Without fundraising, non-profits cannot exist. Generally, it seems like a good thing to donate money to an organization that you believe is a worthy cause. People willingly giving their money is completely understandable, but I work in fundraising, and asking people for their money is often far more complicated.
I work with a team of 15 people whose main job is basically to ask people for money. Before starting my internship, I did not seriously think about the territory that comes with fundraising. Something I have realized through my internship is that one extremely important thing couples with fundraising: responsibility. All work has responsibility in one form or another. That being said, when you are asking someone to donate their personal funds to your cause, you are taking on the responsibility of staying true to your word and fulfilling what you are promising. This is exactly what Joseph did in Genesis 41.
In Genesis 41 we find Joseph newly appointed to second-in-command of Egypt. His first assignment was to collect the food produced in Egypt during the seven years of abundance. The Pharaoh and the Egyptian people were expecting him to be responsible with both the food and their lives. Obviously, people would not outwardly oppose the Pharaoh, but having someone come and ask for part of your food supply is a scary thing. The people worked hard to produce crops to provide for their families. Now one of Pharaoh’s advisors is asking to take some of it. They were demanded to trust Joseph with something extremely precious to them. He had the responsibility to take care of the people from whom he was asking. This is the work of fundraising.
We do not just go out and find America’s one percent and ask them to hand us money. Obviously, it is a much longer and more relational process than that. It takes months, sometimes years, before we will ask a major donor for a donation. We spend time cultivating a relationship and establishing trust. Our development directors want our donors to care about the organization as much as they do. It is about educating the donors on the different programs that we offer and how our work has changed the lives of many. All of these are wonderful things, but at the end of the day we are still asking for money. That is something I have been wrestling with through my experience.
I understand that we have to do it and that we make a point to do it in the most respectful way possible. But we still ask for money. Are we simply schmoozing these donors because they have what we want? Do we genuinely care about these people as individuals or just what they can give us? Does God really think it is okay to wine and dine a person until they agree to give you $50,000? How are we being “of the world, but not in the world” when we throw ritzy events and give into materialism? These are all questions I have asked myself. I am trying to formulate answers appropriately without being self-justifying. Genesis 41 gives a better understanding about the pressure that comes with asking. Asking can be acceptable when responsibility is taken seriously.
God placed Joseph where he did because he knew Joseph would fulfill his duty honestly and responsibly. The Pharaoh noticed that no one was “so wise and discerning” as Joseph because God helped him to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. God had specifically planned for Joseph to be able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, knowing that the Pharaoh would be impressed and put him in a position of power. If the Pharaoh had given a different man the responsibility of collecting the food, he might not have been as diligent or honest about the collections. Considering Joseph was traveling without the watchful eye of the Pharaoh, he could have set grain aside from himself, taken more than he needed from the people, or not accurately calculated how much to collect from each person. God knew Joseph was equipped for such an important task and therefore placed him in the position. God also knew that if there was not enough food the Hebrew people would die, making Joseph’s job even more important.
Like Joseph, God has placed people in positions of fundraising for a certain reason. Most think it is because they are great relationally, but it is also because God trusts them with the responsibility. My organization has an incredible mission to bring hope and restoration. Joseph opened the storehouses to provide gain for those without food, and we can do the same with our funds to provide hope to those who have none. Since that is our mission we must do just that. We must be like Joseph and fulfill our call faithfully and tirelessly.
There are many times in the Bible where people ask. Sometimes it is of other people, and sometimes it is directly of God. Unfortunately, asking for money is taboo. Often money is viewed as more valuable than time itself. I am finding that if you are asking, whatever it may be for, you must understand your responsibility and the sacrifice of the other person. If we are going to ask for something, especially money, we must be honest, responsible, and live up to our end of the bargain. I have been blessed to see a place that has been successful in these areas, an organization that consistently stands by its word and fulfills the goals it has set. When Christ is put first, I guess I don’t think fundraising is completely bad after all.
Elizabeth Manley interns in development in the not-for-profit sector and is a member of the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program.
Images: FreeImages.com/Borbas Krisrian, Arkadiusz Frankowicz