Texas Presbyterian Foundation

DO I HAVE TO? Putting the Joy Back in Generosity

By The Rev. Dr. Richard Young, TPF’s President

There is a distinct difference between HAVE TO and WANT TO, and the transition between the two is a common thread that weaves between all phases of our lives. Do we go to work because we HAVE TO? Or because we WANT TO? I try to eat healthy and exercise, but I don’t always WANT TO. However, according to my doctor, I HAVE TO. Of course, wouldn’t we all rather WANT TO?

When considering this attitude shift in relation to generosity and the people who support mission, wouldn’t it be better if they would WANT TO be generous, instead of simply feeling like they HAVE TO? Often the church models HAVE TO generosity in its stewardship campaigns with an emphasis on bottom lines and budgets rather than offering the members opportunities to support what they love and what they would like to see happen. Note, I am in no way attempting to minimize the need for supporting your budget. However, I would like to suggest that we might consider adjusting our approach if we wish to encourage the kind of transformational generosity that supports the WANT TO approach to giving.

Don’t know where to start? I’ve provided three suggestions below:

Model Generosity: If your church or organization is not modeling generosity, how can you expect donors to join in willingly and excitedly? Examine ways in which your church or organization changes the lives of others and bring these out in all communications— not just in November, but year-round. Remember, if the church only talks about generosity once a year, then clearly, I as a member only need to do that as well. Generosity is a daily opportunity—let’s make that true for everyone. Clear the path! Identify the available generosity opportunities for your church members.

Make Their Hearts Sing: It matters WHAT stories you tell.  If you had a magic wand and could change one thing in the world, what would it be? Sadly, you don’t have a magic wand, but you can have immediate impact on the lives of others both locally and globally. This impact translates into moving stories. Tell these stories! Highlight projects that meet people where their hearts are singing and/or breaking. Do this regularly to ensure they become an expected part of your donor relationships. These stories don’t need to be connected to a request for funds, but instead focused on how your church or organization is making a difference. Remember, stories move people. Many voices, many stories.

Recognize the Importance of Each Gift: Sometimes we get caught up in money. But remember, resources can be anything!  Time, talent, AND money are all important resources. There are times when we focus too much on only any one of the three to the exclusion of one or the other.  Be sure to tell stories of the small gift that made a difference.

Would you like to learn more about inspiring generosity? CLICK HERE to check out our blog post “It Only Takes a Spark—Five Keys to Inspiring Generosity.”