The Rich Young Ruler: Transformational Giving

by Jason Dick

I thought and thought about posting this article or not. I know that many of my readers do not have a faith background (or come from a different background than me) and was a little afraid they might find a “parable” offensive. Then I started to think more about some of the ideas I found in this parable and how much they benefited my thinking on fundraising. So if you are offended or angry at this post please either post a comment with concrete reasons why or send me an email and let me know.Eric Foley from the Mission Increase Foundation has some really unique ideas about transformational giving that you can read in his quotes throughout this post.

You know the intrinsic problem with fund raising? We try to mediate meaning, instead of assisting others to make meaning. What I mean by this is that we identify a good cause, we share it with people, we ask them for money, they give it to us, and then we send them a letter saying, “Oh, you should have seen little Timmy’s eyes light up when we gave him that new computer we bought with the money you sent us!”…That’s meaning mediation. That makes us the middleman. The meaning goes through us. Instead, let donors communicate with donors. Let donors ask other donors. Instead of jumping in and doing the work, stand on the sidelines and coach. Offer them tools. Challenge them. Most of all, set them loose and stay out of their way.-Eric Foley

You can read the story for yourself in the Bible in Mark chapter 10 starting at verse 17. Here is a paraphrase as to how the story goes. A man approaches Jesus and asks him what he must do to be perfect. Jesus answers by asking the man if he has followed the commandments and the man responds that he has kept them all since he was a young boy. Jesus then tells him that he must sell all that he has and give his money to the poor. Saddened the man then leaves because he has great wealth.Lets look at Jesus as the key leader of his non-profit (or ministry). In that situation if I was asked the same questions by the rich young ruler I probably would have directed him donate to a couple of the villages I was headed to or passed him off to one of my disciples to talk with him about how he can fund a new project that I’m working on. But this is not what Jesus said:

Well, if you want to be perfect, I have put together a great brochure with some of our key ministries that could really use your support, and here are some fantastic testimonials from folks I’ve healed.-Eric Foley

This made me realize that one of the key problems in fundraising today is that we don’t care about the cultivation process of the donor. The process is not meant to help the donor better understand their own reasons for giving and connect them to how they can be fulfilled and make a real difference. The process is built around how can we get them to better understand what we do in such a way that they will want to give more money. Jesus responded to the needs he saw in the life of the rich young ruler.

But Jesus didn’t focus on what the young ruler could do for his ministry. Instead, he perceived that the young ruler had a lack …It wasn’t that the poor needed the young ruler’s money – it was that the young ruler needed to give his money away.-Eric Foley

This is where the idea of transformational giving begins. This kind of giving allows the donor and the organization to be changed. It involves giving that goes far beyond a financial gift and is more about a lifestyle or an attitude of the heart. It involves stewarding and cultivating donors in such a way that partnerships are being really created. This kind of cultivation allows donors to take ownership of the process and invest themselves in the purpose/mission of your non-profit.

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