Wisdom Wednesdays: Fundraising as Ministry

by Heather McGinness, CNM, CFRE

Why are you here?  What’s your purpose?  Do you feel you have a calling?  Can fundraising be considered a calling or a vocation?

Lutherans take an inclusive view of vocation.  The traditional view of vocation was that there were four main “offices:” priesthood, religious, married and single.  Lutherans, however, believe in the priesthood of all believers, that we don’t need to be in an ordained or vowed religious role to serve God.  Luther talked about the many “masks of God,” and felt that God was present in all activity.

“God who pours out his generosity on the just and the unjust, believer and unbeliever alike, hides himself in the ordinary social functions and stations of life, even the most humble. God himself is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid.” – Martin Luther

McGinness-Heater-2013FSo, if we take our lead from Luther, fundraising can certainly be a call.  Henri J. M. Nouwen takes it one step further.  He said, “Fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry.”  Ministry?  How so?

To best explain Nouwen’s assertion, I defer to my favorite googly-eyed, blue furry monster.  That’s right, Cookie Monster.  To understand fundraising as ministry, you need only remember Cookie Monster’s famous line, “C is for…” C is for cookie, C is for CFRE, but, in the context of Henri Nouwen, C is for three other things: communication, conversion and communion.

Communication: There are two parts to this C — proclamation and invitation.  As fundraisers, we are proclaiming the mission we’re serving with passion and enthusiasm and sharing a vision with our constituents.  Furthermore, we are inviting them to be part of that vision, inviting them to join with us in our mission and inviting them to invest the resources God has given in the work to which God has called us.

Conversion: Conversion means a change, that God is doing something new through the collaboration between our donors and us.  It might mean a shift in relationships with money, a conversion from viewing it as a resource to be acquired to seeing it as a gift to be shared or a move from transactions with our organizations to relationships within our mission.  There also may be a conversion in our own hearts, being converted from our fear or anxiety about asking and instead seeing that we belong together with our donors, brought together through Jesus Christ, to share a mission.

Communion: Fundraising as ministry calls people together in communion with God and with one another.  It is connecting hearts and hands so that, together, we are part of something bigger than ourselves.   It is about all of us — fundraisers, donors, implementing staff, beneficiaries — joining together to build up the Kingdom of God.

Pretty profound for a Muppet, right?

Fundraising is, indeed, a form of ministry, and it is our sacred gift to faithfully steward the gifts and relationships that are part of our work.  In doing so, we help transform our world into the place God envisioned for us, a world where love prevails over all.  May God bless you in your calling!

Heather McGinness, CFRE, was brought to you by the letter T and the number 9, and has a special place in her heart for googley-eyed, friendly monsters.  She is Associate Director of Philanthropic Engagement with Lutheran World Relief, and is based in Wickliffe, Ohio.  Learn more about LWR at www.lwr.org.

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