Make a Gift of the Irreplaceable

She was a girl to catch everyone’s attention.

Her blonde hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail. And her blue eyes shimmered with youth. The pink dress fit smartly and matched perfectly with her still pinker shoes.

She slipped her hand into her man’s hand and skipped playfully out the door with her thumb stuck in her mouth. I suspected she was not much more than three years old.

Her grandfather seemed kind. Their conversation was that of only a three year old and one of grandfather age: easy, comfortable and simple. It seemed to me that they were on a McDonald’s date. I know nothing of their story—only what I observed of them from my perch. It was cute.

Most of all, it made me think. I never knew my grandfather on either side of my family. On my mom’s side, he’d passed away in another country long before I would have met him. And on my father’s side, it was alcohol and the miles that kept us separated.

And it occurred to me, what a great gift this little girl with the pink dress possessed: time with her grandfather. How often I need to be reminded in my own life, with my spouse, with my children, to give this gift. It’s the gift of time, and it is irreplaceable.

William High is the President of the Servant Foundation (www.servantchristian.com). Servant’s mission is to inspire, teach and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity. He may be reached at whigh@servantchristian.com.

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Giving Gone Wrong

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.

The World’s Richest Man

Someone forwarded me a link the other day on the world’s second richest man. It was a story about Warren Buffett and was a wonderful story of the way he lives—with simplicity.

But the article got me thinking about who truly is the world’s richest man? And as I stopped to ponder the candidates, it occurred to me immediately that riches could not be measured in monetary terms. Indeed, how many of the world’s wealthy have faded from the world scene just as a summer storm. For instance, many of our kids today would not even know the name Andrew Carnegie.

A man’s wealth has to be measured more than in a bank account. So should it be progeny? Consider Father Abraham—he was blessed to be the father of many nations. By his seed, we have been blessed with life. But surely, it cannot be the number of children one spawns. That route could take us into all kinds of mindless welfare routes.

True riches—what does it equal? The answer I hope is all too obvious—lives transformed. Who was, and is the greatest transforming agent of all time? Jesus. No other person can claim the impact on this world. Cities, nations and cultures have been influenced by his life. Countless millions have confronted his claims and submitted to his simple claims.

If the Purple Heart award were given in the spiritual sense then Jesus would have an entire bank of them. The richest man in the world has to measured by all the millions and millions of lives that he touched.

This all makes me wonder just a bit how my riches will be measured someday.

William High is the President of the Servant Foundation (www.servantchristian.com). Servant’s mission is to inspire, teach and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity. He may be reached at whigh@servantchristian.com.

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Why We Don’t Give More

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?

Sometimes They Want Their Money Back

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.

Women Give More than Men: What are you doing about it?

Does your nonprofit have a distinct strategy for reaching female donors? Maybe it should. A study of giving by household shows that across income levels women are more likely to give and give more than men. The study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University looked at giving by men and women across income levels and marriage status—never married, divorced, and widowed.

In all groups other than widow/widower, women were more likely to give than men. The group that gave the least to charity: men who have never been married. Widowed men were most likely to give (71% made some charitable contribution v. widowed females at 67%).

What does this mean for your nonprofit? It might well be worth finding ways to specifically reach out to women. Personally, I’d suggest it’s not enough to put a flower on your next mailer. Rather, figure out what is important to your female constituents and put those messages in your donor communications. Are you doing this already? What’s working and not working?

Better Together?

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.