Inspiring Generosity


The Church is ALWAYS Asking for Money

       Two sheep start arguing about money... suju/1307 pixabay.com

Scaramouch, Scaramouch will you do the Fandango? Well, thank you, I think I will. Yes, the new-ish movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” is terrific. The critics may not have loved it but I had a blast watching it. My inner Freddie Mercury was belting out every number. Thankfully, for my fellow moviegoers, I was merely lip-synching.
Speaking of critics, there has been some serious discussion going on in the non-profit development world during the past week (and you thought the upcoming UMC General Conference was the only thing people were talking about).
A week ago last Monday, Vu Le of Nonprofit AF fame wrote about “Why Nonprofit Staff Should Not Be Asked to Donate to the Organizations They Work For.” He listed some very compelling reasons why they should not be asked to give:
It is inequitable.
It is insulting.
It is weird and disingenuous.
It does not take power dynamics into consideration.
It perpetuates the non-profit hunger games.
It reinforces the overvaluing of money.
Basically Vu’s argument (and believe me this is over-simplifying it) is that people who work for non-profits are already under-paid. And, these same people are people who are often marginalized (poor, people of color, no seniority). To ask them to make a donation to the place where they work is an additional financial burden that is unfair to them.

Simply by asking for the donation puts the average worker in a very awkward position – how much to give and what if I say “no”? Vu is of the mindset that we need to value other things instead of money that people contribute – time, in-kind donations, etc.
Enter another great blogger, Claire (one name only) who writes “Clairification” (get it?!). Her article, “Staff Annual Fundraising Campaign? An Open Letter to Vu Le of Nonprofit AF,” went through and rebutted each of Vu’s arguments. Two primary takeaways:
“We need to work harder at creating cultures of philanthropy.”
“Where love and positive – mission focused – ideally passionate feelings don’t exist, a staff giving campaign is doomed.”
Both of these articles generated dozens of comments. Some comments directed to Claire bashed her for her white privilege and not understanding what it’s like to work at a struggling non-profit. Vu got comments like “how can you ask others for money if you’re not willing to financially donate to your own organization?”
In between these two articles, a dear reader sent me an email. Her frustration? Her pastor had just walked in and with disdain said:

“The church is ALWAYS asking for money.”

While I understand that Vu and Claire’s blogs are not directed to the church, there are some similarities. Substitute the word “church” for “non-profit” and the arguments on either side could be just about the same.
Me? I fall in the camp of creating a culture of inspiring generosity: a culture of joy.
What comes through in a number of the replies to the individual blogs is soul-crushing bitterness. That’s what has me most disturbed.
-  People feel they are not valued for the work they already do (Do the volunteers in your congregation feel that way? If you work for the church, do you feel that way?).
-  They are treated as “less than” if they don’t give (Surely you don’t make people in your congregation feel that way, right?).
-  Their morale is low (I know this is true for some of you, I’m praying that things will turn around).
Recognize any of these? If so, it’s time to do some serious talking with your Board/Administrative Council, Staff-Parish Relations Committee, or any other group that can make change in your church/organization.

If you don’t love your church (and yes, I used the word “love” purposely), you will indeed feel like “The church is ALWAYS asking for money.” If you love your church, you will honor and affirm all the ways people give and you will fearlessly ask for financial gifts because of the important role your church is playing in your congregation and the community.
Jesus must have known this issue might come up. He told the story of the widow’s mite. But the story is more powerful if you read Jesus’ rebuke of the scribes at the end of Luke 20 just prior to the story of the widow’s mite.

Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.

Jesus is criticizing the scribes for ruthlessly stealing from those – in this case, widows – who cannot defend themselves.
Immediately he follows with the more famous story of the widow who, unlike the scribes, does not give out of her surplus. The widow has “contributed out of her poverty...she gave her all” (Luke 21:1-4). The widow didn’t wait to give until she had an abundance of money, rather she gave out of her love for and trust in God.
We are a people who need to be aware of the justice issues and issues of inequity around the topic of money. And, we need to be a people who live, like the widow, in abundance and in the joy that leads to generosity.
As you can tell by the length of this post (longest ever), Vu and Claire’s blog posts have hit a nerve. Maybe it's done the same for you. What do you think? Is the church ALWAYS asking for money? Is that a good or bad thing in your book? What’s the difference between giving to a secular organization versus a faith community? Let me know what you think, and I’ll share some of your responses.
For now, I need a break. I’m off to belt out “We Are the Champions” (more Queen!) to let off a little steam. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Shoot me an email at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past fifteen years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. Next on her playlist, Cesie will be stomping out, “We Will Rock You.” Won't you join her? Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. She is available to consult with churches. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity or at CesieScheuermann.com.
If someone has forwarded this to you and you would like to subscribe to "Inspiring Generosity," click here.  Miss an issue?  Click here. Want to see more stewardship resources? Click here.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann
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.