Leadership Survival Guide: Lower Greed and Increase Generosity

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Most nonprofit and ministry leaders cannot engage in perilous conversations about topics like biblical stewardship, generosity, and even greed because of inherent conflicts of interest. Sometimes donors need a safe, objective third-party to talk through these delicate issues.

The affluence of our modern world has brought so many blessings to humanity. More people have risen out of extreme poverty than ever before. More people have access to education, food, and basic human rights than ever before. Yet despite its massive benefits, modern-day affluence comes with the moral hazard of anchoring our sense of self-worth in our wealth.

Greed. It’s a tragic place to be. It robs us of one of the greatest joys in life—making a difference.

A Disease Afflicting Us All

When individuals seek to affirm their value by the stuff they own, giving generously becomes a burdensome obligation rather than a joyful opportunity to create good in the world. They’d rather keep their goods than create good.

Anchoring our self-worth in the stuff we own is a hazard of the modern day affluence we enjoy.

It is an insidious moral disease that can afflict anyone—including you and me. It’s human nature to point to something tangible to validate who we are, to hold on to things we don’t really need in order to fill the need in our heart for affirmation.

Greed cannot be measured by wealth. It can’t be identified by the size of someone’s portfolio.

It’s a heart issue that besets both rich and the poor. There are greedy billionaires as well as generous ones. There are greedy paupers as well as generous ones.

When you and I talk about asset-based giving, we tend to focus on those with significant wealth. But I don’t want to give you the impression that wealthy people are, by default, greedy people—absolutely not!

Every week, I’m privileged to meet some of the most kind-hearted, generous people in the world… and they have extraordinarily large balance sheets.

Even so, there is a component to the greed we suffer as members of an affluent society that others with lesser means do not share. I call it “the scorecard.”

The Scorecard

When a person has more resources than they need to provide long-term for their family, they must decide what to do with the excess they’ve been blessed to receive. Sadly, some people choose to hoard their assets in order to win the money game.

To them, the bottom line is a scorecard. The higher the number, the more they’re “winning.”

The problem is, there’s no end to that game. No one wins. There is always someone with just a little bit more.

It’s a dangerous game. Fortunately, the Bible gives basic instructions on how to please God in the way we manage these abundant resources.

Biblical Stewardship vs. Conventional Wisdom

Because biblical stewardship is vastly different than today’s conventional wisdom, it’s not always easy to follow, as illustrated in this parable.

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13–21 (NIV)

In this story, the landowner had a surplus of resources—more than he ever would need. This is very much like many of us in today’s world. We have much more than we need.

But instead of giving his goods to help those with less than he had, he decided to build bigger barns to store it all. In telling this story, Jesus leads us to believe that the only reason the landowner chose this path was to show off his affluence to others. Looking at his amassed wealth in the barns made him feel like a success.

For him, the size of his barns was his scorecard.

An endlessly growing bottom line was where he anchored his sense of self-worth. It was his identity.

How to Lead Donors to Generosity in Asset-Based Giving

Needless to say, if your donor has this kind of a heart attitude, it makes cultivating asset-based gifts difficult, if not impossible.

It takes time and numerous heartfelt conversations to walk with them from stewardship based on fear to stewardship based on faith in God and His Word. And as the leader of your nonprofit or church, you can’t approach your parishioner or donor to speak with them about how they relate to their wealth.

It takes time and numerous heartfelt conversations to walk donors into generosity.

For one, there’s an inherent conflict of interest that you can’t eliminate. Your organization has something to gain from the conversation, even if you have the best of intentions.

And then there’s the risk that your donor will wrongly think that you’re bringing up the conversation due to selfish motives. If this happens, you could lose a faithful donor in an attempt to “upgrade“ their giving.

There is a better way.

Objective, Safe, and Service-Oriented

Having a third-party professional come in to speak with your donors and congregants about the opportunities available to them in asset-based giving is the best way to lead donors out of the trap of greed and into joyful generosity.

Because we’re an objective third-party with nothing to gain from the conversation, donors can share information about their wealth, the causes they care about, and what’s holding them back from giving transformationally. Because we are strictly confidential, donors feel safe to open their heart.

Most of your donors understand the biblical principles described in the parable above, and they want to be generous. Sometimes they just need a gentle reminder to walk in what they know.

Sometimes they need a gentle, trustworthy person to help them put down the scorecard and begin using their earthly wealth to be “rich towards God.”

Your donors have so much to gain spiritually, emotionally, and financially through generous giving. 

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