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We’ve all seen the Red Campaign to raise awareness and dollars for the fight against AIDS in Africa by giving a small portion of the profits of from sales of certain products (coffee, yogurt, t-shirts) to charity. (An example is below). But have you ever wondered if all that buying of cause-related products hurts donations to charities? The answer is yes, according to a study from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
“If two consumers have equal preference for a product, which is offered at the same price to both, but one of them buys this product as a cause-marketing product, her charitable giving will be lower than the other’s,” Ms. Krishna writes.
It was a reminder to me to see my purchase of Newmans’ Own products (the profits of which are donated to charity) as simply another purchase, rather than as a charitable gift. It’s also prompting me to ask myself what are the unintended consequences of other innovative fundraising initiatives?
There’s an old cliché that Silence is Golden. When my kids were young and I was a stay at home mom I would have followed that cliché with a resounding Amen! But as a giver I feel a little differently.
When I give it’s because I want to be a part of something – something bigger than myself. The reality is that I am not Rockefeller or Gates when it comes to the dollars I give. . . but my heart doesn’t know the difference. The dollars, limited as they may be, are expressions of my heart. I want to be a part of something. I want to make a difference. It is a journey that I am slowly growing in but I admit that I wonder if the organizations that I give to understand or care about that journey.
Being part of the Servant Foundation I get to be part of some pretty major gifts and as a Foundation representative I receive many notes of appreciation and encouragement. But the personal giving side looks much different. A note of thanks is a rarity. Sometimes there is literally no communication – form letter, receipt or otherwise. In this case, Silence is Deafening. Without communication I assume my giving doesn’t matter.
Earlier this week the silence ended. I received a hand-written, personal note from a ministry leader that made my heart leap for joy. The interesting thing is that this ministry is one I haven’t given to in several years. The note was a reflection of what our personal support (not just the giving but the words of encouragement, etc) meant to this leader. It served as a reminder that maybe the little guy can make a difference. The note caused me to revisit the ministry and re-engage my commitment to the cause. Guess who’s on the top of my giving list this year?
For someone who is a huge proponent of giving and actually even makes a living based on it – it probably seems a little weird that I would be writing about ‘giving gone wrong.’
We all have those ‘Golden Rules’ that we operate from. I’m not talking about the 10 Commandments – those are a given. But those personal rules we set in place for ourselves to make sure we don’t make a fool of ourselves. It’s funny when we break those rules it reminds us why we have those rules to begin with.
One of my Giving Golden Rules is not to give to desperation or in isolation.
As someone who meets with a lot of ministries, I’ve learned that I have to set boundaries. When I feel personally drawn to a ministry from a giving standpoint – I take the information home and share with my family. From there we pray over it and decide as a family if and/or how much we want to give from our family Giving Fund.
Earlier this year I broke that Golden Rule. I met with a ministry leader who shared the drastic desperation their ministry was in. Literally they were looking at not making payroll that week. After the meeting I went straight to my desk, logged in to our family Giving Fund and requested a grant be sent to the ministry.
As I reflect on it now I realize my motives were not what they should have been. I was in ‘hero mode’. I wanted to be the hero of the story the one who ‘saved the day’ with my gift. I didn’t pray about it. I didn’t share it with my family. I didn’t give because I greatly cared about the cause.
I don’t even know if my giving made a difference. I have not heard one word from the ministry. I am reminded that giving is not designed to make me the hero of the story but an opportunity for God to engage my heart in a cause. He wants my giving to be about my transformation, my spiritual growth and my dependency in Him.
A thankless person cannot be a generous giver. Pastors and nonprofit leaders have been wringing their hands that Evangelical Christians typically give only 2.5% of their income. Why? In part, because we do not believe that God loves us deeply, provides for our every need, and has given us an amazing gift of freedom from sin and a right relationship with Him.
Kids are honest; they have not learned the adult behavior of politely disguising unpleasant emotions. My three-year-old recently received a dollar bill in the mail from Grandma. He almost immediately cast it aside and only begrudgingly called Grandma to say thanks. He literally didn’t know the value of $1 because we hadn’t taught him that those dollars have buying power. (We’re now working on that).
Contrast that reaction with the scene when I brought home a box of chocolate for his valentine’s present. He shook with joy and couldn’t wait to offer one to me and one to his dad because he was so excited about his gift.
I have to ask myself: what does my giving—of time, talent, and treasure—say about how thankful I am to God? You?
An ESPN article shares the story of a major benefactor to the University of Connecticut who wants the school to return $3 million in donations and remove his family name from its football complex. The donor is upset that he was shut out of discussions about the selection of a new football coach.
I don’t know the full ins and outs of the story and relationships in this particular case but as I read the article I wondered if there is a lesson here for how we approach donor relations in Christian ministry.
The scenario the donor and university are facing in this story appears to reflect a more transactional relationship. I give this – you do that – scenario. The challenge now is the donor feels short-changed and demands a refund.
It begs the question, “Are we about transactions or transformation when it comes to givers?” Transactional versus transformational represents a major mindset adjustment when it comes to fundraising.
Transformational giving focuses on the transformation of the giver as well as the transformation in the ministry. God’s design for giving is such that we grow stronger in our dependence on Him. When we embrace and live out Biblical stewardship we become a greater reflection of Christ.
Want more on Transformational Giving? www.missionincrease.org.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently published an article, A Grant Maker Requires Grantees to Collaborate, that indicates a trend of how funders are thinking. The article shares how the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona has made big changes in its grant making in response to the recession. The fund now only grants to coalitions of groups that work together to solve important community problems, not individual organizations.
The grant maker sees several benefits in this new paradigm of grantmaking:
1) the collaborating groups can make sure they are not duplicating programs;
2) the groups can close the gaps in the services they offer;
3) collaboration allows each group to focus on its area of expertise
For these reasons, the grant maker believes that collaboration leads to better quality services. A spokesperson for the Tuscon community fund argues that “no one agency can meet any one person’s needs – and probably shouldn’t, when you start being everything to everybody, oftentimes you water down the quality of what you are providing.”
While this is a new idea from a grant making position the idea itself goes back much further. ICorinthians 12 reminds us that we all have a unique purpose but the real power comes when together we become the Body of Christ.