It was late on a sunny afternoon, and we had just come back from an afternoon snack break. Our group had been drilling down on the emotions of fundraising around the dining room table of our host. We could hear kitchen noises as he sliced up vegetables for supper and put them in a steaming pot. It had been a good day of sharing genuine concerns and fears about fundraising. We had come a long way that day.
Then silence for a few seconds.
Hesitatingly, someone asked:
Will face-to-face fundraising appeals harm my relationships with my friends and acquaintances?
More silence, nervous silence now.
The participants continued sipping coffee with tons of cream to dilute the coffee flavor (my opinion). One person squeamishly admitted that he had experienced a relationship-cool-down after giving a funding invitation to a friend. Others nodded, but only one said she had had a similar experience. Finally, we concluded that face-to-face fund appeals do have the potential to harm relationships.
But then someone piped up and said that ministry in general has the same potential. For example, we risk our relationships when we:
- Invite someone to receive Christ
- Challenge another to put Christ first in discipleship
- Exhort to follow the bible’s guidelines for marriage
Furthermore, I suggested that sometimes it is a “donor problem.” With some of our friends, money is a topic they do not want to think about. Even though you are sensitive, they interpret your appeal as pushy. That is not your problem. And even those “negative appointments” build the Kingdom because God is at work in the lives of those who seem standoffish about money.
Nevertheless, our dining room group recognized that when we invite others to participate in giving, we stand to gain financially from their “stewardship decision.” That is different from challenging someone to discipleship and underscores why we must be “up front” and not manipulative.
So we left the discussion and dismissed to a great supper together. But my mind was unsettled about the “losing your friends” question.
The next day, driving home this thought popped into my head: Is it possible that fundraising will enhance my friendships? For example:
- Did Elijah have a better friendship with the widow after the appeal or before?
- Did Nehemiah lose his friendship with Artaxerxes after the appeal? Or was it even better?
- Did the Twelve have better friendships with their “worthy men” hosts after their appeal for hospitality?
Elijah had zero relationship with his “donor” before his appeal. And I can’t imagine that Artaxerxes or the worthy men “donors” would think less of Nehemiah or the Twelve! Those appeals strongly bonded giver and receiver!
After many years of face-to-face fundraising, I confess that I have more and deeper friendships because of making financial appeals than I would have if I did not need partners! Would I keep in touch with those on my mailing list if I did not need financial and prayer partnership? Absolutely not! Am I doing it just for the money? Absolutely not! Giving and receiving money is part of ministry and that is okay.
Yes, we must not be pushy in funding! But sensitive, biblical fundraising is a risk worth taking. It not only builds the Kingdom but it gives us more and deeper friendships!