Almost every night, whenever we sit down to a family meal, our home phone rings. It’s uncanny. It’s as though our house is bugged or our cutlery is embedded with movement sensors linked to a call centre. The caller? Someone from a charity or non-profit organisation sharing a scripted plea to support a worthy cause.
While I like to joke and declare that “the three-legged cat foundation phoned again”; I do not, even for a moment, think that the crisis/disease/disadvantage that the caller is seeking to raise funds for is not important, it is. I don’t wish to offend, and I don’t hold any ill-will towards either charities or cats. Every day, thousands of charities across the globe deliver outstanding work that positively impacts the lives of millions of people, animals, and ecosystems.
I am a fan of, and champion for, the common good.
There are, however, so many worthy causes competing for our time, energy and finance that it has become overwhelming. Charities exist in a competitive market, and as such, they often employ market-based strategies such as hard sell tactics. The impact of competition and sales approaches is that I frequently switch off. Regardless, I still give to organisations, individuals, projects, social enterprises, campaigns or movements that do important work and make a difference. But I have become more cautious and deliberate, and often I say no.
Churches also appeal for financial giving, and many make that request every single week. At FOUND, we won’t and don’t.
At our Sunday Gatherings, there are no buckets, no envelopes, and no regular offering messages. If people see value in and want to give to our work, then they can do so simply and easily through our website. However, a financial offering will not feature as a consistent part of our meetings.
This approach is, in part, a response to charitable giving fatigue but it’s mostly based on our understanding that ‘Godly finance’ is about how we apply and direct our money in all areas of our lives, not just in a church setting. Consequently, FOUND’s resources are focused on community investment both locally and internationally.
We seek to equip people out into the community rather than employ people within the organisation. Wages are the largest expenditure item in many church budgets. But if we truly believe that all the people in our community are part of the body of Christ imagine what we might be able to achieve by freeing up that resource for other purposes.
Some of our expenses, such as insurance, are a legal requirement. The majority of our expenses, however, directly facilitate our coming together and the impacts we seek to have in our households, communities, workplaces and by partnering with people and projects across the world.
While we are all at risk of charitable giving fatigue, the needs of our city and the world are impossible to ignore. The teachings of Jesus implore us to give to those in need and to commit ourselves to an ethic of generosity. Generosity is an attitude of heart and a posture of living that is focused on the betterment of those around us.
Along with generosity our financial processes and reporting are guided by the values of integrity and transparency. How much money we need to operate and why, where our funds come from and how they are spent is communicated in an open, transparent and timely manner.
Ultimately, our approach is underpinned by humility and relationship.
We won’t always get it right. We may overspend in some areas or fail to commit enough funds to others. We may never have a lot of assets or own buildings. Whatever we do our hope is that we would be recognised by our generosity and known by our love. And that our greatest investment would be in relationships that transform our lives, the lives of those around us, and the world in which we live.