How We Decide Where to Give

This is the seventh post in an 8 part series.  For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage ... Short Series: On Giving.

"Nobody gives because of the tax-benefit" I remember my Dad saying as I started my fundraising to come on Staff with InterVarsity.  He helped me raise a big portion of my budget that first year and also helped me understand why people would be interested in giving to my work with college students.

Fundraisers and non-profits are constantly exploring how we decide where to give.  Some folks have created solid lists of motivations for giving.  Others have drawn up profiles of different types of givers.  The hope is that, if you understand how people decide where to give, you'll be able to get them to give more money to your cause or organization and feel happier about their giving.  Win-win.

So, how do you decide where to give?  Have you thought about your decision-making process?

Amy and I give to several different people and organizations.

In the past month, here's a sample of our giving ...

Joe Ho - the Area Director for InterVarsity's work with college students in the Shenandoah Valley.  Joe directs one of the largest teams in InterVarsity and is impacting hundreds and hundreds of students.  Before he moved to Virginia, Joe staffed the InterVarsity chapter at Duke (where he taught me how to lead Small Groups, nourished my enthusiasm for multi-ethnic witness and became a good friend).  Click on this link to learn more about Joe's ministry or donate toward his work.

Natalia Kohn - planting a new InterVarsity chapter with community college students in Pasadena, CA.  Naty's work connects with us in several ways.  She cares about community college students and cares about planting ministry on campuses that have no ministry.  She also deeply cares about multi-ethnicity and evangelism.  I worked with her on the LaFe10 planning team and she is a good friend.  On top of this, she had a matching gift given to her and was on course to end the year in the red.  Our gift could really help her.  Click on this link to support Natalia's work with students in Pasadena.

Crossway Church's missions trip to Haiti - on Saturday, a group from our church is going to Haiti to help out with an orphanage there.  The team will work on a project or two, spend time with the kids and learn about what God's doing in Haiti.  We work with a lot of Haitian students in our ministry here and I was deeply moved by Kent Annan's book After Shock (see my review of After Shock for more info).  We were really excited to have a chance to support this trip, even though we couldn't go.  Click on this link to help the team go to Haiti (any money above-and-beyond the cost of the trip will go to help the orphanage).

Now, I'm hesitant to talk about our giving patterns.  Some people think that missionaries should live hand-to-mouth and the thought that we'd also be donors strikes them as strange.  But part of the value of this blog is to be honest and transparent.

One of the things I notice when I look at our giving patterns is that almost all of our giving is relational.  Joe, Naty, the folks at Crossway (as well as Fred, Stacy and Eric, Bill, Rachel, and Deb ... who didn't get profiles written about them) ... we know, love and care about these people and the work they're doing.  We want our hearts to be with them and their work (giving and the heart are deeply connected).

Our giving is focused.  We give to missions and the church.  We focus on college students and cross-cultural ministry, thought not exclusively.  Although I'm tempted to give to Colbert's Super PAC, there's no political giving.  And there's very little giving to help the poor (this month).

Our giving has a blend of regular and one-time gifts.  Some folks get gifts from us every month.  Some get them as needed.  We like to support on-going, steady, high-impact ministries (like Joe's) and emerging, accelerating, high-potential ministries (like Naty's).  Different ministries need different kinds of gifts.

We also keep some money aside for great opportunities.  I learned this practice from Bill Hunter.  Having some wiggle-room built into your budget (or a snowballing giving fund that grows month to month) allows you to make a big impact in the face of pressing needs.  A neighbor loses a job.  A ministry loses a large donor.  An outreach opportunity comes up, but there's no time to raise funds for it.  That's where this money comes in.  You only get to use it once or twice a year, but it's exciting.

As I've looked, I can definitely see areas I need to tweak and places I need to grow.  Adjusting to being a one-income family is requiring us to re-think where we give.

What about you?  How do you decide where to give?

Working with college students, we're often surrounded by people who are thinking about giving for the first time.  Do you remember how rich you felt when you had your first job?  Tomorrow, I'll share about how to get started in your giving and that post will finish up the Short Series.

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