Not Just Donors, Friends!

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

Do you treat your donors as servants or friends? Do you only care about your donors for what they have and what they can do for you instead of who they are and what you can do for them? Jesus makes an amazing statement to his disciples, “I have called you friends.” Yes, we are Christ’s servants, but he has elevated our relationship status to friend and desires to be your close friend. You should elevate your donors to friends.

Terminology. How we refer to our supporters reveals how we view them. Sometimes we identify them by a number we’ve assigned them in our software. Sometimes we categorize them by their giving history or capacity. We refer to LYBUNTS (meaning they gave last year but not this year) or SYBUNTS (meaning they gave some year but not this year). Subconsciously or consciously we often view our donors as dollar signs. Make a significant shift in your vocabulary and start referring to your donors as ministry partners.

Trust. How does a servant become a friend? The answer is by building trust. Joseph was a faithful servant who eventually rose to second in command because he could be trusted. The trust we develop with our ministry partners is built over years of keeping our word. Do what you say you will do. If you promise to follow up with an answer to their question, follow up promptly. If you indicate you will use their gift for a certain project, don’t shift their funds to something else without asking their permission. It’s difficult to repair the damage caused by broken trust.

Transparency. Jesus treats us as friends by communicating fully with us. “A servant doesn’t know his master’s business.” Servants are kept in the dark about their master’s full intentions. Sometimes we keep our donors in the dark about our ministry plans. Jesus is completely transparent; everything he learned from his father he has shared with us. Treating your donors as friends means you genuinely care for them and communicate openly and honestly about your needs. Your transparency will earn you the opportunity to ask for their help.

Henri Nouwen made this insightful statement about a fundraiser’s relationship with donors, “Once we are prayerfully committed to placing our whole trust in God, and have become clear that we are concerned only for the Kingdom; once we have learned to love the rich for who they are rather than what they have; and once we believe that we have something of great value to give them, then we will have no trouble at all in asking someone for a large sum of money.”

If we love the rich for who they are we will view them as friends, even close friends. If we love the rich for what they have we will see them only as a means to an end – their means to support our end. Let Nouwen’s phrase sink into your heart, “Love the rich for who they are rather than what they have.” What will you do this week to build trust with your ministry partners?

Have a Spirit-led fundraising week,


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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