Thriving in Resource Development
“For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10)
In resource development, whenever I find myself dreading budget deadlines and wringing my hands about where the money’s going to come from, I’ve learned to stop and take inventory.
When I’m tempted to resent donors who’ve given in the past but not this year, or to be judgmental about fat donor-advised funds that never get dispersed, I know it’s time to take a step back. At that moment, the concept of thriving and the reality of resource development seem mutually exclusive. If I’m honest, I’d admit that I’m barely enduring, wondering where I took a wrong turn in my career choices at some point back in the day.
If this is you, it’s time to stop. Stop and ask God to illuminate your thinking. When I stop, wait, and ask God to meet me in my valley of despair, he graciously reveals the problem and the solution in one quick stroke. As seen in encounters with God in Scripture, when I thrust myself humbly into his presence, thoroughly focusing on his infinite power, I’m overwhelmed at the crushing magnitude of his presence and the all-consuming fierceness of his majesty. I’m compelled to no other than a trembling repentance, my feeble voice calling for mercy. In sweeping relief, he responds with a flood of grace that at once helps me understand both his perspective and mine. And he shows me what my perspective must be instead.
In the blinding light of God’s presence, I now see that my anger at the lack of resources exposes a default assumption that people are the resource providers, not God. My distress belies an attitude that people own it all and clutch it in their tightly clenched fist and that God is simply a passive bystander, folding his arms and not doing anything. When I revisit God’s truths, I’m able to once again flip the world right side up. Then, and only then, everything makes sense.
God gives, and asks that we give to him.
Here’s what we give lip service to but need to truly internalize: It is the very nature of God to give, as demonstrated in the giving of Jesus Christ, his one and only Son. And he has imprinted that same desire to give on humanity whom he created. God created men and women in his image and all people reflect that image, whether they acknowledge him or not. We see down through history, and in countries all over the world, that people give to help other people in need. It’s part of the human experience.
God views it as personal. Our offering is given to him, and it’s only acceptable from a willing heart.
It is important to note that in Scripture God asks us to give our resources to him. God commanded the people of Israel to give of their personal belongings to help build the tabernacle: "The LORD said to Moses, 'Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.'" (Ex. 25:1-2)
God tells Moses that they are giving to him – he doesn’t say they are giving to the priests or to the tabernacle or to their community or to their future. He says, “You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.” God views it as personal. Our offering is given to him, and it’s only acceptable from a willing heart.
God’s economy operates on abundance.
Another truth we see is that God’s economy operates on abundance – there is no shrinking pie. God’s resources are infinite because he is infinite. God created us as finite human beings who live within the limitations of time and space. But God can and does transcend those finite limitations at will, to fulfill his purposes whenever it’s within his plan to do so.
We live within the paradox of the finite and the infinite. For example, when our ministry comes up short financially at the end of the fiscal year, that deadline matters. In fundraising, we must accommodate finite limitations, which make resources, indeed, feel like a “shrinking pie.” Figuratively speaking, if your ministry takes two pieces of the pie, then mine might not get its rightful piece before the pie is gone. But’s that’s only true if the resources are, in fact, finite.
In God’s economy, he controls the resources and like everything about him, those resources are limitless. We often see God’s transcendence in the face of limitations. Jesus took one bag lunch and fed thousands. There are numerous examples in the Old and New Testaments of God overriding the boundaries of time and space to abundantly provide for people who were constrained within a limited context. He created finite boundaries, and he can override them at will.
Many donors have experienced God’s intervention when they’ve asked him to send extra resources expressly for the purpose of giving those additional funds back to him. One woman on a fixed income desperately wanted to give more than her budget would allow. She prayed that God would send her additional funds for the sole purpose of giving those extra funds back to him. Unexpectedly, she received a check from the local municipality because years earlier, her property had been incorrectly assessed and she had been overcharged for property tax several years in a row. The refund check simply showed up in the mail one day, unannounced. The woman knew immediately that God had provided that infusion of those thousands of dollars of “new money” expressly so she could give it back to him, as she had prayed. God had overridden the limitation of her fixed budget and demonstrated his abundance in her context.
God is the provider. We are his stewards.
God is the exclusive provider. As people, we are simply his stewards.
No person is ever the provider. God is the exclusive provider. As people, we are simply his stewards. We need to do more than nod our head when we hear that statement. We need to let that reality sink deep into our souls until it changes our default assumptions, our thinking, and our actions. We need to internalize it until it turns our world right side up because it changes everything.
We see another truth in God’s revealed word: God uses the human instrument to accomplish his purposes. Why is that important? Because knowing that God has designed a system whereby people give back to him in order to resource his earthly priorities gives us confidence in asking for money. We don’t ask because the “system is broken,” or because we don’t have widgets to sell or because there’s no “real” income coming in through some for-profit enterprise.
Giving is not a function of finances moving from some wallet to a ministry bank account. Giving is a function of generosity from the heart, moving from the heart of the steward to the heart of God, traveling through the hands of people who use it to help the beneficiaries who need it physically, mentally and spiritually.
If a ministry were to have a hundred million dollars in reserve funds, they would still engage donors in charitable giving. They would still ask people to provide resources to help people in need, because both the giver and the beneficiary experience abundant blessing when they do so. That is God’s way, and it pleases him. That’s what we believe. That’s what we do.
Faith in God’s design produces joy.
As development officers, affirming our commitment to God’s design demonstrates that we trust him. This walk of faith produces joy that God knows what he’s doing, joy that his design always has worked and always will work, and joy that without the burden on us to make it work, we can truly thrive.
Shelley Cochrane is Vice President for Strategic Partnerships for Douglas Shaw & Associates. She has mobilized tens of thousands of donors to impact hundreds of thousands of lives through successful fund development rooted in biblical stewardship. Shelley identifies patterns where others see chaos, leading to breakthrough solutions.