Out of all the authors to write about fundraising, Henri Nouwen may be the least likely. Nouwen was a Catholic priest, professor, and author. He wasn’t evangelical, and didn’t seem to be the type to care about money. Despite this, he’s written one of the most helpful books on fundraising I’ve encountered.
The Spirituality of Fundraising isn’t a how-to book. Other books fill that role, like Getting Sent and People Raising. Nouwen’s book deals with the deeper and more important issues related to fundraising: issues of the heart.
The problem with fundraising isn’t that we don’t know what to do. The problem goes a lot deeper. We are uncomfortable speaking about money, and we feel like we’re begging. We approach finances from the perspective of need rather than vision. We’re intimidated by the rich, and insecure in our identity. The biggest barrier to fundraising is within ourselves.
Nouwen wants us to see that fundraising is ministry, just as much as “giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry.” He wants us to see fundraising not as a burdensome chore, but as a way to proclaim “what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.” He wants us to ask for money standing up, not bending down, because we are not begging, but rather giving “giving them the opportunity to put their resources at the disposal of the kingdom.” Most of all, he wants us to approach our task out of our identity in Christ, so that we are free to love others regardless of how they respond.
“From beginning to end, fundraising as ministry is grounded in prayer and undertaken in gratitude,” Nouwen writes. “Prayer is the radical starting point of fundraising because in prayer we slowly experience a reorientation of all our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others.”
Near the end of this small book, Nouwen states the problem he’s trying to address:
How do we become people whose security base is God and God alone? How can we stand confidently with rich and poor alike on the common ground of God’s love? How can we ask for money without pleading, and call people to a new communion without coercing? How can we express not only in our way of speaking but also in our way of being with others the joy, vitality, and promise of our mission and vision? In short, how do we move from perceiving fundraising as an unpleasant but unavoidable activity to recognizing fundraising as a life-giving, hope-filled expression of ministry?
Nouwen succeeds in answering these questions. He’s the last person I would have expected to help me with fundraising, but his book is exactly what I needed. If you are raising funds for ministry, read the practical books, but read this book first.
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