Author: Sas Conradie
Category: Resource Mobilization
To facilitate a truly global conversation, we ask Christian leaders from around the world to respond to the Global Conversation’s lead articles. These points of view do not necessarily represent the Lausanne Movement. They are designed to stimulate discussion from all points of the compass and from different segments of the Christian community. Please add your perspective by posting a comment so that we can learn and grow together in the unity of the Spirit.
A response to Rob Martin’s article: From A Wallet In The Purse of the Bride
One of my favourite programs on television is ‘The Apprentice’ where a number of contestants compete to be appointed as a prominent business person’s trainee. The contestants engage in different business related tasks after which one is fired from the losing team. A final winner is selected when all the others had been fired. In the UK they changed the format so that young entrepreneurs compete for £250,000 investment in a business venture. The money is invested by Lord Alan Sugar who gives it from his own wealth. He then owns 50% of the winning business venture. There are wonderful nuggets as contestants try to market themselves and then argue with Lord Sugar why they should be selected. My favourite quote of the program was during such an argument when Lord Sugar replied ‘and by the way it is my money and I will decide how to spend it’.
This is how ministry leaders often feel when asking for money. They have to compete with others to convince donors to give them a coveted donation. This creates exactly the overdog-underdog relationship that Rob Martin describes in his blog. In the end it is the donor (or in the case with foundations often program officers) who has the money and he/she will decide how to spend it. The result is a feeling of helplessness from the ministry leaders because the donor controls the giving. He/she made the money and as in the case of Lord Sugar can decide to whom to give it to. This can create enormous tension between ministry leaders who apply for funding and givers who control the purse strings. As Rob mentions ministries manipulate information just to get a donation that quite often is needed to help them survive as ministry. One of the contestants in this year’s Apprentice said ‘I’m right at the top of the food chain. I truly am the reflection of perfection’. I expect that ministries would not use these exact words when they ask for funding. However how often this is implied in funding proposals to show that a certain ministry deserves the donation?!
In nearly every generosity consultation and most discussions I had been involved in the past few months this tension came to the surface. Gilles Gravelle argues for a partnership between donors and funding recipients in his excellent guide to build effective 21st century relationships between donors and ministries. However ministry leaders complain that even this form of partnership is a form of control since they have to pamper donors during visits which then take their attention away from ministry needs. And there is always a fear that donors can tell the ministries what to do. And that is an area that ministry leaders control!
Rob’s perspective on the mutuality between donors and ministries (funding recipients) as a communion of giving and receiving is for me a corrective on the partnership model. In the partnership model the funding remains with the donor and the ministry control with the ministry leader. In a communion of giving and receiving these controls have to fall away:
I want to call for a Body of Christ theology when we think about the relationship between donors and ministries as funding recipients. The Lausanne Standards as a series of guided conversations between donors and ministry leaders is in my view important steps towards such a Body of Christ paradigm. It is a starting point of a process for donors and ministries to understand themselves as co-workers and co-stewards. The difference between ‘them’ and ‘us’ will have to fall away. If that is the intention the conversations become an exciting journey to jointly discover God’s purposes for our mutual ministry. Then trust and accountability will be automatically developed as different parts of the same Body join in one fellowship. Such a journey will have to be transformative to both donors and ministries!
Dr. Sas Conradie Is Coordinator of the Global Generosity Network
 Gravelle, Gilles: ‘The Age of Global Giving: A practical guide for the donors and funding recipients of our time’, (Gilles Gravelle:2011)