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Should Christian nonprofit organizations compete or collaborate?

The American economy with some nuance is based upon capitalism. It’s a free enterprise system wherein people may own businesses offering products or services. Consumers compare these products and services in the competitive marketplace, choosing to purchase, or not, based upon perceived need, demand and supply, quality, and price. Businesses survive or thrive in direct competition, and generally speaking, there’s no safety net.

Given this environment one might think businesspersons would bring a competitive mindset to Christian philanthropy. But usually they don’t. Nor interestingly, do many foundation executives.

Businesspersons and foundation executives considering supporting a ministry financially sometimes want to know whether the ministry is collaborating with other ministries doing similar work. Sometimes they make a gift contingent upon such collaboration.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach. It is, after all, their money. They can choose to donate resources however they wish.

Generally their motivation is stewardship, i.e. a desire to encourage more collaboration in order to gain, hopefully, more bang for their buck. Encouraging collaboration is also motivated by a perception that collaborating ministries achieve a higher level of effectiveness or productivity fulfilling their missions.

By the same token, competition may be perceived ipso facto as a waste of resources. The premise, stated or implied, is that kingdom work, God’s work, shouldn’t be subject to head to head contests for donors, reputation, service, or impact.

But competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Competition can yield the same push-to-improvement among nonprofits as it produces among for-profits. Quality matters, including and especially in the Lord’s work, and competition is one means of encouraging it. Sure, it may mean that some ministry overlap occurs serving a given population or addressing a particular need. It may even mean from time to time that donors support two or more ministries doing similar work. But God can bless each ministry’s work, and he can bless the donors.

Whether Christian ministries compete or collaborate may depend upon a variety of circumstances: denominational or doctrinal differences, ministry philosophy, personalities, organizational capacity, potential for impact, or more. Either way, both approaches can be used to honor the Lord.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at



This week the SAT-7 Field Staff spent time in two seminars focusing upon "asset-based giving." Both sessions reminded us that "God owns the cattle on a thousand hills." He owns all that we are, have, or ever hope to have.

Randy Veltkamp, President of West Michigan Christian Foundation, led the first seminar, along with VP Jamison Kuiper. Both men explained that most people give to charity out of an approximately 7% cash or liquid portion of their net worth. In other words, we work from our checkbooks. Meanwhile, for most individuals, whether wealthy or not so wealthy, our actual giving capacity is tied up in some 93% non-liquid assets, like property, stocks , or other investments.

While Americans are very generous people, giving some $307.65 billion to charitable causes in 2008, still, on average Americans only gave about 2.5% of their incomes. Their net worth and thus full giving capacity is far higher, so the percentage Americans gave of their actual ability to give is much lower than 2.5%. Christians don't give appreciably more and, thus, don't remotely approach the 10% tithe God commands in his Word. So the story of American generosity is a good news, bad news scenario.

What we need to do as fundraising officers of Christian nonprofits is to help people understand giving spiritually: it's a mind thing, developing a theology of giving; and it's a heart thing, developing an obedience to God's direction and a compassion toward others. Once people understand giving spiritually, they'll give more cheerfully, more often, more faithfully, and usually just plain more.

In a second seminar, Richard Dorsey, Planned Giving Director for The Salvation Army West Michigan and Northern Indiana Division, reviewed several issues, questions, or concerns people raise when they're presented with opportunities to give. People say, "I cannot afford to give more" or "My assets are tied up in real estate, what can I do?" Or "I'm going to sell my real estate...etc soon." All of these concerns and more are legitimate, but none of them prevent a person from becoming better stewards of the resources God has given them. They just need help seeing what options are available to them, ones that legally and appropriately reduce their tax liabilities while increasing their ability to care for themselves, their heirs, and their favorite charities.

People sometimes look upon fundraising as manipulation, trickery, or strong-arming, sort of a bucketful of ways shysters leverage money from people's pockets. Unfortunately, at one time or another fundraising, or rather fundraisers, have been all these things.

But fundraising rightly understood and implemented is simply a process of placing in front of people opportunities for them to help others by being good stewards of the resources God has entrusted temporarily to them. Helping people grow in their understanding of giving and their capacity to give is helping them to experience the joy of giving while they're living.

Learning to give wisely out of ones total assets, not simply available cash, is a win-win. It's beneficial first to the giver because it preserves assets from undue taxation and moves them toward personal support, family, or charitable causes. And second, it generally means charitable causes, the ones closest to the giver's heart, experience greater support and therefore ability to fulfill their mission.

SAT-7 USA is developing its sophistication in assisting supporters' spiritual well-being and their stewardship. In this we trust God is pleased.

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2010

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part but must include a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Philanthropy is the act of giving money, goods, or services to charitable causes. It's a Christian concept. God says a great deal in His Word about wealth, and philanthropy is one major focus.

In Proverbs, God says that "one man gives freely, yet gains even more, another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. People curse the man who hoards grain, but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell" (11:24-26).In 1 Timothy, we're told to "be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share" (6:18).

Giving is an expected part of the Christian life, not only in the form of a tithe to God, but also as offerings to good causes over and above our tithe. In all this, we are to be cheerful givers (I Cor. 9:7).

Christians in colonial times took God's giving commands so seriously that they encouraged each other to give even more than tithes and offerings in order to endow schools, colleges, orphanages, missions and more. In fact, a person who died in possession of great wealth was disdained as a poor steward.

Philanthropy is not just a task and an opportunity of the wealthy. It is the responsibility of every Christian within the level of means God has provided. In the New Testament, Jesus praised the Widow for her faithful and sacrificially given mite, one of the smallest of Middle Eastern coins.

God blesses all gifts given in true charity.God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He does not need your gift, but He expects it and He will use it.


© Rex M. Rogers –All Rights Reserved, 2010

Revised "Making a Difference" program #136 originally recorded, September 22, 1994.

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part but must include a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


News this week about Warren Buffett’s announcement he will gift some $30.7 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has set the philanthropic world on its ear. This gift, coming over time, will make the already enormous Gates Foundation by far the largest in the world.

Buffett’s surprise announcement follows Bill Gates’ predicted announcement earlier in this month that he will soon step aside as Microsoft’s Chief Software Engineer in favor of a nearly full-time role guiding his and his wife’s philanthropic program.

Whatever one thinks of the ideological leanings or particular program recipients of either Buffett’s or the Gates’s donations, you have to admire their example that perhaps “enough is enough.” They are obviously successful capitalists, creatively, shrewdly, and honestly earning great wealth, creating opportunities and blessings for others, and offering products that have enriched the abundance of the American economy. But now they are saying that giving matters.

I like that. It reminds me of Andrew Carnegie, who gave the equivalent of $7.3 billion at the end of his life. We’ve all seen and benefited from the Carnegie Libraries that resulted from Mr. Carnegie’s munificence.

It reminds me even more of the old Puritan ethic borrowed from and based upon Christian understanding that it’s a disgrace to die with great wealth. It’s not a disgrace to earn or own wealth, only a disgrace not to care properly for its distribution for the public good. John Wesley was another early American example, saying, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”

I make a living in part by asking people to give. That’s what many nonprofit executives do. It’s not crass. It’s a privilege. I meet a lot of very generous people.

I’ve also met my share of people, Christian or not, who are not givers but accumulators. They cannot bring themselves to distribute what it took them a lifetime to acquire and from which they gain not just their security but their identity. They cannot let go. They quite literally die with all their assets, sometimes letting Uncle Sam take half of it. It’s a sad sight.

But oh the joy of giving joyfully. God says he loves the heart of a cheerful giver, and those who learn how to do it before it’s too late are the real beneficiaries.

So while I do not agree with some of Warren Buffett’s or Bill and Melinda Gates’s politics, I salute their example. They’re leading. They’re giving back. The rest of us, no matter our relative wealth, should do the same.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part but with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at