This time of year our email inboxes are inundated with giving requests to the point it can be exasperating. Is there any way we can find joy in all this either as someone asking for donations or someone desiring to donate?
Rob Martin served for almost three decades as the executive director of two different Christian foundations, and has perhaps listened to more grant requests from Christian organizations than any other person alive today. Yet he is not cynical about his experience and loves to teach both donors and non-profit leaders about what it means to build a communion of giving and receiving. Rob has coached BGU students from five continents on how they can be better fundraisers, especially in their own nations.
Rob understands the potential relational disaster that can come from the donor-fundraising interaction. He states: “Fundraising is one of the most convoluted and dangerous functions a leader of a mission will ever face. Add in the complexity of fundraising across cultural barriers and you have all the ingredients necessary to create a corrosive stew of fellowship-destroying behavior.”
Conversations between potential donors and fundraisers start as transactional — an exchange where one person needs something that another person chooses to give. In reality, most donor-fundraiser relationships never go beyond that. Yet the vision is that some will reach the state of relational communion that involves a donor, a receiver, and God, in which there is mutual trust and resulting joy. The donor chooses to trust God first and remains open to where God leads. The fundraiser learns to be trustworthy; not embarrassed to express his or her need; transparent and non-manipulative; and clear and proactive in both initial and on-going communication. Rob teaches BGU students the core skills on how to be trustworthy, but it starts with a commitment by the fundraiser to also trust God in all aspect of the work of fundraising.
Three important trust-building roles of a receiving organization is to build a strong governance board, to demonstrate accountability and to fundraise in their location. BGU’s organizational courses train leaders in developing and non-developed economies on how to do this. Rob states:
“Poverty is not an excuse for a lack of generosity. We always need to look at the inherit generosity in a community and to consider how generosity works within the culture. Most communities have forms of generosity, yet often, we do not see an established philanthropy. We should encourage local partners to develop vision that will begin to encourage an increase in local generosity. I look for local boards that are giving out of their own money rather than expecting their American partners to do all the giving. I also want to see that an organization is on a journey to local sustainability.”
Rob also teaches donors on how to evaluate potential giving opportunities, especially when giving can create harmful dependence. In reference especially to mission giving across continents Rob states:
“The drive, springing from our compassion, is to do something good. But, we can create an overdog/underdog challenge when we create dependence on Western funding. The majority world church has matured. We are now seeing an emergence of a mission force in what was the former mission field. We want to respond, but now our role should be to come alongside, to equip and to encourage, and to help build local accountability systems. Encouraging the development of accountability structures in their own settings will help them to learn how to make their gifts in such a way that they encourage the giving of the local population. Real giving is an act of discipleship. So how do we encourage discipleship in local settings if we continue to dominate with our funding?”
God prepares both the giver and receiver for a trusting relationship in which both receive joy. Yet each has a stewardship of how they prepare themselves for proactively building a communion of giving and receiving.
Over time, the roles of giver and receiver are blurred as the donor becomes grateful for being allowed to participate in what the receiver has created through hard sacrificial work. The focus is more on the joy God provides in the communion and the enjoyment of trust in the relationship. While this state of communion of giving and receiving is rare, each person can commit to play their part in every donor and fundraiser interaction, trusting God and practicing habits of trusting and being trustworthy.
Rob has dedicated countless hours coaching BGU students and others through their character, communication approaches and strategies for fundraising. Some have had the immediate results, as one student this past summer empowered by her new confidence and skills received from the course raised a $100,000 gift. Others too, have walked away with a new boldness and commitment. When asked if they are a “fundraiser” they can say without hesitation, “Yes, I am. It involves hard work to improve our organization but it is a good role and can bring so much joy to donors, people in my organization, and myself as we see increasing trust.”
Rob says developing a balanced relationship of trust, respect and accountability between the donor and the recipient is essential. “We need to be patient and to think about the impact of our giving. We should have a highly relational approach that is transformational between the giver and receiver, each recognizing his own brokenness. We should have a communion of giving and receiving where we meet each other at the foot of the cross.”
Rob teaches BGU students in courses each spring, summer and fall. BGU alumni and others can access Rob’s teaching through his upcoming book available in January 2019, and through BGU’s fundraising certificate, relaunched on BGU’s certificate site this Spring. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about BGU degree and non-degree certificate courses.
Rob is the author of the forthcoming book, The Communion of Giving and Receiving: A Guide for Fundraising and Investing Mission Money Well. He is the former Executive Director of First Fruit (www.firstfruit.org) and works now as Partner of the First Fruit Institute, a capacity development ministry focused on helping those flourish in their calling who evangelize, develop leaders, and serve in the love of Jesus to the bottom billions of the majority world.
Rob also serves with the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization; as a seminar leader on Fund Raising and Leadership for Mission with the Overseas Ministry Study Center; as a faculty member of the World Evangelical Alliance Leadership Institute; and as the co-executive director of the Oxford Standards Initiative, which produced the Lausanne Standards.
Rob was educated as a journalist, and spent his formative career years in newspaper work. He and family reside on Whidbey Island, Washington.
Lausanne Standards: https://www.lausanne.org/about/blog/a-communion-of-giving-and-receiving-the-lausanne-standards
Photo courtesy: http://www.ministryfundraisingnetwork.org/staff/rob-martin/
Forum of Christian Leaders: http://foclonline.org/user/4993/webinars