Although I do a ton of fundraising for the ministry I lead, Dare 2 Share, I also financially support various ministries on a personal level. Over the years I've developed a giving philosophy that has helped me navigate my donation choices.
Of course our giving commitment starts with our own local churches. The church is God's primary means for advancing his kingdom on earth. The Church is the Bride of Christ and our first priority should be with her. The local church is where our giving starts (but it shouldn't stop there!)
Here are 7 characteristics I use as a grid to help determine which other ministries I'll get behind financially. As you wrestle through your year-end giving choices perhaps these will help you as well:
1. Gospel advancement
When Christian ministries approach me for money I ask the question, "In what ways is your ministry advancing the gospel?" If I get an answer the stumbles or fumbles I tend not to support it.
This is true even of relief organizations. To be honest that's one of the reasons I support Compassion International. I've been to Compassion projects in Colombia as well as El Salvador and have seen firsthand the priority they put on, not only feeding and educating children, but on pointing each of them to Jesus.
Yes, there are plenty of other organizations out there doing good things. But I'm not interested in supporting just "good" things. I want to support great things that make a huge difference in this life and the next.
Put simply, scalability is the ability to handle more and more of a workload based on a system of strategy put in place. When it comes to kingdom work it means that a ministry's impact is multiplied because of a system/structure/strategy that the ministry leaves behind.
For instance, in 3rd world countries organizations that provide food for the poor are doing much needed work. But ones that go the extra step of teaching them how to provide food for themselves (through farming, fishing, entrepreneurship, etc) are even more effective. The first approach is good. The second is scalable.
This is something we've been striving for on an evangelism level at Dare 2 Share Ministries. It's the whole reason we do evangelism training for teenagers instead of purely evangelistic outreaches. As the saying goes, "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime."
We are teaching teenagers to become "fishers of people" in the words of Jesus (Matthew 4:19.) This is the gift that keeps on giving. When our strategy marinates down into the programming of the participating youth ministries our efforts become scalable.
I have a buddy named Reid Saunders who does massive evangelistic outreaches across the world (a great thing.) But here is where he is unique as an evangelist. He trains the participating churches how to evangelize and keep the movement going long after he leaves. His goal is to never have to go back to the same area twice because he wants to leave a system/strategy in place that can keep the merry-go-round of evangelistic momentum spinning.
Now that is scalability and this is a key component of what I look for in ministries I support.
3. Kingdom impact
Another question I ask myself when it comes to supporting ministries is, "Is this ministry really making a difference?" In the words of Mark Senter III, too many times we look at what ministries are doing instead of what is getting done.
I'll never forget going into Alan Sears' office (He is the President of Alliance Defending Freedom) and seeing a sign hanging over his desk with two words on it. The sign simply read, "Communicate results." I asked Alan what that sign meant. He told me that one of the most important rules of fundraising was communicating to donors what was happening as a result of their gifts.
Ministries that are getting things done for the kingdom should communicate those outcomes to their ministry partners. When they do donors will be informed, pray more strategically and be more likely to give again.
4. Chemistry connection
Okay, this is probably the human side of the giving equation. But there are some ministries that fit all my criteria but for some reason or another I just done jive with them.
Sometimes it's a subjective yellow or red light in my soul or maybe it just doesn't feel right. Call it discernment, indigestion, the gentle whisper or whatever but when I feel this way about an organization I usually don't give to it.
If I'm going to support a ministry financially I have to be able to do it generously (2 Corinthians 8:2), cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7) and with a heart full of faith that this is something God wants me to do because "whatever is not of faith is of sin" Romans 14:23.
5. Theological soundness
It's important to me that the organizations I support embrace the orthodox Christian faith. They believe in the Trinity, the inerrancy of Scripture, the Deity and humanity of Christ and salvation by faith alone in Christ alone based on his finished work on the cross.
The theology of grace is also a big deal to me. I have a hard time supporting ministries that are not clear when it comes to the gospel. Those that add pre-conditions to the free gift of eternal life (other than simple reliance on Jesus) are usually not on my Christmas list.
Theological soundness can be an important guide in our giving choices. It sure is in mine.
6. Financial integrity
When I took the role as President of Dare 2 Share Ministries my first official act was beginning the process for us to become members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (aka "ECFA.")
The ECFA is an association organization which has 7 requirements for ministries who join it's ranks. These requirements range from governance to transparency to the highest standards of accounting practices.
2 Corinthians 8:20,21 describes the Apostle Paul's careful handling of financial gifts, "taking precaution that no one should discredit us in our administration of this generous gift, for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men."
Ministries that I choose to support take precautions as well. If they are unwilling to do that then I'm usually unwilling to support them.
7. Prayer focus
This may sound a bit odd but I one of the characteristics I look for before I will support a ministry is a prayer focus. If prayer is not a big deal to them then what it shows me is that they have lost their ability to "keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25) and therefore could make some very unwise decisions.
Ministries that consistently pray with a heart of faith can navigate through economic, strategic and personnel challenges and come out stronger as a result. The ministries that don't pray will be unable to fully accomplish the purposes God has for it. Prayer is a ministry's Sextant to guide them through the storms. It enables them to focus on the North Star of God's will so that they can navigate to the place where he wants them to be.
Of course this is probably the hardest characteristic to identify. I usually can find out by talking to the leaders of the organization where prayer falls as a priority for them.
These are the 7 characteristics I look for in ministries I support financially. I hope they help you in your year-end giving choices. By the way, if you are looking for a ministry to make a year-end gift to that is advancing the gospel through the next generation and is striving to emulate these 7 characteristics why not consider Dare 2 Share?
But, whether it's Dare 2 Share or another ministry you choose to support with a year-end donation, give generously and cheerfully because God gave us the best gift ever and we can't out-give him!
"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15