Since 2001, a fusion of theological reflection and best-practice has led Nathan Jones to unique opportunities as a catalyst for resource development and organizational health in a variety of kingdom-minded organizations – both large and small, and both inside and outside the local church.
Nathan currently lives out his calling in the role of President for the Youth For Christ Foundation where he is focused on guiding the Foundation’s services toward the stability and growth of Youth For Christ across the United States and around the world.
In addition to his work with Youth For Christ, Nathan serves on the board of Christian Leadership Alliance, as the board chair for Urban Skye in Denver Colorado, and as a Partner at Seed Fundraisers.
Nathan holds a BA in Human Communications from Colorado Christian University, and an MA in Leadership from Denver Seminary. He resides in Littleton, CO with his wife, Libby, and their three boys. As a family, they enjoy all the outdoor fun Colorado has to offer.
How did God call you into the field of development? What is your heart for Christ-honoring resource development today?
My call to development goes all the way back to college at Colorado Christian University. Gary Hoag, our then vice president of advancement, was my mentor for a student leadership program in which we raised money to buy Bibles to send with ministry and mission teams. He taught me the biblical approach to raising kingdom resources, and from that point, I was hooked. This foundation comes from, among other passages, Exodus 35 & 36, where we see God working in the heart of givers to provide “more than enough.” We see it again in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 when Paul calls the people of Corinth to Spirit-led generosity which is the path to “joy-filled giving.”
How can Christian nonprofits encourage givers to support kingdom work generously?
Recognize that it is God at work in the heart of givers whom he has called to engage in his mission through your organization. You don’t have to convince, or persuade, givers of anything. You need to share with them the vision (big, bold, compelling) to which God has called your organization. Then, simply ask them to first listen to what God is telling them in their heart to do, then faithfully follow through and do it – be it to serve, give, go, etc.
Treat people as fellow disciples on a journey of discovery and growth in Christ – not simply as ATM machines.
We can incorporate this visioning into written communication, event stages, one-to-one meetings, and more. But, the model is consistent – listen to God for the vision, communicate that vision, and ask for their response. This of course needs to be done in as relational of a way as possible. Treat people as fellow disciples on a journey of discovery and growth in Christ – not simply as ATM machines.
You taught an Alliance workshop on developing “partners for life.” How can we do that well?
The idea for “Partners for Life” comes from the goal of engaging givers all the way into eternity through testamentary gifts (bequests) to the kingdom. This journey starts at the beginning when someone doesn’t yet know anything about your organization. The seeds planted, relationship cultivated, and engagement deepened over time lead to someone deciding to make a gift. It could be some, or a significant portion, of the resources God has blessed them with in this life, to continue investing in his kingdom work even after they pass into eternity. A partnership with a Christ-centered foundation can help with this. Like many other partners in this space, this is what we do at the Youth For Christ (YFC) Foundation.
What is the difference between a donor and a partner? How can we help donors become ministry partners?
Words have meaning. It is important for organizations to wrestle with and decide what word they will use in reference to those God has called to give of their resources to his work.
“Donor” can connote that someone gave up something so someone else (your organization) can do the actual work of ministry. This can create a disconnect between the “donor” and the “recipient.”
A partner, by contrast, plays a collaborative role with the organization, solving a problem or addressing a need. Together, they work toward a different future for those being served. I like to put it this way, givers (which is the term I prefer) don’t care about your organization. They care about their community or world, and being faithful to Jesus. This means that the more we can engage them as kingdom givers, or partners, the more we can collaborate, working together for eternal kingdom impact. This distinction comes through in our writing, our events, our meetings, and more. So, it is important to be mindful of this nuance. Be intentional to engage it accordingly.
What are some tips for effectively working with foundations?
First, get organized. Have a plan. Have an organized portfolio. Know whom you are targeting. Know what the next step needs to be with each foundation. Follow through, and keep up with and stay ahead of each deadline. Track all of this in a spreadsheet or database.
Second, when you approach a new foundation, don’t go in blindly. Make a connection between your board, and foundation trustees. Meet with a program officer, or trustee. Converse to discover if their intentions and your organization's work align, and if it is of interest for funding.
When it comes to writing, take a case-based approach to unpacking how your organization has identified a need in the world. Explain how it is uniquely positioned to address that need. And, describe how through evidence-based programs it is making an impact as a result. Tracking and reporting on results is key for foundations.
What are you most encouraged about at Youth For Christ Foundation today?
As with many in this space, I am encouraged by the opportunities ahead of us. With an estimated $70 trillion dollars (some estimate $85 trillion dollars and higher) of generational wealth being transferred from older to younger generations, the sky is the limit for engaging some of this wealth for kingdom impact in the years and decades ahead.
Much of the taxes on this transfer of wealth can be reduced or eliminated if supported by an effective estate plan to both provide for heirs, and optimize charitable giving.
Youth For Christ is leaning into this reality, creating many chances for growth and kingdom impact long into the future. On a spiritual note, and I’ll finish with this, Aslan is on the move when it comes to organizations and individuals taking more of a Spirit-led approach to investing God-given resources in kingdom work. It is a blessing to see this play out through the YFC Foundation and other organizations alike.
To learn more, please visit www.yfcfoundation.org.
Listen to Nathan Jones on the Outcomes Conference Podcast as he discusses “Encouraging Generosity in Others.”
Learn more about Outcomes magazine.