ECFA Standard 7.4 – Stewardship of Charitable Gifts
Acting in the Best Interest of Givers


"When dealing with persons regarding commitments on major gifts, an organization’s representatives must seek to guide and advise givers to adequately consider their broad interests.

An organization must make every effort to avoid knowingly accepting a gift from, or entering into a contract with, a giver that would place a hardship on the giver or place the giver’s future well-being in jeopardy."

The Apostle Paul captures the essence of this standard in Philippians 4:17: “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.” Both Christian individuals and organizations should look not only to their own interests but to the interests of others.

Providing money for evangelical ministries is God’s work. Both those who seek funds and those who give are God’s servants and stewards. Those seeking funds for the work of God’s Kingdom should see the givers as participants and individuals, not as checkbooks. The person giving is more important than the gift. Generosity motivated by the example of Jesus Christ and by God’s grace will result in spiritual blessing, joy, and thankfulness. As Paul instructed Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will 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 Timothy 6:17–19).

An organization that aligns its stewardship activities to these biblical principles will act in the interest of its givers. This does not require the organization to scrutinize every contribution it receives to ascertain whether the giver is finan­cially able to give without incurring present or future hardship. It does mean that in all of its resource-raising activities, the organization will act with integrity and honesty and will avoid manipulating potential givers by false or misleading statements.

The level of responsibility rises in proportion to the level of personal contact with a giver and the size or complexity of gift. Representatives who have knowledge of a potential giver’s specific circumstances will consider these needs in any direct solicitation. Factors to be considered include legal capacity, age, needs of dependents, health or potential health risks, income level, and available assets. Such an evaluation is essential when an organization seeks major gifts or irrevocable deferred (contractual) gifts. In seeking contractual gifts, the organization may assist the potential giver in evaluating short-term and long-range needs and interests, and then recommend alternatives to achieve the objectives.[1]

Summary.  Respect for a giver’s specific circumstances is an important way organizations look not only to their own interests but also to the interests of others. This respect emphasizes that the giver is more important than the gift.

[1] Mark 12:38–44 provides a comparison between the stinginess of the scribes and the generosity of the widow. Even as the greed of the scribes had not gone unnoticed, so also the generosity of the widow was seen by God! Jesus did more than notice it; He celebrated it.

The juxtaposition of these two scenes (vv. 38–40 and 41–44) communicates this message to the followers of Jesus: Watch out, because greed can surface where you least expect it: in the lives of religious leaders, who will be judged for their behavior; and also under God’s watch, know that generosity can surface where you least expect it, from a humble widow, whose behavior will be celebrated.

Jesus does not instruct people to “go and do likewise” regarding the widow’s gift (hers is not an example that we should follow in regards to giving all we have to live on), but he lifts her up to shine a bright light on the lack of generosity of the Hebrew leadership.