Woman talking, Man and women listening, in a conference room

WIIFM Donors

The king asked Ziba, “Why have you brought these?” Ziba answered, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and fruit are for the men to eat, and the wine is to refresh those who become exhausted in the wilderness” (2 Samuel 16:2).

WIIFM stands for What’s In It For Me? Sales professionals know that WIIFM drives most buying decisions, so they create an emotional link that compels a person to purchase their product or service. Should fundraisers pursue WIIFM donors?

David wanted to honor Jonathan by showing grace to one of his relatives. So, he blessed Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth, with Saul’s estate and invited him to eat at his table (see 2 Sam. 9). He also assigned Ziba to serve as Mephibosheth’s steward. Fast forward to Absalom’s rebellion. David and his household fled Jerusalem for their lives. Ziba went to the wilderness with a gift to refresh David. On the surface, this seemed like an act of selfless generosity, but was it? Ziba demonstrates how difficult it is to identify WIIFM donors.

Personal Benefit

As manager of Mephibosheth’s inheritance, Ziba controlled incredible wealth. “You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for” (2 Sam. 9:10). Ziba’s betrayal of Mephibosheth reveals his greed. He wasn’t satisfied with just serving, he wanted to own. His story seemed to work because David said to Ziba, “All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours” (2 Sam. 16:4). Ziba clearly had a conflict of interest. Sometimes your donors also have conflicts of interest. Perhaps their gift awards them with a building contract or a sale of their product or service. Perhaps they hope to leverage their gift to use your donor base for their marketing. Be wary of donors who give hoping to get.

Family Benefit

2 Samuel 9:10 reveals an interesting detail, “Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.” That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Ziba had much to gain from David’s generosity toward Mephibosheth. WIIFM donors are transactional donors. Christian school parents often say, “I’m giving because I want my child to benefit from this new building,” or “I’m not giving because my child is graduating and won’t be able to enjoy it.” That’s a difficult attitude to overcome. No doubt, you have a few WIIFM donors. Thank them graciously and ask God to transform their hearts.

Kingdom Benefit

Search for kingdom-focused donors. These men and women are motivated by the eternal impact of your mission—whether they benefit or not. They understand the spiritual rewards of generosity and are not looking for earthly rewards. They give generously to “lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:19).

Think About This: Mephibosheth finally shared his side of the story with David (see 2 Samuel 19:24-30) but it was too confusing. David told him and Ziba to split the property. It’s difficult to read a donor’s motivations, so don’t try. Simply be grateful for every gift.

Response: Lord, help me motivate my WIIFM donors by What’s In It For You!

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, 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.

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