Fundraising as a Spiritual Practice
Last weekend I had a great conversation with an artist. That alone seems pretty amazing because my ability to do any art is closely aligned with my ability to perform any brain surgery. But I can surely talk to an artist, right? The brain surgeon, not quite as sure. I was drawn to Rachel Harvey’s big, beautiful landscape paintings – the colors were vivid, serene, and drew me in. As I read her “artist’s statement” I was even more intrigued. She was in her second career (being a CPA was her first). We had something in common.
As we talked about being second career women, Rachel asked me what I did. “Oh, I do fundraising and development work and I write grants.” Her eyes lit up, “Can I pick your brain for a minute? I’ve been selected to go to an artist’s workshop in Vermont but it’s very expensive. I’m thinking about doing a Crowdfunding campaign but I’m embarrassed to ask people to give me money to do art. What do you think?”
The non-artist in me got very excited as I said, “Funding someone like you to do art gives me the opportunity to be a part of your art. If you write a blog post each day, I, as a donor, will temporarily become part of your world. Learning about your creative process while you are at this workshop will allow me to see what you see. I can begin to understand why you choose the colors you do, what inspires you about the natural world, who you are as the person sitting in front of the canvas.” By the time I caught my breath, I had nearly talked myself into being her first investor.
For Rachel, it was as if the light bulb went on in her head. What she had perceived as being a selfish, one-sided request suddenly had the potential to become a communal experience – something that could benefit both the person needing the funding and the person who had the resources to share.
In a recent blog post, “The Spirituality of Major Gift Fundraising,” Jeff Schreifels recounts that he had a group of secular CEOs read the first two chapters of a book he co-authored with Richard Perry, It’s Not Just About the Money. The CEO’s reaction surprised him. “They all agreed that what resonated with them most was that fundraising is really a mystical, spiritual thing, meaning donors experience the ‘grace of giving,’ and major gift fundraisers are trying to help donors experience that in their lives.”
Henri Nouwen also talks about this mystical aspect of development work in his book A Spirituality of Fundraising: “As a form of ministry, fundraising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry…Are we willing to be converted from our fear of asking, our anxiety about being rejected…when someone says ‘No, I’m not going to get involved in your project’? When we have gained the freedom to ask without fear, to love fundraising as a form of ministry, then fundraising will be good for our spiritual life.”
When you ask for money, it’s not about you. It’s about giving people the opportunity to open their hearts, to listen to that “still small voice” that’s calling them to be a part of that “grace of giving,” and to be in ministry with the people of God for the people of God. Some people will never know such transformation unless you ask. Give them a chance to be in ministry with you. Practice the spirituality of fundraising.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She’s convinced that her unicorn and clown art is sure to fetch a lot of money some day. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.