Board Giving and the Generosity Circle

By John Pearson

My last two blogs this month have addressed “10 Fundraising Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix.” In addition to a little venting, I’ve challenged board members to address the board policy issues that impact a ministry’s fundraising program. (Example: Who evaluates fundraising effectiveness?)

Let me now turn the discussion in your direction. Hopefully, you’re not just a “donor of record” (as some lame board policies require), but you’re a generous giver to the ministry where you serve as a board member.

In the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members, the “Board Member Read-and-Engage Viewing Guide” lists six criteria for board nominees:

The 6 Ds:
1. Discerning Decision-Maker
2. Demonstrated Passion
3. Documented Team Player
4. Diligent and Faithful Participant
5. Doer (“Walks the talk!)
6. Donor

Here’s the commentary on the 6th D: “Because Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,’ this nominee is already a generous giver to our ministry. (Note: Many organizations define ‘generous’ as prioritizing your organization in the Top-3 of a person’s annual giving. Board members at all income levels can be generous.)”

So, while your ministry can easily fix the 10 fundraising mistakes, only you can discern if your giving is in the “Generous Giving” circle or just the “Donor of Record” circle. While a generosity expectation may not have been communicated to you when you were recruited to the board, this week would be a good time to self-assess your passion and commitment (and generosity level) for the board(s) you serve on.

Fred Smith, Jr., president of The Gathering, has noted that there are at least seven models of giving in the Bible—and his insights will help you think biblically about your giving.

He writes, “A few years ago I heard an earnest, well-intentioned speaker present a message on the topic of the Biblical model of giving. It was the story of the widow’s mite and, as you might guess, the conclusion was we should be willing to give everything we have.

“I started thinking about that because I had heard almost my whole life that this story was the Biblical model of forgiving and, ideally, the gold standard. However, as I started looking at the different stories about giving in Scripture I realized there is a wide diversity of giving styles in Scripture—not just one.”

Smith lists seven examples: David (a leadership gift), Solomon (the extravagant giver), Elisha (gift of an opportunity), The Wise Men (team givers), Zacchaeus (exuberance and precision), The Widow (giving even to a flawed institution!), and Barnabas (powerful return on investment).

So how would you respond to Fred Smith’s Question? “I hope you ask yourself which of these individuals would be most like your own style of giving, and in doing so, you begin to recognize how your giving is a part of God’s workmanship in your life.”


QUESTION: Why should I give to your ministry if your board members are giving more generously to other ministries?


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.