Fundraising and Leadership: A Marriage Made in Heaven?

By on September 7, 2016   /   12 Comments


When gifted, capable men and women step into ministry leadership they get a surprise—fundraising! Maybe they saw the fundraising line item on the job description, but it is usually glossed over in favor of more interesting leadership topics. And, like a young couple who jumps into marriage without really getting to know each other, they might be in for a rude awakening once the honeymoon is over!

Or take driving for example. Out on the road, we look out the front window, the back, and side-to-side, but every car has blindspots—areas we cannot see. Similarly, fundraising blindspots in leadership are invisible and they cause even good leaders to make mistakes.

Leaders are well-trained in many areas, but when it comes to fundraising or creating fundraising strategies, they are expected to just figure it out. That’s tough, so they look to consultants, seek board members’ advice, or they try to delegate “this funding stuff” to someone else.

It happened to me too. Soon after becoming a state director for The Navigators in Wisconsin, I was overwhelmed by the financial challenges of leading a team. I was OK in raising my own personal ministry budget, but my fledgling staff and interns were barely getting by. Though they never said a word, they struggled to have money to attend regional meetings or for family emergencies.

My underlying belief was that “Every tub floats on its own bottom.” That simplistic mantra evolved into an every staff for himself/herself mentality—i.e. survival of the fittest! But I didn’t see it. I was so blind, I didn’t even attempt to help my regional assistant who struggled (with tears) to fund her position. I had a blindspot, two actually. I assumed:

  • My staff could figure out their funding without my participation.
  • I wouldn’t need additional money beyond my own personal ministry budget.

I was wrong—on both accounts.

As I took on more leadership positions, I realized fundraising issues and needs frustrated all leaders. These were basic systemic and organizational challenges, but no one ever addressed them. Something was wrong.

By God’s grace, I stumbled into the fundraising practices of six Bible leaders, looking at well-known Bible stories through a different lens—money. To this day I continue to discover new insights about how they dealt with funding issues.

Here are couple of things that I learned about fundraising from these Bible leaders:

  • Moses—In his vision to build a godly nation, fundraising played a surprising role. His potential donors had no real jobs and they had already given to The Golden Calf Project. Time on the mountain with God taught him that fundraising is not a necessary evil.
  • Joash—This young and inexperienced King of Judah wanted to rebuild the temple, but delegating the task to professional fundraisers failed. So he fired them and took a simple fundraising action step, and it worked.
  • Hezekiah—His people were not supporting the Levites as God had commanded, and Judah was under threat from Assyria. Deliberately overlooking Assyria, he focused on fully funding his workers. The nation experienced a resurgence of devotion to God.
  • Nehemiah—While in captivity in Persia (present-day Iraq), he was saddened by the broken down wall and the spiritual decline of the Jewish people 700 miles away in Jerusalem. Books have been written about Nehemiah’s leadership skills, but the key to his leadership success is usually never mentioned—a risky fundraising encounter.
  • David—At the prime of his life as king, David made huge mistakes. He was passed over as builder of the new temple, but did not resign himself to despair.  In his final leadership role David modeled a trait that leaders must practice today.
  • Paul the Apostle—He was not silent about money. Digging through his ministry, we find examples of how he cared for the funding of his co-workers. We also find he taught giving is part of discipleship—not an optional add-on.

These six biblical men continue to guide me. They help me lead more effectively both in money and in non-money issues. I urge you to study them well.

Editor’s Note: Scott’s new book, Blindspots: Leading Your Team and Ministry to Full Funding comes out of his study of these six Bible leaders. Blindspots will be introduced this fall. Published by CMMPress.


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