At the Global:Church Forum, the pre-conference began with a moderated panel discussion on ministry funding featuring David Wills of National Christian Foundation,Glen Hartson of SRG, Lauren Cloete of the Mergon Foundation, and Kn Moy of Masterworks.
With the growth of the global South and more and more ministries developing in the world around us (outside of the USA), how does the role of funders from the West change?
Wills: People are realizing that the West is not the only place to get funds. From a global resource standpoint, God is working from the top down and bottom up. These are environments where funding is indigenously being raised up without needing funding from the West.
Hartson: Through globalization, people are beginning to have a better understanding of where the pockets f the unreached are. Most of the current models are not workable models. The Far East has very significant wealth, but they don’t have the history of the Western Church of using the same model for 100 years. The Far East model currently doesn’t have the hurdles that Western Christians use to filter who gets donations.
Cloete: We are trying to be led by the Holy Spirit and not limiting ourselves to only investing in specific niches. We look for areas that lack resources.
Moy: There is something that the global South and East offer us as different models for doing Church and ministry. With some models, money becomes less important.
What is a good definition of partnership that uses Biblical values?
Cloete: Everyone brings something to the table. We may bring funding, but we can’t do the work in the trenches. It doesn’t make either of us better. Also, there is a sense that you want to have shared values. It is changing from a donor-focused approach to a steward-focused approach. What we are stewarding and allocating isn’t our own. We’ve had to learn hard lessons, and we’ve had to learn we’ve been wrong.
Hartson: There are more funders that are looking at funding as a mosaic. The world is now flat. Westerners do not have the impact that the thought they had. If they want to be successful then (1) it has to be God’s vision, and (2) you have to be vulnerable and leave your ego.
Wills: I wonder how long will it be before the West has the needs that the rest of the world used to have. We are seeing interesting trends like (1) ministry-to-ministry collaboration like never before and (2) funders collaborating with funders and (3) even funders getting together with ministries to strategize together.
Moy: Collaboration works better than partnership. Partnership tends to get hung up on if we believe the same things. Collaboration pools resources for a goal but doesn’t wrestle with shared beliefs as much. If you want to move quickly, define things loosely as a collaboration.
Let’s talk about power. There is an idea that the funder has the power, but what is the truth?
Wills: Healthy funders level the playing field. If both sides come to learn and listen, things get accomplished.
Hartson: People say it is not personal it is business. But it can be both very personal as well as business. Some donors want to be very involved and invest their skills while others don’t want to be involved at all.
Cloete: Being a donor is an absolute pleasure, but it is also one of the hardest parts because we cannot meet all the requests. We look for long-term relationships. In Africa, there tends to be an entitlement mentality that doesn’t want to go through the process. We want to work with humble people, and they want to have humble donors. Even though I feel compassionate, I can’t go into a group thinking that I have solutions. You can’t solve a need without understanding the culture. In some cases, the donor relationship is viewed as a marriage where the husband gives the wife money to spend money on whatever she wants. This leads to false assumptions that lack accountability. We must take time to create relationships and communicate clearly.
Moy: We are seeing huge seismic changes in how gives give and what they are expecting. The world has transitioned from donors acting like command-and-control to a world of empower-and-engaging. Donors today want to know very clearly where their money is going.
What are some specific examples of an empower-and-engage relationship? And what are some failures that we can learn from?
Wills: There is a group of givers that have partnered with a group of ministries. It is called Every Tribe Every Nation, and they are working together to put Scripture into every language. Peer-to-peer engagement is powerful, and these collaborating ministries are accomplishing powerful things.
Hartson: There are no 2 donors that are the same. Some are juiced up by information-driven executive summaries. Some get juiced up by being in the field. We learned that we must have a structure that allows flexibility to meet to different needs of each donor. But you can still have structure over this to manage it all, but you need to have a one-on-one relationship with donors. Don’t have a one size fits all approach.
Cloete: Don’t let the relationship break down. Sometimes this happens just because you didn’t spend enough time investing in the relationship before you partner. Don’t rush vetting a relationship, or you may be stuck funding a ministry that never grows.
Moy: Yes, you need face-to-face flesh time with each high level donor, but when you have thousands of donors you can’t spend time with each one of them. However, you can make them feel like they have a relationship with the organization. As an organization, don’t treat people like all you care about is their money. God’s way is not to burnout donors.
What is one thing you would like ministry leaders who are seeking funding to know?
Moy: Boomers. That generation control 80% of all wealth and half of all disposable income. Boomers that give to charities are more generous than any other generation. It is an awakening for them. If you have limited resources to focus attention on donors, prioritize Boomers. But realize that engaging donors is different than engaging other generations. Their generation will reinvent how organizations engage donors because what worked for the Silent Generation doesn’t work for them.
Hartson: You have to have respect for others. I think the Boomers haven’t been addressed. Too much attention has gone to the previous generation. Boomers are looking for relevancy and impact, but in many cases what we don’t give them credit for is that they have time and resources other than money that they want to invest. At the same time, we cannot forget about the next generation. The Christian community is way behind the curve of engaging the next generation. Yes, the resources are at the Boomers, but the Boomers can also be the key to engaging the next generation because they are relationally connected.
Cloete: Identify donors that specialize in your area. Don’t create a sense of competition. Focus on working together. If you are looking for funding, don’t harass and don’t expect. Understand that each funding organization has its own personality, so get to know them and build relationships. Please pray for funders. They don’t have it all together. Sometimes they get stuck in their ways. They need to feel like they are part of your process in Kingdom building.
Wills: Don’t go at it alone. Be able to immediately answer who you are collaborating with and how you are doing it. Speak with urgency and momentum.