Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Thinking Through Fundraising

I received a letter and quarterly update today from a Christian organization that shall remain nameless. I have no particular axe to grind with them. Indeed, I think that they have generally done a good work. The thing that bugs me about them is their fund-raising material that they send me, which is why I have never and am likely never to send any funds their way.

What struck me first was how the cover letter began when the president of the organization referred to me as one of their "most faithful supporters." Surely they have me mixed up with someone else. Either that or they are serious financial trouble, if my donation history of giving nothing still marks me as one of their most "faithful" supporters. Of course, I realize that this was nothing but a form letter, but such unearned flattery struck me as rather silly, perhaps even a little manipulative. At the very least,
it was not well thought through.

The second thing that put me off was in their quarterly report when they mentioned how I could help persecuted Christians in Nepal. If anyone has followed Nepal lately, one would know that the situation for Christians has actually improved there significantly in recent months. Yet, this organization makes no mention of this development and continues to refer to Nepal as a "Hindu kingdom" (which it no longer is) and tells of Christians facing "harsh persecution" including imprisonment (which they really are not).

Accuracy in reporting and especially in fund raising should be a non-negotiable value for organizations who name the name of Christ. I understand that mistakes can be made, but misrepresentation and manipulation are, in my opinion, inexcusable. Frankly, I doubt that either was intended by this particular organization, although I do know of others who do resort to such tactics. It is a sad truth that there are groups who won't "let the truth get in the way of a good story" or who tend to be a little "evangelastic" with the truth.

To be honest, I am probably more disappointed in this organization than anything. As I said, I respect their work very much. I do think, however, they probably need to either rethink their development strategy or educate their development staff. The problem in many organizations is that development staff is often under-informed on conditions on the field. Those who raise the money frequently know little about the very projects they are trying to promote or the countries in which these projects take place. Development staff is often tempted to undervalue progress in a country or to overstate persecution in order to create a sense of urgency. Either temptation must be strenuously resisted. If the cause if noble, the means of meeting its needs must be equally noble.

(Cartoon is from www.nakedpastor.com)

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