave me His love and righteousness so now my heart is His. My money will go where my heart goes. If my heart is with the church or a ministry or the poor or all of these, I will heartily give where He leads me to give. He might tell me to give to my church then again He might tell me to give it to the people holding those signs on the exit ramps. I am now giving into the world and the church way more than when I followed the law of tithing the 10%. It has become about others and not about myself or the leader. Now I am beginning to live the abundant life!

    Why won't our leaders and pastors go with this? Its a scary thought to think members will stop giving to their church if they are no longer required to tithe. It might mean really trusting in God and not those eloquent sermons on tithing. In the end, I think we'll find out we'll give more if grace and truth is taught in giving.

    If we get the Pauline revelation on giving out of the gift of love God shed abroad in our hearts through receiving the abundance of grace, there will be no shortfalls in our lives or ministries. This understanding will change everything. This is the understanding the body of Christ is desperate for in the times now and the times ahead.

  14. OH MY GOD!!! Where have you been? I love what you are saying and this is very true. Just think what relief many who are Christians will come to realise that they do not and are not under any obligation to pay/give just 10% or a structured set amount but as the Lord leads and the individual’s heart relationship with the Lord. This will change everything – everything. And as I shared previously the way we church is done and how church is done has changed much more than we are willing to comprehend – and this is just one example. Thank you for sharing.

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