“Fearless Fundraising” is a series on church and non-profit fundraising by Charles LaFond, a consultant, spiritual companion and master potter living on a farm in New Mexico. Charles is the author of many books including Fearless Church Fundraising, Fearless Major Gifts: Inspiring Meaning-making and now, Note to Self. For hundreds of free model documents, videos and Icons for use in fundraising go to fearlesschurchfundraising.com
As we move on the conveyor belt of time, summer wanes and fall enters from stage left with its presentation of apples and pumpkins. Here in New Mexico, the apple trees of this farm on which I live have begun their first chapter, unveiling one of the 8 kinds of apples which will cascade over the next two months so that Kai-the-dog and I (and my guests) have a different apple, for different recipes until Advent pushes Fall off stage into God’s orchestra pit and “unto us a Child is born.” Emmanuel. God with us.
But God is with us in human form for how long? 33 years perhaps? And in the prime of life Jesus will face resistance and die from it after no few beatings. Had He stayed in his little village making coffins, and doors with door frames, with his father, for the local mansions in the next city over, He would have been just fine really. Lived his life. Perhaps had a partner. Perhaps had children. Birthdays. Middle-age (disappointing) and post-middle age (wonderful) and on to a gentle death when his hammer ceased its ringing on its nails and was passed on to His daughter.
But rather than that, Jesus faced into and walked through resistance. People in the synagogue said terrible things about Him. Lies. Manipulations. Perhaps vitriolic letters on parchment. Cowardly attacks from behind passive-aggressive words of praise in palm parades. Charges unfounded but levied enough to destabilize even miracles, and leading to death on a cross.
Jesus was midwifing life from death for the people of this planet. But in so doing Jesus was necessarily asking people to do things they did not want to do. Live simply. Love neighbor. Love self (the hardest). Love God. Be generous with actual money and resources. Forgive. Give away 20% or your last dime. Edgy stuff. How could He have survived the low emotional intelligence around him?
Now, two thousand years later, we still find these things elusive at times and yet we still talk of this teacher. When people talk to us of these commands and teachings, we bristle. When we are asked to forgive we demure. When we are asked to give away our money, we get angry, righteous, cranky. We “kill the messenger.” An old story, killing the messenger.
I am a fundraiser and this week was my birthday. I was born, not surprisingly, on the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist. Yup. Oh well. Being born on that particular feast explains a lot about my life. Or will one day.
In these next weeks of apples and pumpkins, of chilly mornings and cinnamon lattes, clergy around the nation will be asking people for money and worse…asking people to ask for money. It is pledge season and this next few weeks will be the time in which all the planning you have been doing (I hope) since February and May (…I know…Lent and Easter are busy times, you get a pass!) will come to fruition. You will ask people to fund mission. You will ask people to ask other people to fund mission and many will be furious for having been so asked.
In this season, you clergy and effective lay leaders, Wardens, Chairs of Stewardship Committees and Commissions in churches and non-profits will be setting up systems large and small for the asking of, and receiving of, pledges. And you will face resistance. A lot of it. And not from afar either. Like Jesus, it will come from your inner circles precisely because it makes them nervous, exposes their greed, triggers their shame for how they are living (not so simply on a planet in which only the 1% thrive and in which 3,000 die daily from starvation) and generally creating an unwelcome ruckus when they would rather be left to build their empires, large and tiny (mostly tiny…but don’t tell them.)
A friend of mine, Lynn Trojahn, who leads a thriving and excellent consulting firm here in New Mexico called Thrive Consulting sits with me from time to time doing what another friend and essential consultant, Chris Corrigan, calls “lending courage.” She is a luminous human with a ceaseless smile which could electrify Indianapolis, a demeanor which oozes support and kindness and a message of gratitude-midwifing-generosity. Sitting with her, one feels, one might actually change the world.
This week Lynn was heard by my colleague to have said that fundraisers are like peacocks – loud, strangely heard, odd looking at first, awkwardly walking, flipping from browns to teals in seconds, strutting some, demanding to be heard and seen by other beasts, some resentful of their beauty or their noise. It is beautiful to raise money for things Jesus would recognize as essential but dangerous.
Fundraisers, be they in churches, dioceses or non-profits, are strange birds. How many times have you heard people say (or have you said) I would hate to be a fundraiser…hate to do that work, hate asking people for money. And yet $410 billion is given away each year (mostly to churches) and 80% is from individuals. So…someone is asking and someone is giving. And yes, it will cause tension and anxiety in the system. I say bring it on! Everyone needs to die sometime.
At least if you get your head chopped off for asking people to raise money effectively (having read my books first of course) you will be remembered for having midwifed, and you will die with a great story…one they might tell for two thousand years! Two would be enough but who knows!?