Henri Nouwen’s A Spirituality of Fundraising is a book I need to read again every year in order to keep my bearings.
My own battle with fundraising has seen some success and some notable failure. I was raised to believe that a decent person never asked anyone for money. Nouwen’s little book turns that idea upside down.
Or, better said, rightside up.
For Nouwen, asking people to become generous and even sacrificial stewards is offering those people the gift of conversion. He means this in the deepest, process-oriented, open sense of the word. Seen this way, it is a service rendered. Ministry extended. I need this.
Nouwen starts strong:
Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission. Fundraising is precisely the opposite of begging. When we seek to raise funds we are not saying, “Please, could you help us out because lately it’s been hard.” Rather, we are declaring, “We have a vision that is amazing and exciting. We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you—your energy, your prayers, and your money—in this work to which God has called us.” Our invitation is clear and confident because we trust that our vision and mission are like “trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither” (Ps. 1:3).
A winsome, God-fueled lightness of spirit pervades Nouwen’s reflection on fundraising, a light-heartedness that is seldom evidenced when this subject is on the table. We are freed, in the best rather than the self-serving sense of the phrase, to be free as we seek funding.
Indeed, Nouwen writes about such in connection with our ultimate security:
If our security is totally in God, then we are free to ask for money. Only when we are free from money can we ask freely for others to give it. This is the conversion to which fundraising as ministry call us.
So it is not only the person receiving our request, but we ourselves who encounter the opportunity of conversion as we go about this work.
I have grown weary of fundraising technique. My soul longs for a gospel-grounded understanding of this otherwise distasteful task.
Nouwen provides it in A Spirituality of Fundraising, this reviewer’s annual reading on the topic.