If we fundraise without faith, we’re just like any other non-profit organization. Not that being a traditional non-profit is a bad thing, but I think faith-based non-profits and ministries have an advantage: faith in things unseen.
Do those four words ring a bell? Depending on what translation of the Bible you are fond of, it rings true of Hebrews 11:1. The Bible is full of inspirational scripture that can help ground you in your “why” of fundraising, as well as in your “how.”
I often refer to three cornerstone scriptures when I talk about building a theological foundation for capacity building through fundraising: Hebrews 11, John 21, and James 2. After all, fundraising can and should be used as a rallying cry to build something bigger (not necessarily just sustain what exists) and God has been calling the world to build things since the beginning of time.
Looking for further reading? I highly recommend The Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen – a great group read to wrap your head around connecting faith to fundraising.
Hebrews 11 is a saying that is put on everything from posters to coffee mugs:
A really nice quote, if I do say so myself. Cherry-picking affirmations like this can really help you remember to keep marching on. That’s a good place to start, but the chapter continues and weaves a rich narrative of Biblical leaders who gave everything to build the kin-dom of God: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab… the list goes on.
Hebrews 11 can seem pretty dark as a scripture when it talks about so many peoples’ struggles and deaths marching towards a vision that God provided. It’s what my husband would call a “valley sermon,” where you see the darkness but are thrust into the light (God often does that, it seems!). Verse 39 and 40, the verses that close the chapter, share a beacon of hope:
Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.
In other words, the people who believed enough in the unseen to give their all were not given what was promised… they were given something better.
This is one of foundational scriptures because it reminds me that capacity building, kin-dom building, is a struggle. Everyday you might feel like you’re mired in the politics of ministry, or in the muck of bureaucracy. But as you build your team, and as you push through, you will arrive at something better than you could have imagined. God is in the muck. God is in the promise. Keep moving forward, and trust in what you cannot see (but believe in with all your heart).
John 21: 1-14
I can’t claim originality for my use of this passage in my understanding of fundraising. I learned about it when I was training to be a Field Coordinator for Imagine No Malaria through the United Methodist Church. But it’s scripture that has stuck with me ever since and continues to inform my approach to fundraising and capacity building, even now.
Here’s the full scripture (NRSV) if you’d like to read along, but I’ll happily give you a synopsis to save some space in this post:
Looking for a Bible? Here’s what I use; it’s thicker because it has so many study aids inside: The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version
The disciples decide to go fishing in the Sea of Tiberias. They get into the boat, do their thing, and catch nothing. Jesus appears on the beach just after daybreak (the disciples don’t know it’s him) and calls out to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” Jesus suggests that they cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and they catch a literal boat-load of fish. Jesus is finally recognized, and the disciples go ashore. Then, the group has a hearty breakfast of fish and bread with Jesus.
How often do we spin our wheels fishing on the same side of the boat? Asking the same people to give or to volunteer, in the same way, for the same programs? Aren’t you getting tired of the same old thing? Maybe it’s time to fish on the other side of the boat.
Fishing on the other side of the boat means being brave and connecting with new people.
Fishing on the other side of the boat means being brave and trying new fundraising methods.
This is all about shifting from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance. Fish differently – there’s so much more on the other side of the boat!
You’ll be surprised at the results. Whether it’s new volunteers, leaders, or funding streams. Whether it’s deciding to get involved with something like our Mission Market, or conceiving of entirely new programs to engage the community, think big.
James 2: 14-26
James 2:14-26 includes one of my all-time favorite verses: So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (NRSV)
Faith without works is dead. I read a book when I was a youth called Night of the Living Dead Christian: One Man’s Ferociously Funny Quest to Discover What It Means to Be Truly Transformed that was a hilarious satire about zombies sitting in pews, wearing makeup. That’s what it feels like sometimes, isn’t it? Congregations that sit in the pews, listen on Sunday, and go their merry way but don’t actually do anything in the world. I can’t possibly reconcile that kind of lifestyle as one of faith.
Now this verse gets theologically tricky, so I’m not going to venture into the “are you saved by faith alone” conversation. For me, it’s about the fact that if you truly believe in the Gospel, you’re likely going to be compelled to do something to help make the world a better place.
I’m all about movement and action. Could be the ADHD, to be honest, but I feel really burdened by meetings that “spend hours to take minutes” (my Dad taught me that line) without taking action. I’m all for processing and praying about what we’re going to do next to make sure that our actions don’t cause harm, but at the end of the day I want to go out and do things!
I am called to proactively bring the kin-dom of Heaven to Earth. To improve every place I inhabit. To work with new people, learn new things, and try to build programs wherever they might be needed. That’s why I’m here at Affirm Fundraising, and I’d bet that’s part of why you’re called to ministry (whether ordained or laity).
So let’s keep these three pieces of Scripture in mind when beginning a fundraising and capacity building journey! Have faith in things unseen, fish on the other side of the boat, and get to action! Onward in faith, friends.
Do you have any guiding scriptures that you use when you’re embarking on a new program? Share them below – the more, the merrier!
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