“Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.” Gal. 3:6-7
For Abraham, believing God was, without doubt, the most challenging time of his life. We have read the rest of Abraham’s story, a story of God’s intervention after Abraham was willing to entrust his own son to God.
Yet, Abraham wasn’t able to read the rest of the story. He had to trust in a God he only knew on his own. Think about it; Abraham came before Moses, the Exodus and The Red Sea. He knew nothing of Joshua, of the Walls of Jericho, or of David and Goliath.
This is a man who had to trust wholly in God’s communication with him. And he did.
We usually think of “believing” as a point of agreement or intellectual assent to an idea, as in “I believe you when you say you will be here at nine o’clock.” But for Abraham, believing meant he had to act. He had to take Isaac out of their home, on a journey that he believed could end the life of his precious first-born.
Our “believing God” takes on the same characteristics as Abraham’s. If we walk through the Greek understanding of the word “Believe,” we will see that it means to “trust in, rely on, adhere to.” That’s what Abraham did. And God saw this as righteousness.
When we believe God in our work, in our families and in our everyday lives, we are saying in essence, “We trust in your ways, oh God, even when the lives we lead and the decisions we make aren’t understood by the world around us.”
It is this believing that our clients and patients should see in us; a belief that trusts in God even when we can’t see what the future holds. If we believe, those who come in our doors can catch our trust in God, and perhaps for the first time, see what it means to live a life of faith.
Like Abraham, we believe. And when we do, God turns to His right hand and says to Jesus, “Now there is a righteous one.”
That’s something worth believing in.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
"Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to respond to each person." Col. 4:5-6
For a moment, let's place ourselves in the shoes of one who enters one of our centers or residential homes. Think of all of the flooding emotions, uncertainties and questions.
The first-time visitor to a pregnancy help organization knows little about us beyond an advertisement or a friend's referral. Now, she (or he) is suddenly alone, at the mercies of those inside the door.
Concerns and questions arise from everywhere. Will they be nice to me? Will they judge me? Do they care about me? Do they have an agenda? Will this cost me something either financially or emotionally? What kind of people offer this for free? Will they try and control me in some way?
These are legitimate questions, coming from a lens of cynicism toward a society where we are told to "get what you can, whenever you can," or to ask, "What's in it for me?"
She feels like an outsider and has legitimate fears any outsider might face.
This is where Paul's words ring so true: "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace . . . ."
Different situations require different pearls of wisdom, and as we look at each person we see as an opportunity to impart God's perspective and hope into a situation, we gain clarity as to what we should say, and how to say it.
Speaking with grace is the foundation of so much of what we do. Those we see, whether they admit it or not, often feel judged. Interestingly, this judgment is often internal. Speaking with grace can often turn an "I feel judged" situation into, "I can change, and here is my opportunity!"
Utilizing wisdom, and speaking with grace don't guarantee that we will always see positive outcomes in those we see. But, these two characteristics do lend themselves to hope; and we never know where a little hope can lead.
It's not a stretch to say that Nehemiah was an expert fundraiser. We just don't think of him in this way, because his heart for God and his people, and his passion for the project of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem takes precedence in our minds.
Quick note: What if those we approach regarding funding viewed us first as having a heart for God and his people? And what if another of the key characteristics they see in us is our passion for the mission we serve? Aren't these worthy attributes for us to pursue? To that end, what if those we ask see our role in development as secondary (or "thirdondary," to make up a new word)?
Actually, it is Nehemiah's heart and his passion that made him a great fundraiser. In keeping with this, he built on this foundation with two more sterling traits. First, he was a man of prayer.
When he first heard the news regarding Jerusalem's wall, Nehemiah broke down in tears (Neh. 1:4). His next step? Prayer. In his narrative (Neh. 1:5-2:2), Nehemiah notes that this time of prayer lasted about four months. After this time, he was prepared when King Artaxerxes asked, "Why is your face sad though you are not sick?"
Because he had spent months in prayer, when the king asked of Nehemiah's need, he had a ready answer. Though he was scared, Nehemiah asked with clarity and conviction. Oh, and he asked big, too.
Nehemiah didn't just ask for a few days off to go see about a wall. His time in prayer had given him a clear picture of exactly what would be needed to complete his project. In just a short audience with the king, Nehemiah asked for:
A good development plan is a specific one. And that plan also includes all that is needed to complete a project.
An example of this in a pregnancy help ministry might be if we are asking for an ultrasound machine to commit to a medical model. If we are in this situation, asking for the machine is only a portion of the project.
Are we also asking for funds for training, staffing, renovation, insurance and materials? And almost always forgotten, are we also asking for the funds to properly market our new initiative in the community (after all, what good is an ultrasound machine if we are not letting people know of our new service)?
Let's pray. Then, let's clearly ask for all we need to complete a project. This model is as old as the Old Testament's Nehemiah. And, it works.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement TLC.
We can speak with clarity and conviction regarding a need of our organization, and our potential financial partner may be excited about giving to our work. This in itself however, does not mean we will ever receive a gift, unless we do one more thing:
Clearly state how to give.
"Oh, we do that," someone might tell me. The evidence however, tells me something different. The truth is, one possible reason for financial challenges is because we do not clearly say, "This is how to give to us."
The Apostle Paul wrote a tremendous fundraising letter in II Cor. 8-9. Read those two chapters and you will find how to state a case for support with clarity. But he also knew to clarify how to give. Read I Cor. 16:1-3 and we will find a perfect, simply stated "how to" from Paul:
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, the no collections be made when I come. And when I arrive, whomever you may approve, I shall send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem. (NASB)
Paul outlines where the gift will be used, when the gift will be collected, the amount one should consider ("as he may prosper"), and how to deliver the gift. All in just a few sentences.
One area where we can fall short is on reminding donors of pledges. After a fundraising dinner, does your organization put a letter in the mail within one week of the event, thanking guests for making a commitment and also stating the details of that commitment? In my experience, less than 50 per cent of pregnancy help organizations do this.
Another area? Read our communications (newsletters, e-blasts) for the previous year. How many times have we reminded potential donors of exactly how to give? We will place an envelope and a response device in with a newsletter, but it is important that we also tell readers (at least once a year) why the envelope is included.
"How to give" seems obvious. Yet, Paul took the time to make sure and lay out the process in his first letter to the Corinthian church. We can, too.
Special Note: See this month's CEO Commentary for an example.
CEO CommentaryAdvancement Trends in the Life Community offers you this article to place in an e-blast or newsletter. Feel free to use this as your own, no attribution is necessary for this article:
Our newsletters and online communications often tell you of our latest projects and initiatives at (Name of Organization), and many times we will ask you to join us financially.
Every once in a while however, it is important that we communicate to you exactly how you can support this vital work—and be a key part of our team, from a financial standpoint.
If you would like to give a financial gift, here are three ways you can do so:
OnlineOur financial partners' site is (web address here). Here, you can make a one-time gift or join us as a monthly financial partner.
Write a checkEnclosed with this newsletter is an envelope for your convenience. Place the check in the envelope and if you would like to make yours an ongoing, monthly gift, write "monthly" on the "for" section of the check.
Give a gift of stockYour appreciated stock may be a gift that also brings large tax savings. Call (name) at 000-0000 at our office and she will help you with this type of gift, or call our broker, (name) at (name of brokerage firm and phone number), and she will provide you with our account information.
Our financial partners provide the foundation for the amazing growth we are seeing at (name of organization). Your gifts are making a difference in saving lives, and changing lives; every day.
Note: You may want to add wills, trusts, events and more. These are just three "starter" avenues of giving to be placed in our communications.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
Click here to download this CEO Commentary as a word document.
Each month Advancement Trends in the Life Community brings to you a "thank you letter" that you can send to your donors. March's letter is below:
Dear Barney & Betty,
The Apostle Paul makes an interesting statement as he closes out his letter to the Philippians, thanking the church at Philippi for being the only church to make a contribution to his work. In thanking the church, he writes, "Not that I seek the gift itself, but the profit which increases to your account."
A dynamic takes place when we give; a transaction whereby our "account" grows as we give toward those endeavors which honor God. I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of this account of which Paul writes, but we don't have to.
What we do know is that as we give, we see spiritual increase in our lives. We may not be able to see or touch it, but it is real.
So often when we thank you for a gift, I want to point out where your gift is going and how it will assist those we see. This is important, certainly.
Yet, I never want to forget that your gift shows me that you want to grow spiritually, too. So as we say "thank you," I also want to echo Paul's words and seek "the profit which increases to your account."
Thank you. Your gift makes a tremendous difference in this work, and I am just as thrilled to see the treasure you are placing in your "account" grow as well.
Click here to download this thank you letter as a word document.
How many of us have sat down and begun penning ideas for the future of our ministry or organization, dreaming big dreams of what we could do if we just had more funding? I know I have, many times.
I've sketched out additional rooms, even a new building. At other times I scribbled down notes on new initiatives, created a list of new staff members and more.
The challenge for me—and perhaps for you—is in the "getting there" part of the equation. As an executive director, investing millions of hypothetical dollars in the future of our ministry was easy. Finding those funds; well, that was the hard part.
As we launch into 2015, let's throw out a realistic way to at least begin our journey toward a bright, fully funded future for our ministries: An endowment.
We might say, "Endowments are for hospitals, colleges, universities—big organizations. Not for us." We would be quite incorrect.
Endowments are for all of us, and an endowment is a terrific way to build up a funding stream for our basic needs so we can stretch our organizations into new initiatives, new and improved facilities and other places God is leading us.
In short, an endowment is a fund whereby only the interest earned or a pre-determined amount is spent each year for our organization's overall budget or for a specific area of ministry.
C'mon, dream with me for just a second. Let's take off our "realism" hat and ask, "Wouldn't it be nice if our basic budget was funded by an endowment and every dollar raised could go toward something new to better reach and serve those we see?"
Maybe it's just me, but I think this would be great. While I realize that creating an endowment of this size for any ministry would be quite a reach in the realism department, it is possible to start building an endowment today that, over time, could fund a growing portion of our work. And one day, who knows where that might lead?
We will only know how far we can go once we get started. And if we don't already have an endowment, the time to start is always "now."
In this issue of Advancement Trends in the Life Community, let's take a good look at this funding mechanism. As we do, we might find a path to a bright future for our ministry.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
Making the case for an endowment begins with not only knowing what an endowment is, but also understanding what it is not.
For instance, an endowment is not our Rainy Day Fund. Every ministry needs to have some cash on hand for times when giving slows, so that the work goes on and staff is paid. Experts tell us that having 3-6 months of cash on hand—just in case—is a good number.
Also, our endowment is not our savings fund for a future project. If our board of directors is wanting to set aside funds for a new initiative, a building fund, or to invest in a new staff member, this would be separate from an endowment.
With an endowment, we build a principle amount and either withdraw interest earned (some or all—this can be a board decision made annually), or a specific amount (Ex.: "We will withdraw $5,000 per year for budget purposes, unless endowment gifts are under the withdrawal amount.") on a pre-determined basis.
We can be flexible with endowment withdrawals, based on need. Or, we can let the endowment grow for a period of time, with no withdrawals.
Overall, our goal with our endowment is to continue to grow its principle so that more and more of our basic ministry needs are met with these funds.
Endowments can be general (for the overall budget) or specific (an endowment for our medical arm, for instance). We can also have multiple endowments. As an example, should a donor family want clients to receive Bibles, an endowment can be created (a minimum amount for an endowment should be established by the ministry; perhaps $10,000 is a starting point).
With multiple endowments, a donor may ask, "How can I give toward your abstinence program?" and we would be able to respond, "We can direct a portion of your gift toward today's need, and set aside a percentage of your gift in our Abstinence Initiative Endowment." This allows us to be more creative in building our resources; but more important, allows donors to be more involved in where their gifts go and how they are used.
Every ministry needs its Rainy Day Fund, and when new ideas arise, Capital Funds can get us started toward funding these ideas. In addition however, Endowments make sense and as we will see elsewhere in this issue, help us raise more funding.
Endowments are not only a good idea for our ministries as we look to the future, they are also a strong avenue toward attracting donor interest and support today.
First, endowments allow donors to see their gifts (to the endowment) as more permanent. Knowing that a gift is not going into the ministry account only to be spent within days is attractive to certain donors; especially those who can give major gifts.
Second, simply having an endowment tells our financial partners we are in this for the long haul. This long-term outlook gives us more credibility and lends itself to more gifts.
Third, as an endowment begins funding (even small) portions of the organization, we can communicate this to our donors. They are more likely to respond to our future requests because they see their gifts as funding "bigger" aspects of the ministry.
Finally, keep in mind that endowments are a particular niche for—as we mentioned above—certain donors. They are attracted by the concept of saving for the future, and of a "permanent" fund that keeps their gifts mostly intact—giving those gifts longevity.
As an example, when your author became an executive director I noticed we had almost no memorial or honorarium gifts. To spark interest in this type of giving, we created our "Commemorative Fund" whereby all gifts went into an account where only the interest earned would be used for the ministry.
Immediately, after implementing this idea (and the fact that we placed memorial gifts and gifts in honor of the living on our response devices), these gifts soared. Our fund grew into the tens of thousands of dollars over a few years, after receiving just $25 in the year before changing our approach.
An endowment then, is not only a way to fund the future; it can also be an avenue to reach donors in a new—and for many, a more attractive—way.
"We don't have anything like an endowment," I'm told by many pregnancy help organization CEOs. If this is the case, starting at zero means something good: We are starting! From any beginning point, we can build, step-by-step. Here are several ideas:
Start with Commemorative GiftsYou'll find in the article, "Why an Endowment is Attractive to Donors" the idea of taking gifts in memory of a person (or in honor of a living person) and placing them in an account where only the interest is used for advancing the ministry. This is an endowment.
If you are currently using many of your memorial and honorarium gifts as part of the budget, you can take even a percentage of those gifts and place them in the new endowment, so as not to harm your current budget. You might find that these gifts rise when you make the announcement.
Announce your intentions publicly in E-blasts, newsletters and appeal letters. Make sure response devices (in print and on your donor web site) clearly point out where these gifts will go and how they will be used.
As an example, if your ministry receives an average of $250 per month in these gifts, placing them all in an endowment will give you a $3,000 endowment in your first year. It's a start, right?
A percentage of each gift . . .As we look at starting, consider placing a percentage of every gift in your new endowment. At just 2 per cent, a center with a $200,000 income budget will place $4,000 in an endowment in that first year. Again, we have a beginning!
Ask!Why not place one more appeal letter in your yearly development plan and ask specifically for gifts toward a new endowment that one day will fund a large portion of the ministry? Recipients can be reminded that these particular gifts will "keep on giving" for generations to come.
This is a way to not only begin a fledgling endowment; this letter will identify those who are endowment minded and who may be capable of continuing to build your endowment in the future.
The key to starting an endowment is getting started. Even a "small" start is a start.
Click here for more of this month's Advancment Trends in the Life Community.
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