The Intersection

Generosity // April 24, 2011

I served a church client recently and had opportunity to engage in conversation with a high capacity donor couple who had demonstrated extreme generosity towards the church’s ministry over the years. As the campaign neared its conclusion, the donor, encouraged by his wife, inquired about the progress of the initiative and my reaction to the results that had been attained up to that point.

As we talked, the donors indicated a desire to increase their gift from $500,000 to $900,000. Then he said, “Oh, just make it $1,000,000”. As his wife walked away celebrating their decision to increase their gift, the husband rolled his eyes and said “I just gave a million to [name of his Alma Mater]!” Of course the pastor was ecstatic when he learned the news of the revised gift. Yet I left thinking that we could have had $2,000,000!

Often a pastor will lament after learning about a member’s large gift to a non-profit outside of the church. But we shouldn’t be surprised when that occurs.

When faced with a myriad of choices to offer financial support, the donor will almost always choose that place where they see their gift making the greatest impact. The university takes alumni relations very seriously, and wisely works to show potential donors the impact their gift will have. They find the place that one of my colleagues calls “The Intersection”.

What is the Intersection? Simply, it is that place where the vision and mission of your ministry intersects the passion of a donor’s heart. When you find that place, generosity is almost always the result. And as long as you demonstrate proper stewardship of their gifts, they will continue to give. Generosity is released!

Ok, here is a personal example of this concept at work in my personal life that should illustrate this concept clearly.

Like you, I receive annual appeal letters from the University where I received my degree (yes, they even let me take home a diplomaa fact that probably surprises a few of you!). Occasionally we receive phone calls during the annual phone-a-thon.

Several years ago a capital campaign was launched to raise money for an expanded football stadium. And the university found The Intersection for me, and hundreds of my classmates.

I was a music major in college. Musicians and athletic programs usually are not the most kindred of spirits. Sure we donned the uniforms and made our weekly appearance at the Saturday afternoon games, but some of us did so reluctantly. After all, we were serious musicians – majors we were. But marching band was a requirement to fulfill the major, so we had no choice but to oblige. (Marching band can be quite fun actually, but it helps if the team wins occasionally!)

So could you imagine the university calling with an appeal for a gift to support the funding for an expanded football stadium? What? Are you kidding? The music department is in dire need of renovation and expansion, the recital hall needs work – why would you be spending more money on athletics??!!!!

But in their wisdom, the university didn’t ask me to support the football stadium project directly. They found the Intersection for us with this ask, paraphrased. “Rusty, as a music major and former student under the direction of Dr. [name of band director], we thought you would be interested in a special recognition that we are creating in his honor. A special seating area of the stadium expansion is going to be named by the band in honor of Dr. Band Director for his many years of service to the music department and for his support of the athletics programs at the university. This seating area will be occupied by the band at all home games and will forever be named in his honor. Can we count on your support…” and the ask was made.

Brilliant! Do you see the Intersection? An ask to fund the stadium would have fallen on deaf ears. But an ask to honor the band and my former director hit the bullseye. Yep – we made a gift and our name is displayed with hundreds of other band alumni inside the stadium today.

In ministry, you must identify the Intersection for your people. It will be different things for different people. Relate the case so it resonates within the heart of every donor, and generosity will be released.

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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