Friday, July 17, 2009

Partnership beats pity

Over the past year or so, I have been privileged to get to know Eric Foley, our colleague with VOM-Korea.  One of Eric’s specialities is a concept of donor development called Transformational Giving. One of the primary principles behind this development strategy is that people are more interested in your cause than in our organization and that a non-profit must find ways of developing meaningful links between those you are trying to serve (in our case, persecuted Christians) and your donors and those whom they network with in ways that truly enrich all parties.  In his book Coach Your Champions, Eric introduces this philosophy of fund-raising and as I read it earlier this month, I realized, to my delight, that we have actually been using here at The Voice of the Martyrs in some form for years (even though we didn’t know it at the time).  If you are an executive of a ministry, you really should get this book. We are hoping to work together with Eric in the future to train our entire staff and Board and to coach us as we seek to further implement this philosophy of development. 

One of the few blogs that I am reading regularly now is Eric’s and he has been discussing this week how we need to partner with those we serve and seek to build links between them and our donors in ways that are based on partnership rather than pity.  Partnership beats pity any day. On Wednesday, he wrote:

Transformational Giving (TG) is first and foremost a submission to what the Scriptures teach us about being shaped in the image of Christ. One of the coolest things about TG (and, more completely, the Scriptures) is that giving is grounded in identification with the recipient, not pity. For example:

  • Leviticus 19:34 says, ‘The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.’
  • Hebrews 13:3 says, ‘Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who were mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.’

Were modern fundraising letter writers to pen Leviticus 19:34, I suspect they would have written something like this:

Treat the alien well. After all, you’ve got a lot to be grateful for, and it’s tough being an alien. Here’s a tear-jerking story of an alien that will cause you to say, ‘Man, compared to this alien, I have no troubles.’ Your gift of $15.70 can provide education and shelter for one alien for a week.

And who wants to be a persecuted Christian? Modern fundraising moves us to help the poor persecuted folks. Interestingly, however, the call in Hebrews is to remember them as if you were there with them.

Identification. Not sympathy prompting help.

(And if you find yourself asking, ‘So you’re saying we shouldn’t help these folks???’, please scroll back up to the two numbered questions noted about a dozen lines back.)

Fundraising today is largely an effort to drive people to help, based on sympathy. Transformational Giving can be fairly thought of as an effort to encourage us to bear one another’s burdens, based on identification.

I could not agree more!  I have seen too many programs implemented in developing world countries that were obviously designed more with raising funds through appealing to pity in mind than actually partnering with those who were the recipients of the intended aid.

In yesterday’s blog, Eric provided a very helpful reading list for development professionals interested in developing donors who will truly bear burdens with, not for, those we wish to serve.  Some of these I am already familiar with; others I will definitely be looking for.  The more I read Eric’s stuff, the more I realize how much I need to learn. I am flattered that he included one of my blogs from a while back (thanks, Eric!).  I hope you find this list helpful:

    1. Opening Doors: Pathways to Diverse Donors, by Diana S. Newman. Check out this post from last week for my lavish praise of this 2002 work. I love it so much I can almost even forgive Newman for using the d-word in the title.
    2. If Jesus Were Mayor, by Bob Moffitt. We’ve talked about this marvelous tome in past posts (namely here and here), but never in light of Moffitt’s brilliant discussion of ways to give and get involved with churches overseas that lead to partnership rather than dependence.
    3. A Model For Making Disciples, by D. Michael Henderson. We’ve swooned over this title in past posts here and here, but, again, never in light of Henderson’s pointing out how John Wesley’s Class Meeting discipleship model arose to meet a fundraising need, and how that need was met in a way that put rich and poor contributors on equal footing and even gave the poorest of the poor the opportunity to lead the richest of the rich.
    4. When Charity Destroys Dignity, by Glenn J. Schwartz. The book’s subtitle is ‘Overcoming Unhealthy Dependency in the Christian Movement’. Some of the chapter titles are ‘What Should Wealthy Churches do with their Money?’, ‘Historical Development of the Syndrome of Dependency’, and ‘What can Missionaries do to Avoid or Break the Dependency Syndrome?’ Weird capitalization, sure. But a rich, rich work.
    5. Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day, by Collins, Morduch, Rutherford, and Ruthven. Read this book and your pity for the poor will be overcome by admiration and astonishment. The book doesn’t address the topic, but I’ve always felt that matching gifts–where the poor provide  financial gifts of proportional sacrifice for joint projects with affluent Western champions–is TG of the highest order. (Note that I said ‘of proportional financial sacrifice’. There’s amazement aplenty waiting to happen when champions see what kind of a ‘proportional gift’ they would need to make to match a 15 cent gift from someone from half the nations on the globe.)
    6. Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa, by Dambisa Moyo. As we were saying in yesterday’s post, when our mindset is ‘help the less fortunate’, it is truly jaw-droppingly astonishing how badly that kind of help can backfire.
    7. Missions and Money, by Jonathan J. Bonk. The subtitle, Affluence as a Missionary Problem, is sheer genius. Most missionaries are convinced that Low Support Account Balances are the primary Missionary Problem. The best sections of the book are the ones labelled ‘Old Testament Teaching That the Wealthy Find Reassuring’, ‘New Testament Teaching That the Wealthy Find Reassuring’, ‘Old Testament Teaching That the Wealthy Find Troubling’, and ‘New Testament Teaching That the Wealthy Find Troubling’. Why isn’t this written down anywhere else?
    8. The Ethics of Giving and Receiving: Am I My Foolish Brother’s Keeper?, edited by May and Soens. Lots of great essays in this book. Make sure especially to check out Roy Menninger’s ‘Observations on the Psychology of Giving and Receiving Money’. (That’s a great question for champions to ask, by the way: What are the possible responses that can be made to this donation by the end recipient, not the charity?)
    9. This is the web home of the The Alliance For Vulnerable Mission, dedicated to the premise ‘That there should be some missionaries from the West whose ministries are conducted in the language of the people being reached, without use of outside financial subsidy.’
    10. Why am I concerned about dependency, a blog post by my dear bro and kindred spirit Glenn Penner, CEO of VOM/Canada. Glenn makes a fascinating connection between persecution and dependency and then notes how it’s the latter, not the former, that really gives him the willies.

1 comment:

Laurel said...

I watched some of the Truth Project by Focus on the Family earlier this year, and he talks about the Biblical perspective on labour. Something that really struck me, and relates to this post, is in the OT the Israelites were commanded to leave the gleanings for the poor to come and help themselves. The owners of the fields weren't told to gather everything up and give it to them, but to leave it for them to gather up for themselves. There was a dignity granted them in this, rather than a hand-out. I recognize that in the NT Paul was collecting money to give to the saints in Jerusalem, but that was a temporary thing because of a local famine. He pointed out that when the need was reversed, it would be given back -- the idea being to share with those who were short, not to continue supporting them indefinitely.