FINANCES & The LESSON From the Leadership Exercise on Restricted Funds

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/21/16.

There is an important leadership lesson from the leadership exercise titled: FINANCES & A Leadership Exercise on the Dilemma of Restricted Funds.

Don’t worry if you didn’t get it right the first time.  Most people don’t.

You see this lesson is … that we tend to look at such dilemmas from the viewpoint of the organization and not the individual.

Most leaders describe how they would explain to the donor the needs of the organization. Very few of leaders in this exercise delve into the donor’s needs and reasons for the donation.

  • Perhaps the donor himself had been impacted by youth ministry and it had changed his life.
  • Or perhaps the donor had a misspent youth and didn’t want other young people to experience the same thing.

In most leaders’ responses the focus is on explaining to the donor the good reasons why the organization needed his money. Often responses revolved around the leader trying to justify that, “if the boiler is not dealt with, there would neither be church nor youth meeting” (a student’s own words).  Sometimes leaders even seem to be offended if the donor didn’t relinquish control and wished him well in another church if he did not agree with them.

But we need to be reminded that the church is people and it could still meet in another locale, as could the youth.  The boiler was chosen by me as an example because it directly represents the “physical” needs, not the “spiritual” needs of a faith community.  Both are important and linked, but the latter trump the former.

In our rush to feed the organization, do we miss feeding the spiritual needs of people?

Not many of my students get the right answer and their grade often reflects that. They understand that’s only fair … and they wouldn’t want me to grade any other way.

Now, you might argue that Paul says in Romans 12: 8 that “If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.” (CEB)  And Paul is certainly making the point that we should strive for these behaviors because such behaviors are signs of spiritual maturity.

But, what if the donor isn’t spiritually mature yet? Are we really helping him mature by trying to get him to relinquish or change he designation?  Wouldn’t it be more helpful to go to him, listen to him and learn what motivated his gift?

Thus, I hope you will take away from this case study our lesson: that lesson is that we tend to look at such dilemmas from the viewpoint of the organization and not the individual.

If this lesson sinks in (and I know it will for most who read this) then in the future…

  • You would go to the individual spend time with him.
  • You would learn about what he wanted to accomplish with the donation.
  • You would spend more time listening and less time explaining.
  • You would spend less time considering this money the church’s money and more time understanding that the Holy Spirit was at work in this donor’s heart.
  • And you would probably end up with a more spiritually mature donor.

This is a much better and I think more Christ-like approach.

MARKETING & 5 Common Pitfalls in Non-Profit Marketing

by Roman Kniahynyckyj, JULY 11, 2015.

lw_5_pitfallsWhen it comes to increasing donations for your non-profit organization, begging, pleading and coercion are not the answers. In fact these techniques are more likely to turn potential donors away. Here are some solutions to addressing common pitfalls to avoid in online marketing for non-profits…

1) Not Being Social...Pick one channel. Facebook is probably a good place to start. Setting up a social channel isn’t the end though. You may not have a lot of people interacting with you but when someone does ask you a question or comment on your page it’s important you respond appropriately…

2) Not Telling a Story.  Sharing a heart felt story about how donations have been used offers a powerful trigger for other potential donors… Help your website visitors understand and envision the impact of their donations. The more personal stories and long term community impact you can show the more likely you’ll keep people reading and move them towards a donation.

3) Not Creating A Wish List… Creating a non-profit wish list is a useful way to do this. Remember, any ‘ask’ must have a solid rationale for it – if you are asking for a new office computer make sure you let folks know your current computer is almost obsolete or is having trouble running the latest software.

4) Not Offering Social Proof.  In addition to showing where the money goes it’s important to show how the money already raised is being put to work. One of the best ways of offering this sort of social proof is through infographics that can be shared. Infographics are the perfect way to present a variety facts, figures and ideas in an easily digestible format…

5) Not Making it Insanely Easy to Donate.  If your website visitor has to click more once to get to a donation page from any page on your site they’re clicking too much. You will certainly have some visitors landing on your site ready to donate. If someone is ready and willing to donate don’t make it a challenge for them.

Read more at …  (image: )

DONATIONS & Student Wrestles With Denominational Contribution

by Bob Whitesel, 6-7-15.

Many denominations require that a portion  of undesignated gifts be given to the denomination.  This has implications for a hypothetical “case study” I posted in this blog titled: DONATIONS & An Unexpected Windfall. A Case Study on Unexpected Donations .

However, other denominations allow moneys designated for Building Funds to be retained fully by the church.  This can lead to some unethical temptations.  Let me share what one student said about this, and my response.

Student Post:

I am actually not sure that in the (denominational name) we could get by with using (all) the monies as I speculated, because of the budget assessment.  I was told by our District Secretary if the money is not designated as a building fund income, we are supposed to pay budgets as general income.  Essentially, that would mean that 20% (the denominational cap for calculating budgets) of the money would be assessed the next church year as budget payments.  If I reported that we had received $500,000 in extra income, the District would allocate $100,000 in the following years’ budgets, which would include world missions, pensions and benefits for retired pastors, district operations, etc.  If I reported that we had received $500,000 as a donation for building, we would have the discretion to use it all for the building.  Any portion of that money that we put aside for other than building would be assessed budgets.  So, here is the bottom line.  I could choose to give the denomination $100,000 (20% of $500,000 counted as general income) if I don’t use the total for building purposes, or I can use $400,000 for building  and have $100,000 in additional income.  Budgets would be $20,000 (20% of $100,000 general income).

The $400,000 as building fund would essentially give us $80,000 unaccounted for so we could put some in savings and some for charitable contributions above the budget amount.  $500,000 as general income would give us $400,000 for whatever purposes we chose and $100,000 for the denomination to allocate for it’s works.

Personally, I would like to see my local church determine how the money is spent and that is going to be greatest facilitated if we apply the lion’s share of the money to a building project.

Now, I realize that other denominations operate differently and each case would have to be handled differently.  I do know that if we received a generous gift of $500,000, it would be difficult for the congregation to hand over $100,000 to the district to use at it’s discretion instead of working to accomplish a building that they have wanted to erect for a long time.
Here is my response:


Thanks for some soul searching.  You are right, many denominations have this same rule. And thus, since Miss Winnie gave it undesignated, ethically we should thus not designate it.  And, if all churches did this (instead of sometimes soliciting money for Building Funds that would have otherwise been undesignated) then the denomination would have more money and apportionments might be less.

Thanks for wrestling with this.
Dr. Whitesel

DONATIONS & An Unexpected Windfall. A Case Study on Unexpected Donations

by Bob Whitesel, 6/515.

I often give my students the following hypothetical scenario regarding what they might ethically and strategically do with an unexpected and sizable financial gift to their organization. Take a look at this example. Then you can search this wiki for the phrase “an unexpected windfall” and find many insightful (and some humorous) responses.

An Unexpected Windfall (a hypothetical case study)

Miss. Winnie Fall’s family has had a long history in your church. A matriarch, and the last remaining member of her clan, Winnie passed away recently in Florida. Having lived there for many years, she has not communicated with you or previous leaders of the church for several decades.

In her will Winnie leaves $500,000 to the church to be “used at _____fill_in_your_name____’s discretion.” She has given you no other direction for the disbursement of these funds.

Now, you must recommend to the church board what to do with this revenue. I ask my students to do some research and then give me a paragraph with a plan for spending the Win Fall money.