The Corinthian Leadership Gift

“For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action” (2 Corinthians 9:2).

The church in Jerusalem was suffering under persecution and famine, so Paul organized a relief effort and asked all the churches in Asia to share with their brothers and sisters. The believers in Corinth were quick to give and promised more. Paul told of the Corinthians’ generosity everywhere he went. The Macedonian churches were so motivated by the Corinthians’ gift that they surprised Paul with a generous gift of their own.

Major donors want to partner with your ministry, but they don’t want to feel that they are the only ones. Matching, challenge, and leadership gifts are effective tools to encourage others to give. Sometimes ministries incorrectly use these terms interchangeably and cause donor confusion.

Matching Gifts
Donors often wonder if matching gifts are real, or if the donor will give the entire amount anyway. Major donors often propose to match the total gifts raised within a certain time frame, effectively doubling their gift. The donor typically offers a maximum amount they will match. One major donor frames his gift this way, “I’m happy to send you $50k this year. Just tell me what projects you want me to designate and whether you want me to make my contribution contingent upon a match.”

Challenge Gifts
A matching gift is conditional upon the gifts of others; gifts can be matched until the goal is reached. Challenge gifts are given when the entire challenge is met—it’s an all or nothing scenario. One foundation only gives challenges gifts and gives the ministry exactly twelve months to achieve the goal or the challenge grant is withdrawn. If a match creates urgency with donors and gift officers, then a challenge grant is a match on steroids.

Leadership Gifts
It’s important to be accurate in your terminology. If the donor plans to give the match/challenge gift regardless of what other donors do, then their match/challenge is illusionary. On the other hand, leadership gifts are given no matter what others do. Major donors give generously to set the pace hoping that others will catch the vision. These key seed gifts are critical to your capital campaign success. When someone shows courage to lead; others follow.

Follow Through
Meanwhile, back in Corinth, the church was slow to follow through with their promised gift, so Paul penned 2 Corinthians to spur them into action and sent the brothers to collect (2 Corinthians 8:16-24). The Corinthians didn’t give their gift to prompt others, but Paul spoke of it everywhere he went and generated enthusiasm and generosity. Some major donors see match/challenge gifts as manipulative and refuse to participate; others only give this way. These strategies can motivate your major donors to inspire generosity in others.

Response: Lord, give me wisdom to know if I should present a match, challenge, or leadership gift opportunity to my major donors to encourage others to give.

Think About This: Encouraging others to give is a two-way street. Both large and small donors can encourage each other by their generosity.

Have a Spirit-led 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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