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The Truth about Ministry Fundraising – Part II

My last post about fundraising started an interesting conversation – especially from some who sent me direct e-mails rather than publicly post how they felt about the article. While I haven’t found anyone who disagrees with my points – some were upset that a truthful article like this would hurt all ministries. Much like the Swaggart and Bakker scandals years ago, many feel that when any perceived “negative” news happens about specific ministries, all suffer.

But if that’s the case with my fundraising comments, then it proves my thesis – that far too many people are ignorant of how fundraising works, and give on impulse, rather than an informed decision. As I said twice before, I’m not against fundraising at all – when it’s done with integrity. And the truth is, there’s manipulation in everything – even this blog. The way I design the page, write the articles, promote it when I speak, set up the page, and more are all to influence people to read it. Even the best sermons at church manipulate at some level – a good pastor is concerned about the sound quality, the layout of the sanctuary, the order of service, lighting, sermon structure, and much more.

So number one – get over the “manipulation” thing. My point is that we need to be informed. Remember when the Wizard of Oz was exposed? “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Today, too many ministries are keeping the public away by setting up a wall of secrecy. I’ve had clients over the years that had rules not to take any pictures of their private jet, or the funding would drop off. But the fact is, if the ministry leader could present a good case for having a jet, not only would the money not drop off, it would probably increase. The key is the ability to make a good case.

What do you think? Should we stop a conversation about ministry fundraising because we’re afraid it will hurt non-profits? My take is that if we tell the truth about any aspect of ministry – and it causes a ministry to get into trouble – then maybe the trouble is deserved. Maybe it’s a ministry that needs to take a hard look at it’s mission, it’s fundraising, and it’s purpose.

Am I being too critical here?

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  1. Phil, I agree that these practices should be exposed and the public made aware of fundraising methodology. Christians should never be afraid of the truth!

    Ephesians 5:11-13 says, “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, rebuke and expose them.It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But when the light shines on them, it becomes clear how evil these things are.” (NLT)

    The “Manipulation” Thing

    I know you want me to get over the “manipulation” thing, but I think there is a difference between effective communication and manipulation. Effective communication is compelling, well-presented, and audience specific, but it is also truthful and direct.

    Manipulation, as defined by the dictionary:
    1. exerting shrewd or devious influence especially for one’s own advantage;
    2. to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner .

    Do you know anyone who likes being “manipulated”?
    No, because the term has negative connotations. If by “manipulation” you mean only to “influence skillfully”, then by all means manipulate! But as Christians, all communication should be truthful and transparent. I don’t think God needs us to trick people into giving money.

    Can you imagine God telling a fundraiser at the gates of heaven, “You tricked, lied, and guilt-tripped my people into giving, but at the end of the day you brought in the most money, so don’t worry about it!” That would be ridiculous. Integrity is far more important to our God than the amount of money in the bank.

  2. Good point on the influence / manipulate thing. There's a gray area here for sure, since to influence, means to guide, control, or "manipulate" their thinking toward your view.  But I'm happy to go with "influence"!

  3. You know what would put ministry fund raisers out of a job?

    If even 50% of all born again Christians tithed.  Then the poor would be fed, the awesome programs to evangelize the masses would be funded, the church would have the tools it needs to reach the world.

    I am finding myself doing more work in other areas of ministry.  Raising money is tiring, thankless work.  If you are very successful for your clients, it looks easy (so they don't need you); if you are not successful, well then they really don't need you.

    Today's Christian in America is soft.  We don't want to change our personal lifestyle to fund the work of the Lord.  We want Christian TV, church and everything else our way — hold the mustard, add the bass drum.

    What matters most to us — is us.  Don't make me feel guilty for not doing more or I won't open your letters (let's get real, we all open our mail over the trash, right?  95% of all mail — and no doubt a higher percent of ministry mail –never gets opened.)

    But when you go our in the field, and you visit the orphange that Joyce Meyer build in some remote village in India; or walk into the heart of the largest slum in Kenya with Larry Jones, you come away with this burden to show people what you saw, so they feel what you felt, and move them to do what they need to do to help.

    So I raise money for ministry.  I use the database to figure out how to best to present that need to you at the other end of the mailbox.

    Don't like it?  The trash can is right there.  It will not hurt my feelings.

    How you deal with Matt 25 and the Great Commission is your own business.

    Mary Hutchinson

  4. I just want to point out there is world of difference between doing things right and manupilation. manupilation is getting someone to do something they would not do should they really know the truth. No message being ministered should include this. The Bible is clear “in truth and power”. The Bible is full of examples of people trying manupilation to further their cause with detrimental results.

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