08 Sep Asking and Receiving
Lessons from the Friend at Midnight
5 Then Jesus went on to say: Suppose one of you goes to a friend in the middle of the night and says, “Let me borrow three loaves of bread. 6 A friend of mine has dropped in, and I don’t have a thing for him to eat.” 7 And suppose your friend answers, “Don’t bother me! The door is bolted, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up to give you something.”
8 He may not get up and give you the bread, just because you are his friend. But he will get up and give you as much as you need, simply because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.
9 So I tell you to ask and you will receive, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you. 10 Everyone who asks will receive, everyone who searches will find, and the door will be opened for everyone who knocks (Luke 11:5-10, CEV).
The parable of the friend at midnight teaches us some profound fundraising principles.
Our friend faced a desperate need.
Why couldn’t this man wait until morning? What was the compelling reason he needed three loaves of bread right then? Was his request made so he could save face with his guest? That seems a little shallow. Perhaps his visitor had just arrived from a long journey and hadn’t eaten in days. Perhaps he had small children who were crying from hunger or an elderly family member who was weak or sick. Whatever the situation, this man asked his friend because he couldn’t solve the problem by himself. You probably can’t write a personal check to accomplish all your ministry goals. What problems could you solve if you only had more resources? Who won’t be reached if you can’t move forward with your plans? What essential programs won’t be accomplished without help? Why should a donor make a significant gift to your ministry? How desperate are you?
The hour was late.
It was midnight—not an ideal time to make a donor call. Rudeness and obnoxiousness are not usually desirable character traits for development professionals. However, some people are so fearful about offending a friend that they never bring up the subject of money, even in broad daylight! By going at midnight this man proved how motivated he was to provide for his guest. This was urgent. Successful fundraisers have passion to do whatever it takes to meet the need. If you’re a board member who is not passionate enough about your cause to ask your friends for money, maybe you should question whether or not you should continue serving on the board. Effective board members are willing to give and to get others to give, even if it’s inconvenient.
Our friend was asking to benefit someone else.
Some executive directors struggle with asking because a portion of the gift will cover their salary. They stumble over a mental block because it feels like they are asking for their own benefit. It’s proper for non-profit organizations to pay their staff members. “The worker deserves his wages” (1 Tim. 5:18). Assuming that your salary isn’t exorbitant, it’s completely legitimate to ask for a gift. The man in this parable probably enjoyed a piece of bread with his guest, but the reason he asked for the bread was to benefit his guest, not himself. The same goes for every ministry fundraiser. The reason you ask for money is so that your ministry has enough resources to provide the programs that change lives. Keep yourself focused on the people who would be lost were it not for your ministry’s impact. As a fundraiser you must avoid the love of money at all costs, because “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Our friend turned to his friend for help.
If God called you to the mission field, who would you ask for prayer and financial support? The man in this parable asked his friend for help. He didn’t approach a total stranger; he went to the person with whom he had cultivated a close relationship. Many executive directors have reality show fantasies of an anonymous mega-donor knocking on the door with a big smile and a big cardboard check. They’ll have to keep dreaming. People give to people they know and trust. A generous donor in California has a vision to develop hospitals in third world countries. His strategy is, “I don’t have enough money to build these by myself, so I have to get my friends to help me.” A true friend will answer a midnight phone call.
Our friend wouldn’t listen to excuses.
People make lots of excuses for not being generous. Some excuses are legitimate, most are not. The friend in this parable was no exception. He had a laundry list of reasons for why he couldn’t give. “The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.” Today’s donors also have a list of ready excuses for why they can’t give you anything. “It’s an inconvenient time.” “I’m focused on other things.” “I’ve got my money locked up in something else.” Countless circumstances stand in the way of generosity. The bottom line for the man in our story was simply, “I can’t.” Notice that he didn’t say, “I don’t have anything to give you.” This man had the capacity to give; he just wasn’t motivated. It wasn’t a matter of “I can’t” but “I don’t want to.” That didn’t deter our friend, and it shouldn’t slow you down, either. You can’t make anyone give, but you can pray boldly that God would compel them.
His friend gave because our friend kept asking.
The interesting fundraising application from this parable is that the friend didn’t give just because he was a friend, which goes against all we think about friendship fundraising. “He may not get up and give you the bread, just because you are his friend. But he will get up and give you as much as you need, simply because you are not ashamed to keep on asking” (Luke 11:8 CEV). Asking is the key. Friendship might get you in the door, but asking gets a gift. How many times should you call? A donor representative recently made six attempts to catch a prospect on the phone. On the seventh time, the donor answered, and they had a wonderful two-hour phone call. Most people give up too early. Persistence pays.
Don’t be ashamed to keep on asking!
Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for At the Center magazine and Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.