Creative Leadership

What I Love and Hate About Financial Donors

A few years ago, Kathleen and I were teaching at a media conference in Madrid, Spain. During the trip we visited the legendary Prado Museum in downtown Madrid. Walking through the galleries we stumbled upon a remarkable painting from 1640 called “The Crucified Christ with a Donor,” by Francisco de Zurbarán. It was such a glaring and humorous example of how financial donors have been so great and also so terrible for artistic, nonprofit, and humanitarian work over the centuries.

While some donors simply want to help make an impact, countless others are more focused on what’s in it for them. They want a building named after them, special events to honor their giving, and in perhaps this – the greatest and most outrageous of all – to actually be painted into a crucifixion scene with Christ himself.

Kathleen and I stood there in the gallery laughing at the audacity of this donor – and only later realized that there are other similar paintings done by Bosch, El Greco and probably others as well.

Please give to worthy causes. But whatever you do, don’t let your ego get in the way of the wonderful good your donation can accomplish.

I’d love to hear if you’ve experienced any outrageous requests (or strings) from potential donors….

Related Articles


  1. We have plaques on the wall at church indicating who donated the money for the carpeting. What it doesn’t say is that that was 3 carpetings ago.

  2. Fine line sometime though Phil. Perhaps the motivation of the donor should be what matters? 
    For example I think that the recipient wanting to give credit to a donor publically could be viewed as acceptable and tasteful PR. 

    What I find more interesting is what your example says about the non-profit who receives the donation and what they value. Were you more upset at the donor or the non-profit who displayed it?

  3. That is hilarious. At a non-profit I worked at for a number of years we sometimes received donations in (unofficial) exchange for media internships for the donor’s kids. Sometimes it worked out well, sometimes not so much.

  4. This reminds me of a funny, true story about a plaque at a big church in Ohio. At the time I was working with a Christian music group and we were part of a weekend conference at what today would be considered a megachurch. They were all very proud of their new facility and it was, indeed, very nice. But they were all just a little too into it. We met with the pastor and some of the honchos in a big conference room downstairs before the first service to pray. On the walls around the room hung several large paintings of men that the church had sent out over the years to serve as missionaries in Africa, South America, the Far East, etc.
    As we began to pray, our baritone singer noticed a painting on the far wall of a young black child in tattered clothes with large, plaintive eyes and a distended stomach. There was a large plaque next to it but it was too far away to read. Bill whispered to our sound man Tom, “Who’s that?” Without missing a beat Tom leaned close to Bill’s ear and said, “That’s the award for the kid who ate the most missionaries.”
    We lost it. The concert went well but we were never (surprise, surprise) invited back.

Leave a Reply

Back to top button
IS IT TIME TO CHANGE YOUR MINISTRY OR NONPROFIT’S NAME? Enter your email and get the free download “7 Signs It May Be Time to Change Your Name” now!
Thanks for signing up. Please check your email for a download link.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker