by Dan Schipp
Okay. Be honest. Do you see fundraising “as a necessary but unpleasant activity to support important causes”? Or do you see it as a form of ministry?
I suspect more people have the former view of fundraising than the latter. Unfortunately, fundraising is often seen as trying to get people to do what they really would rather not do – give up some of their hard-earned money.
Consider some of the negative expressions used to describe fundraising: “hitting up people,” “picking pockets,” and “twisting arms.” No wonder fundraising is seen as an unpleasant activity! No wonder some feel they have to apologize for fundraising no matter how important the cause for which they are seeking support!
Henri Nouwen saw fundraising differently. He viewed it as ministry.
Henri Nouwen was a Dutch-born Roman Catholic priest and spiritual writer. He authored more than forty books including The Wounded Healer, With Open Hands, and The Return of the Prodigal Son. He died in 1996 at age 64.
Some years ago a friend, knowing of my interest in Nouwen’s writings, asked me if I had ever read his booklet, The Spirituality of Fund-Raising, published in 2004 by the Henri Nouwen Society. I soon obtained a copy from the Society and have since shared copies of the booklet with development colleagues, non-profit board members, and people considering development as a career.
In September, 1992 Henri Nouwen spoke to the Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Service Foundation about fundraising. He did not use a prepared text but someone recorded his talk and that made possible the publication of The Spirituality of Fund-Raising.
To give you a sense of Nouwen’s take on fundraising, here are a couple quotes from the opening section of the booklet:
- “Fund-raising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry. It is a way of announcing our vision and inviting other people into our mission . . . . Fund-raising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.”
- “Fund-raising is also always a call to conversion. And this call comes to both those who seek funds and those who have funds. Whether we are asking for money or giving money we are drawn together by God, who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration . . . . In fund-raising as ministry we are inviting people into a new way of relating to their resources.”
So . . . if you find you are apologizing for fundraising and need an attitude adjustment, I suggest you pick up a copy of The Spirituality of Fund-Raising and allow Henri Nouwen to challenge your thinking and uplift your spirits.