Have you ever wondered why some ministries and charities seem to struggle to secure financing? I mean, sometimes people serving the most worthwhile causes always seem to struggle to fund the work God has given them. And, let’s be clear, I believe God’s guidance, presence, and provision are our lifeblood. I believe that God will provide the finances for the visions he gives us.

Sure, some people will teach tactics like, “get financing from organizations and not individuals” or “always wear a nice suit.” And those can work. Maybe. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

I wonder if there’s a fundamental way that we can look at this differently. 

Frankly, I wonder if maybe ministries and charities focus on the wrong things in their communication. I wonder if maybe we should focus more on building relationships and sharing a vision of the future instead of only presenting the needs of the present.

Do you remember the 1980s?

I remember the 1908s when images of starving children in villages became “popular” (common). There was a real need and these images worked…for a time. There still is a real need. But these images also led to what’s called compassion fatigue, which decreased their effectiveness over time.

But what I don’t remember from those commercials in the 1980s was a lot of focus on a vision for the future. Sure, there were some success stories that were shared and maybe there was a little talk of the future. But I wonder if we really need to get bigger than that. I wonder if we need to focus even more on the future. On the vision.

This offhanded comment really surprised me

A couple weeks ago I was taking with David, the Base Director for YWAM Nashville as we were discussing some upcoming website migration work, marketing for some upcoming projects, and some of the challenges that face missionaries. As we were talking, he said, almost offhandedly, “People give to vision, not need.” (OK, that’s probably not an exact quote, but it captures what we were talking about.)

It’s almost always about something more than needs

People give to vision, not need.

Think about your ministry and your needs right now. I bet that your needs come directly from the vision God has given you. From the people and purposes you’re called to serve. So, knowing that your needs (yes, the needs are real) come from the vision, don’t you think you should think about vision fundraising?

Vision fundraising

No, I’m not saying we shouldn’t present needs. But I AM saying that maybe we need to always point towards the vision.

Ask yourself, “Do I spend enough time talking about the vision?”

Talking about the vision that many leaders struggle with. They feel like broken records. But, as Andy Stanley says, you should talk about the vision until YOU are tired of hearing about it. And then you’re just getting started.

charity water vision fundraisingCharity:water is one organization that does this well. They talk about the reality of now. They share videos and pictures of wells put in. And they sell (and I mean that in a good way) a picture of the future – generations of families in villages and regions with access to clean water.

So think about the vision you’re asking people to buy into. To invest in.

(Seriously, take a minute and think about it. Write it down if you need to.)

I’ll wait.

Do you have it? Good. Let’s move on.

What’s the reward?

Now ask yourself “what’s in it for them?”

In this case, the “them” is your partners and supporters. What is the vision you’re asking them to buy into. And what is the benefit to them?

Now, at this point, I suspect that a few people would say, “Well, doesn’t the Bible say we should give and expect nothing in return?”

Yes, it does. In so many words. But it also says we should do things, knowing there’s a reward (Matthew 10:42 & 19:29, for example).

I’m not talking about “Send me $50 and I’ll send you a hand-made stuffed doll.” That’s not a reward, it’s a trinket. Maybe a gift. Or a product to sell.

I’m talking about something MUCH bigger.

I’m talking about the reward that pulls us out of bed in the morning. About what connects them to the change God is making in the world. About the rewards of faithfulness. The eternal rewards of things like hearing, “well done, good and faithful servant…”

Those are rewards!

Those are the rewards we live for. And we don’t have the right to deprive people of those rewards.

Are you stealing their reward?

“How am I depriving someone else of a reward,” you may ask?

Frankly, not everybody gets it. Not everybody sees the needs we’re meeting in the context of eternity. Not everybody sees charity work for the future change it can bring. Frankly, many see it as short-term help for somebody right now. As an intervention, if you will.

But these things have long-term results. They make a difference in the world. And they make a difference in eternity.

And, as leaders, it’s our job to help people connect the dots. It’s our job to lead, and to lead well. It’s our job to help people frame their understanding of the world. And eternity.

Are you willing to frame it?

Are you willing to share your vision of the future? Are you willing to tell people clearly and plainly what they’re investing in? Are you willing to boldly give people emotional ownership in the the future? In eternity?

Photo credit: mike.m.carlino

If you are, what’s one thing you’re going to change starting today?

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