The Theology of Giving (Part 3 of 3)

The goods of the earth have been given for all. We are to share those goods not simply when we don’t need them, but also when we do. These are key principles of Catholic social teaching.

Giving, whether of our time, talent, or treasure, is based on the very nature of God. Though He did not have to create us, He did..and then became one of us and died for us. He taught us the meaning of giving when we don’t have to and of giving from our very substance, from our very life.

The Lord Himself referred to a theology of giving. After observing the rich putting their sizable donations into the temple treasury, he saw a poor widow making her contribution, whereupon He said, “I assure you, this poor widow has put in more than all the rest. They make contributions out of their surplus, but she from her want has given what she could not afford — every penny she had to live on” (Luke 21:3-4).

Most of us give to some charity, and we give what we do not need. But how often do we give away what we do need? And the fact that we need it is precisely why we need to share it.

The needs of another are not just the other’s needs; they are ours. We are one body.”The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ….God has so constructed the body… that all the members may be concerned for one another. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members share its joy. You, then, are the body of Christ. Every one of you is a member of it” (1Cor.12:12, 24-27).

How much should we give to a cause that we know is right? The measure of our giving should be how much the other needs the gift, not how much the giver does not need it.

No group of people is more needy in our society than the unborn, deprived of the very right to their lives. More money is spent in this country to kill the unborn than is spent to save them. Some wealthy people contribute billions to the very groups that promote the killing.

“I ask you, how can God’s love survive in a man who has enough of this world’s goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?” (1John 3:17). Given that the greatest of “this world’s goods” is life itself, we can rephrase the verse: How can God’s love survive in anyone who is alive yet closes his heart to his brother who is in danger of death?

When we give out of our very need, we give life itself to others. Nowhere is that more true than when we give to the efforts to end abortion.

Funding the Pro-life Movement (Part 2 of 3)

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life

More money is being spent on killing babies by abortion than on saving them, and it’s up to the pro-life movement to turn that around. Yet all of us struggle with how to do that. This is the second part of a series to offer some recommendations about pro-life fundraising which we have found helpful at Priests for Life.

You don’t own your donors – Some approach the acquisition of donors like the acquisition of a spouse, thinking that if the donor is “mine,” he or she cannot also be someone else’s. But we neither marry nor own our donors. Instead, a donor should be thought of as a friend. It is both normal and expected that your friends will have other friends. It is also understood that you can’t take friendship for granted. You have to nurture the relationship, and you need to have a give and take, paying attention to the donors’ needs just as you want them to pay attention to yours.

People respond to service – There are many techniques about how to write a fundraising letter, how often to mail it, how to get people to open it, and what to do when people do and do not respond. These techniques should be studied and practiced, because they work. Yet there is one thing we need to do that will multiply powerfully any results from these special techniques. In a sense, it is the foundational fundraising technique: Provide a quality product.

A product may be a physical item, or information, or a service. Whatever it is, make it of the highest professional quality. Pay attention to the needs, desires, and patterns of response of the people you serve. Be available to them, and they will be generous to you and your organization.

Communicate a vision, not just a need – While we should state our needs honestly, the core of asking for money is not simply saying that we need it, but rather presenting a vision that you want the donor to grasp and be part of bringing to fulfillment. The excitement and promise of that vision will elicit generosity.

Remind people of the God of Generosity — Scripture is clear that those who do God’s work should be supported not only spiritually but materially. Scripture is also clear that one of God’s clearest traits is generosity, and that the people who strive to be like God should likewise be generous. Leaders, therefore, should call them to generosity, not simply so that the work can be supported, but so that the donors can fulfill a key aspect of their call to spiritual growth.

Trust mightily in Providence – When I invited Mother Teresa to an event I planned, I was speaking to her about the financial needs connected with it. She urged me to trust God’s Providence, and said, “God has lots of money.” Foster that confidence within your heart, and then ask God to share some of that money with you through your donors!

Raising Money for Life (Part 1 of 3)

Like so many other movements, the pro-life movement has to constantly beg for funds to do its work. My colleagues often ask for and appreciate fundraising advice. Based on the significant success that we at Priests for Life have had at fundraising since the mid-90’s, I offer the following bullet points that anyone who seeks to do fundraising in the pro-life arena (or other not-for-profit arenas) should take to heart.

Invest your personal money — If you want to do successful fundraising, do it for a cause you really believe in, and start by investing your personal money. If you really want to succeed, invest every bit of personal money you can in your chosen cause.

The fact is that it takes money to raise money, and if you know what you want to raise money for, then lead by example. Don’t sit around waiting for the person who is going to jump-start your project or organization. Be that person yourself.

When I took over the helm at Priests for Life in 1993, I had no office, no staff, and was handed a check for $3000, representing the total budget of Priests for Life. Now, we have a $12 million annual budget with a staff of 60. We did not employ any magic along the way. When I sought permission from Cardinal O’Connor to do pro-life work full time, I told him not to worry about having to provide a salary for me. I had some money saved up from my ordination and early years of priestly work, and I spent every bit of it jump-starting the efforts of Priests for Life. To this day, I will routinely spend my personal money on Priests for Life business. If I’m going to ask people to be donors – as I do daily – I should be one myself.

Ask and you shall receive. – This foundational fundraising principle is Biblical. And it’s simple. If you want something, you have to ask. Don’t wait for your donors to “discover” your need, and certainly don’t presume that they know your needs or can read your mind. Ask, and ask frequently.

While you are thinking every day about your efforts and the money you need to carry out those efforts, your donors are not thinking of you ever day or even every week. They will donate to the extent that they are asked. You are competing for their attention moment by moment. Seize it by presenting yourself, your work and your needs before them continually.

Asking for donations is like putting a bucket in a river. Money is always flowing, whether you ask for it or not. People are going to buy things and donate to causes. Put your bucket in the river often, and you’ll gain a lot of water. Put it in a little, and you’ll gain a little.

Ultimately, fundraising is an integral part of ministry. It’s something many don’t like, but it’s not something we should be ashamed of or run away from.