Fundraising 101: Lead By Example

Often when I am meeting with a church’s leadership for the first time to discuss a fund-raising campaign I am asked the following questions, “Our congregation has not been able to meet the budget for several years now. If we could get our members to give more, we could meet our budget. How can we get them to give more?” or “We really need our members to give much more generously if we are to raise the funds that are necessary to renovate our facilities. How can we persuade them to give more?” I am always alerted when I hear the word “them” because it means that the church leaders don’t see themselves as part of the problem. The questions are usually asked with a tone that suggests that if those other members would do their part the congregation could reach its fund-raising goal.

In reality a congregation or non-profit organization will not dramatically increase its giving unless its leadership is willing to lead by example, by increasing its own giving. If those who are in leadership do not give generously in proportion to their blessings, there is no example of sacrificial giving, and the general membership will reflect the level of commitment of the leaders. We really can’t ask others to do something that we are not willing to do ourselves. But often Church or Board leaders seem to mentally set themselves apart from the rest of the congregation or organization, and feel that it’s the “others” who are not doing their part. “If we could get them to take their responsibility and to do their part, we could reach our goal.” This kind of thinking reflects an attitude that giving is a duty, and if the members would give dutifully their organization would reach its goal.

But the fact is that “dutiful giving” is seldom “cheerful giving” and consequently it is not generous giving. In these times we have many options about where to spend our money or to give our money. The church no longer has the corner on the market for members to feel obliged to give dutifully. In these times, members generally do not respond because they are told to give, or are pressured to give more. If individuals give because they want to, rather than because they are pressured to give, they always give more, and often they will give wholeheartedly, joyfully, and generously, sometimes much more than they have ever given before.

So how do you get members to give more wholeheartedly, if you don’t want to try to persuade them or pressure them to give dutifully? A faith-raising perspective generates a straightforward answer. If we want to get our congregations or non-profit organizations to give up to their potential, we must inspire the members to be more generous. Remember that the word in-spire means to be filled with the spirit. It means that we are inspired by what God is doing through us, rather than taking credit for what we are doing. When leaders lead by example and exhibit joy in generosity, it is inspiring and it can be contagious. Others will pick up our spirit and will be inspired to give more generously.

How do leaders overcome their own fears about dramatically increasing their own giving, so that they can lead by example? The first step is to put our faith in God’s abundant providing in front of our fear, and step out with courage. Change how we think about and relate to giving. Start out by deciding to give first, as a pacesetter. In other words think in terms of “first fruits,” and make a commitment to decide how much you are going to give. Then budget accordingly. Many people give from what they have left over after all the things they spend on, which is often token giving. When we buy a new car or home, we find ways to make those monthly payments. Giving works the same way. When we change our habits, by giving first as a your top priority, we discover that God provides abundantly of everything we really need.

The second thing we can do if we want to overcome fears about giving is to surround ourselves with generous people. If our friends and associates are not generous it will be hard for us to maintain a generous spirit. Find ways to interact with those who are most generous in your church or community. Ask them how they think about giving, how they have the faith to step out with courage, and how they manage to give both sacrificially and generously. They often will tell us that generosity provides great benefits to the giver, and that it is a privilege to give, to be able to make a significant difference in the world.

Lastly, make it a habit to give generously every month. The more regularly we give, the more comfortable we are with generosity, the more we will find that giving does indeed bless the giver. We experience the joy and satisfaction that comes when we are regularly making a lasting, important improvement in the lives of others.

When church leaders or organizational leaders are inspired to give more generously than ever before, because they see that their giving can make an important difference in the world and help more people, they are inspired to give more and they often express that inspiration with enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm can be contagious. So rather than trying to push or persuade or pressure members to give more, focus on inspiring them to give more by leading by example. Before focusing on what others ought to do, think first about how much more we can give if we truly give in proportion to our gifts.

When church or organizational leaders decide to dramatically increase their giving in proportion to their blessings, others are inspired to do likewise. In fact this is the most powerful way to motivate others to increase their giving, by first leading by example, putting first things first, giving joyfully and generously in true proportion to our blessings. When members know that their leaders have stepped up to the challenge of greatly increased giving, invariably the congregation or organization will follow the example of that inspired giving. When congregations or organizations get in touch with cheerful giving, rather than dutiful giving, they will indeed find the wonderful “Joy of Generosity.”

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