Complicated Major Donors

“And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved” (Genesis 43:14).

Navigating major donor relationships can be tricky. We worry about what to do and what not to do, what to say and what not to say. Joseph’s brothers’ first visit with the governor did not go well. He questioned them, accused them of spying, and threw them in jail. Eventually, he sold them grain and allowed them to return home but with two caveats (a) one of them had to stay, and (b) they had to bring their youngest brother when they returned. They sulked home with their tails between their legs and told their father the bad news. The famine continued but when they reached the desperation point, Israel sent his sons back to Egypt to buy more grain. Their second visit teaches us four lessons about repairing major donor relationships.

Questions
Israel had lots of questions about their first visit, “Why did you tell the man that you had another brother?” (Gen. 43:7). They didn’t mean to reveal sensitive information, they were just answering questions. After your major donor visit, it’s easy to second guess yourself about what you said wrong or shouldn’t have said at all. It’s important to critique yourself but remember the Spirit is in control of your conversation and will guide your words (see Matt. 10:19-20).

Answers
Major donors ask tough questions about your theology, mission, vision, strategic plans, budget, and financial projections. Judah knew they must be ready with answers before they approached the governor. “You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you” (Gen. 43:5). If your donor asked you a question that you couldn’t answer the first time, do your homework, and bring the right answers.

Assumptions
The brothers thought they were in trouble when they were escorted to Joseph’s house. They jumped to conclusions about the silver left in their sacks on the previous visit, “He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys” (Gen 43:18). Meeting with major donors can be intimidating but don’t assume that you know what your donor is thinking. Listen and let them speak for themselves.

Relationships
Major donor relationships are built upon trust. The brothers demonstrated their good faith intentions by taking gifts, apologizing for the silver in the sack incident, and showing genuine humility. Joseph responded by showing concern for their father, instructing his servant to reassure them about the silver issue, and hosting them for an extravagant dinner. These relationship building moments broke the tension and paved the way for reconciliation. When you have history with a donor, restoration takes time and actions. “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for” (Prov. 16:6).

Think About This: Israel was afraid of a bad outcome, so he delayed sending his sons to Egypt. In retrospect, he had more to gain than to lose. Are you procrastinating a stressful major donor conversation? Reach out today. You also have more to gain than to lose.

Response: Father, please give me wisdom to repair my broken major donor relationships.

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 two books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising and Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving. 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.

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