Why Fundraising is the Worst…and the Best

Thank you to everyone who donated to our health insurance this year!  Here’s an update on where things stand now:

Unfortunately, we haven’t raised enough to afford the same health insurance plan that I had with my denomination for the past four years.  This was initially something of a disappointment.  But the good news is that under the new Affordable Care Act, my family qualifies for a subsidy to purchase health insurance through the health insurance exchanges.  And with that subsidy and your donations combined, we will be able to afford health insurance for the 2014 year!!  So a huge THANK YOU to everyone who gave, it really means so very much to me and my family.  A tax deductible receipt will be mailed out to you before the end of the year.  If you were planning to give but hadn’t found the chance, sorry, you’re too late!  But please, use those funds towards other worthy causes. =)

***END UPDATE. What follows below are some of my personal reflections on fundraising itself***

This whole process of raising support has taught me something about myself, namely, this: I hate fundraising.  And it’s not because of the work that is involved, the letters and spreadsheets or anything like that.  I hate fundraising because, honestly, it makes me feel ashamed of myself.  As an American, and the children of maniacally hard-working immigrants, it embarrasses me to have to ask for help from others, especially when it comes to paying for something that I feel I should be able provide for myself, something like health insurance.  It makes me feel like I am asking for charity or a handout, which is not a great feeling.

But after thinking about it some more, I am beginning to realize that fundraising is actually the best thing for me because it forces me to accept many central truths of the Kingdom of God that I am usually loathe to embrace.  For example, I often like to imagine that I am completely self-sufficient, not dependent on any other person for anything.  I am a man, and an adult, and don’t need anything from anyone.  And this is not just a unique personal trait as “rugged individualism” is a solidly American cultural virtue.

But of course, such a conception is hardly a biblical one.  Scriptures from beginning to end testify to our complete and daily dependence on God.  And in 1 Corinthians, Paul doesn’t describe Believers as independent and self-sufficient (and rugged) individuals who depend on no one.  No, he chooses to portray us as completely interconnected and interdependent parts of a single Body, wholly unable to live life in isolation.  As foolish as it would be for an index finger to suddenly declare that it stands alone, so foolish it is for a follower of Christ to say the same.

And that is the first reason why fundraising is so good me, because it reminds me that in the context of faith, I’m not a person but a finger.  Had I been able to provide for all my family’s needs through my own resources, it would be all too easy to fall into the attitude that although I like other Christians, I don’t truly need them.  In a world where every person provides for themselves alone, the Body of Christ becomes something like an iPad – very nice, but not really necessary.  Fundraising forcibly removes that attitude from my mind, a crystal clear illustration that I cannot stand alone, that I truly need my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I don’t like feeling this way, but know that this is the proper relationship that a Believer should have to the rest of the Body.  I am literally dependent on all of you, and *gulp*…that’s okay.

Fundraising also has a wonderful way of wounding my pride.  Now this sounds like something that most of us would like to avoid, myself included.  But if I’m honest with myself, my pride needs a good long deflating now and then.  I am prone to getting airs, to thinking that it is my talent and skill and experience which has afforded me the things that I enjoy in life.  I might ostensibly say that everything I have is from God, but there is some part of my mind that still whispers, “But honestly, all of my blessings are the fruit of my talent, education and hard work.”  Again, isn’t that such a deeply American attitude towards life.

But fundraising tells me the exact opposite.  It says this: “Peter, in spite of all your talent, education, and hard work, you can’t even afford basic health insurance for your own family, and are instead dependent on the generosity of friends and family and even strangers.”  And like a balloon with a pinprick hole, *psssshhh* goes my ego.  Fundraising humbles me deeply, but that’s not at all a bad thing because Humility is one of the great virtues of the Kingdom of God, the attitude of Christ himself.  And although raising support is humbling is not shameful, as Humility is scarcely the same thing as Shame.  Shame is something that we should avoid because it can run dangerously close to hatred of self, which is a tool of the Enemy.  But Humility is simply the proper attitude that all created beings should have before the God who is the true giver of every good and perfect gift.  So in some way, fundraising is a much needed sandbag to the giant hot air balloon which is my immense ego.

But lastly, fundraising makes me aware of hidden prejudices.  I’m not aware of all my hidden prejudices…because they’re hidden, you know?  But raising support has brought at least one to the surface.  You see, I like to imagine that the values that I use to judge myself are completely separate from the ones that I use to judge others, as if to say, “Yes, it’s shameful if I can’t provide for my own family, but don’t worry – it’s no problem if you can’t provide for yours.”  That is what I would like to believe, and what I tell myself.  But I think that’s a little naïve, maybe even dishonest, disingenuous.  The truth is that whether used to examine self or others, our values are our values.  And so if something is shameful when I do it, chances are that I will find it equally shameful in the life of others.

And so that means that no matter what I say out loud, deep down I clearly think that a person who can’t provide for themselves and has to humbly ask for help is worthy of scorn.  If that wasn’t the case, then I wouldn’t have such an issue with fundraising, and would have no qualms about asking others for support.  Some part of me must think that all people should provide for themselves, and not ask others for help.  If they do, they should feel embarrassed of themselves, and are worthy disdain, in the same way that I disdained myself.

I never realized that I had this kind of arrogant attitude, which again, strikes me as deeply American in many regards.  But it is an attitude which is so unfair, both to others and to myself.  Everyone hits hard times, and needs help now and then.  Even insurance cannot protect against that.  And whatever blessings we have, we were first given freely by God, and so we should freely share with others.  Fundraising has made me aware that I harbored this unfair and prejudiced mentality, so that I could begin to repent of it.  And as I do, I pray that I might show grace and generosity towards others, but also, to myself as well.

I suspect that we all need something like fundraising, something that we hate to do, but is the absolute best thing for us.  These things might be enormously burdensome and humbling, but without them, we can quickly fall into the habits and mentalities of the world that surrounds us.  And so, I have to say thank you, not just to all of you for your generosity, but to the process of fundraising itself, which keeps me tightly moored to the Kingdom of God, rather than the kingdom of man.

…But honestly, I really hope that I don’t have to fundraise ever again.

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2 thoughts on “Why Fundraising is the Worst…and the Best

  1. Thanks so much for this, Pastor Peter. Eerily, today’s top priority is to work on a fundraising letter….and I’ve been dragging my feet all morning….ugh…ugh…

    Something you don’t address: I think there are really Christians who look down upon people who fundraise. I’ve actually heard them whispering; I’ve had a few comments thrown directly in my face. I realize that they lack a Biblical perspective about fundraising, but it doesn’t make it much easier to take.

    But in the end, you’re right—we are our own hangup. Fundraising exposes so much of my own hypocrisy about what I think of others, of what I think about myself. Ultimately, it is not about us, but God and what he can do, what he is teaching us, and how God truly provides for us—and it looks like he gave you literally ENOUGH.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    1. *sigh*, this is DEFINITELY a part of the equation. i think that the mentality that i possess about fundraising is shared by many others, especially those in the asian american community. and that is part of the reason that i am hesitant to fundraise, because i know more than a few are thinking to themselves, “what, you can’t do this yourself?!” but a good friend forwarded me this encouragement from 3 John, which helps us reframe fundraising through Scripture: “You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.” i hope this encourages you as it does me!

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