Some Truth About Ministry Fundraising and Finances Needed

You'd be hard pressed to find just one monthly letter appeal from HWA from the hundreds he personally wrote without hearing a need for more money, some great impending financial crisis for the work, or at least an emphatic request for bigger donations, lest one be found guilty of "robbing" from God's Work.

It's not hard to be critical of the effectiveness of HWA's guilt trip fundraising techniques, but he managed to get over over a billion dollars in cash donated over his lifetime. Indeed, he raked in a lot of cash without having to account for how he spent it, to the very people who provided it.

In more recent, leaner times, the WCG has become a member of the Christian "Stewardship" Association (CSA), turning to it for financial advice on how to "milk" the donor cows for the best yield. Dan Rogers (with little Joe, no doubt) and scores of WCG ministers have attended CSA conferences.

Articles on the CSA website include such stewardship advice as:

10 Biblical and Practical Reasons to Teach People to Give 10%; 10 Practical Ways to Help Increase a Congregation's giving 10-25% (or more); 7 Secrets to Teach About Biblical Giving (I hope keeping the financial statements and unincorporated association bylaws a secret isn't one of the 7 “Secrets”); 90 day Giving Challenge; 100 Stewardship Verses and Ideas; How to Encourage Generous Giving Through People's Wills and Estates.

Hmmm... Could David Pack or Gerald Flurry use the practical wealth extraction techniques found in any of those CSA golden "nuggets"?

CSA is having it's upcoming annual meeting at the Hyatt Regency/Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, NM Jan 31- Feb 2, 2998. Cost to attend the three day conference, with preregistration by members is $740.00.

Workshops and seminars hosted by CSA at the Albuquerque conference include:

How Data Mining Can Increase Net Income for Ministry; Ten Mistakes You Shouldn't Make with Donors; Developing a Personal Solicitation Strategy; Slay the Gospel Bird: Fundraising Banquet or Free Chicken Dinner; How to Acquire Even More Donors; How to Get Out of Debt by Applying God's Principles; Getting More Bank For Your Buck From The “Hired Gun”; and How to Add Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars to Annual Budget Without Finding New Donors.

You can find a copy of the CSA conference schedule at their website here.

These clever modern ministry fundraising techniques have been criticized by Phil Cooke, a ministry media consultant to ministries and churches (unrelated to CSA). He has this to say about modern ministry fundraising techniques:

"For churches and ministries across the country, fundraising has
become a vital tool that ís used to raise the necessary money to make ministry happen. It ís a noble effort, because people need to understand that without financial support, significant outreach is
nearly impossible. However, in many cases, the tail has started to wag the dog, and some ministries focus on raising money more than their actual mission.
The science of fundraising has become a massive business. It has spawned financial consultants, direct response companies, fulfillment businesses, telemarketing, and more. Helping ministries raise money has become an industry in itself.
The fact is, the "personal" ministry letter you receive each month was probably not written by the ministry leader at all, but by a direct mail strategist, and designed by a graphic designer for maximum response. Today, color scheme, spacing, layout, and structure are some of the most important features of monthly letters and and the most effective fundraisers can even compare responses based on different colors of the envelope. They mail the letters on just the right day each month so it arrives when people get their paycheck either from the mail or direct deposit. Statistics prove that if it is only a few days late, the response will drop considerably. I've seen people fired from ministries because they mailed the monthly letter 48-72 hours behind schedule, it ís considered that important.
In fact, I spoke to one Christian fundraiser who said that the single most important thing is getting a person to open the envelope - and he would be willing to do anything to make that happen.

Even lie about what ís inside.

It ís important to note that I'm not against fundraising with integrity. There are some marvelous ministries out there doing great work because of effective relationships with their supporters and partners. But I do think you need to know how the business works, because believe me, it's a business, and they're trying to work you.

Here are some suggestions to consider as you pick up the next fundraising letter from your mailbox:

1) They have timed the letter to arrive when you have the most money in the bank. Giving will be easier for you, but that shouldn't control your decision.
2) The cute little underlines, exclamation points, and arrows that look like the writer inserted with a pen after it was written - weren't marked by a person, but a computer. Each one was strategically planned for placement and effect.
3) The amount of the suggested gift on the reply was calculated by a computer based on your past giving history, and often with the goal to nudge you to give a little more.
4) Even the color of the paper was researched based on past responses to that particular shade...
5) You're more likely to give because they ministry sends you something in return. Sadly, we wouldn't even need fundraising if Christians gave as the Bible teaches. So am I suggesting that we stop fundraising? Absolutely not. As I said before, great ministries are impacting the world because good people give. Plus, there are many gifted fundraising experts who are ethical and operate with utmost integrity. Frankly, I wish people gave more to deserving churches and ministries.
But I am suggesting we become informed givers. Don't be a ministry zombie and give on impulse for any reason. Give because you have researched a ministry, believe in what it's doing in the world, have confirmed its integrity and track record, and then prayed about the gift.

Giving for any other reason, is usually a waste of money."

With all the above in mind, I humbly present the:

Church of God

Donor's Bill of Rights

When you give, be sure the church employs standards and policies that assure you of your ten rights as a Church of God donor. You have the right to:

1. Know exactly how the funds of the COG organization are being spent, where Christian stewardship is not just a web policy for the sake of appearances, but an actual practice.

2. Know the salary and total compensation packages of key ministry, evangelists, executives, and board members.

3. Know what the COG programs you support are accomplishing or not accomplishing. Check and see if any outside ministry you are considering gifting to has a passing or failing financial transparency grade at www.ministrywatch.org.

4. Know that the organization and its employees comply with all federal and state laws, including tax regulations for nonprofit, tax-exempt ministries, including regulations against inurement or personal benefit from tithes and donations.

5. Be able to specifically designate and permanently restrict your COG gifts to fund a specific charitable or religious cause within the organization's mission objectives, such as helping widows and orphans, the sick, or the assistance of the needy or hungry.

6. A timely and courteous response to your inquiries about finances and programs, not incomplete or misleading Orwellian doublespeak about quarterly income and budget percentages as substitutes for periodic, complete financial reports.

7. Give without being pressured by the organization, or computer donation tithe-checked for loyalty or "member in good standing" roadblocks to HQ accountability.

8. Obtain a full copy of the ministry's most recent audited financial statements and charitable disaster fund statements - not a sanitized version with meaningless categories lumped together. Third tithe collected by the ministry and spent for that specific charitable purpose should be placed in distinct, separate categories on the financial reports.

9. Know that there is a responsible, qualified, governing board of members providing oversight to the church mission, accepting responsibility for board actions; not a rubber-stamp, unincorporated church association's board of elders, controlled legally by one man and one man only.

10. Know that all appeals for funds are truthful and accurate, and that conflicts of interest are avoided. Audited financial statements are absolutely not a "clean bill of health" or CPA guarantee of fiduciary integrity. CPA-audited financial statements can also hide church assets, real estate, gold bullion in Swiss bank accounts, payouts, or loans; provide inadequate retirement funding for employees, continue to "cook" the books, or materially misrepresent your COG's financial condition.

You have a right to timely, accurate, and complete sets of financial statements from your COG, and to know exactly how your money is being spent by your ministry.

Try tacking the Church of God Donor's Bill of Rights up on your COG's bulletin board or website, and emailing your ministry requesting financial statements promised to all COG members in good standing. See what kind of charitable response you receive in return for exercising your Christian responsibility.


Anonymous said...

This is very much to the point. Your detailed, accurate, informative posts are very helpful and appreciated.

Stan said...

Thank you very much!

I think the COG Donor Bill of Rights needs some major rework, along the reform lines of Sarbanes-Oxley, but it will do for an informal blog. Some basic principles are there for a start.


J said...

Very informative and timely information. I would encourage anyone reading to take heed of Stan's advice.

Also as important, see how a pastor of a COG reacts to this bill of rights - and they are RIGHTS. Financial accountability and integrity is not an option in a COG - it is a responsibility.

Lussenheide said...

Since you used the US Bill of Rights as a template, how about the Declaration of Independence Preamble as well (barely changed from original so as to be relevant to our church tradition)...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, churches were instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any church becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new church, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that churches long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such a church, and to provide new Guards and Ministry for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of the COG; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of church. The history of the present COG is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over the church. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world....

Bill Lussenheide, Menifee, CA USA

Stan said...

With credit to Bill Lussenheide and profuse apologies to Thomas Jefferson, here is my completed version of the Church of God Declaration of Independence: (just insert your favorite Church of God official in the proper places):

The history of the present Church of God is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over the Church of God. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
The Pastor General has refused his Assent to Bylaws, the most wholesome and necessary for the good of the church.
He has forbidden his ministry to pass systematic theology, or clarification of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other church bylaws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Council of Elders, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together church Council of Elder and Board meetings at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of the Public Record, for the sole purpose of compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved and replaced the Council of Elders and Board members repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Council of Elders, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the Church at large for their exercise; the Church remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has obstructed the Administration of Church Justice in the by refusing his Assent to bylaws for establishing due process protections.
He has made the entire council of elders, board, and ministry dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, Ambassador Centers and unaccredited programs, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, ministries, offices and departments without our consent.
For protecting ministry, by transfer from one to another area from punishment for any indignities which they should commit on the church:
For cutting off our church with all other parts of the church at large;
For imposing on us burdensome requirements on without our Consent:
For transferring some overseas to be tried for pretended offenses:
For taking away our church Charters, abolishing our most valuable bylaws and altering fundamentally the Form of our Church Government;
For suspending our own Council of Elders, and declaring Himself invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated church Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our treasury, ravaged our families, and destroyed the lives of our people.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Pastor General, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free church. Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by the Pastor General to extend unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united Church of God, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Churches are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent Churches, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the Pastor General, and that all legal connection between them and the Church of God an unincorporated Association, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent churches, they have full Power to do all other Acts and Things which Independent Churches may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Kscribe said...

Kscribe endorses the Donor Bill of Rights. Now, how do we get those nasty little cog's to go along? Call your congressman? Harass the cult of your choice to submit? Pray? Get their tax free status revoked?

Stan said...


Publication by Dixon Cartwright in The Journal of the Donor Bill of Rights followed by discussion or letters to the editor would help raise awareness of COG donor rights.

A ground swell of grassroots popular support for the COG Bill of Rights would help.

An online COG Bill of Donor Rights petition signed and endorsed by Dave Havir, the Big Sandy COG Board and Ron Dart along with hundreds of others should keep the ball rolling.

Finally, withholding personal tithes and donations in reserve until passage of the COG Donor Bill of Rights, with endorsement by the General Conference of elders would greatly help motivate consensus at COG higher levels that financial transparency with charitable accountability to the people of the Church of God is a good thing.

Stan Gardner

Anonymous said...

hindsite is always 20/20,
Just remember, NO one twisted your arms to donate. You gave of your own free will. To blame an organization and not take any responsiblity for your own lack of insight is disgraceful. Sour grapes is all I hear. Move on with your lives, and quit your belly aching.
You made a mistake in judgement. You must deal with it. peace