John Wooden was an American basketball player and head coach of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). While playing the position of guard at Purdue University, he was named an All-American basketball player three years in a row. While coaching the UCLA basketball team he won the National Championship a record 10 times during a 12-year period. His UCLA teams also won a National College men’s basketball record of 88 consecutive wins. Many sports leaders, business leaders, and biographers have called him the “Greatest Coach Ever”. What did he say about all his success in basketball and in life?
“There is only one kind of life that truly succeeds, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes nowhere.” ~ John Wooden
One of my favorites books is called “The Greatest Coach”. I have taught my son and his baseball teammates about life principles from this book while we gathered together for team devotions. I learned that what set coach John Wooden apart were the rare qualities of humility, integrity, and a serving heart. He did not expect others to do what he could not or would not do. He set the example for others to follow.
One of the failures of leaders of ministry, and Christians in general, is that we do not set an example for others to follow. We preach and teach using scripture and stories to illustrate what it looks like to follow Jesus. We can be quite good at discipling others in a small group or one-on-one discussions providing guidance and insight to the truths God has given us. But in most cases, our ability to help another believer grow in their faith is dependent on modeling these truths in our own life.
I’m challenged by the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ”. Even as an imperfect follower of Jesus, the Apostle Paul tried to live an example so that the early Christians would have a living model to imitate as they worked out their faith. As I apply this to my own life, I am cautioned and inspired that I might be the only Bible that someone reads. My actions, words, and attitude – “Am I being an imitator of Christ?”
As a fundraiser, I have found myself in the role of a coach and that is why I can identify with John Wooden. His career as a coach demonstrated at least one important thing. Great coaches have played the game as an athlete and have first-hand experience in what they are asking the players to do. As a coach, you cannot bring your players to perform exceptionally well on the field, the court, or the pitch by only sharing with them what you read in a book. The credibility of a coach is dependent on whether he has or has not played the game exceptionally well himself. This is true beyond sports. This is true for leading others in general. And this is true for making disciples and helping others grow in faith.
I have been involved in fundraising for more than 20 years, and one of the greatest revelations I have received over this time is that fundraising is a ministry. Teaching and sharing biblical truths with others about stewardship, generosity, and giving to Kingdom purposes is part of making disciples. Walking alongside someone who is on a journey of generosity can be a very rewarding call and a great opportunity to help someone grow in their faith.
Let’s be clear about some biblical foundations of fundraising. God is a sacrificial giver. God is generous. God owns everything. We are stewards not owners. God wants us to reflect His glory in this as followers of Jesus.
As a follower and imitator of Jesus, I should be a giver. As a fundraiser hoping to help others grow in giving and receiving in the Kingdom, I should be generous. I should not ask someone to give of their time, talents, and treasure if I do not give of these same things. I am to be a credible witness and live out my faith by blessing others, giving with joy, and living as a steward of God’s provision.
“There is hypocrisy to the phrase, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.” I refused to make demands on my boys that I was not willing to live out in my own life… Leadership from a base of hypocrisy undermines respect, and if people do not respect you, they will not be willing to follow you.” ~ John Wooden
One last thought on the theme of the “Fundraiser as a Giver”. Jesus promises blessing to those who bless others. This is not a prosperity Gospel message that reflects the heart of sinful man scheming to get payback or put others and God under obligation. This is a generosity message that reflects the heart of God.
“One gives freely, and yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and the one who waters will himself be watered.” ~ Jesus
So please let me share a few ideas on how a fundraiser might be a giver to the financial partners and ministry supporters that they serve on behalf of the church or organization the fundraiser represents.
- Pray for these partners and supporters
- Give of your time to meet with them and be available to them
- Give them thanks and show gratitude
- Give them knowledge and information about the ministry in a professional manner
- Give them opportunities to give financial gifts that are appropriate
- Give them scripture on giving and being a steward in a humble manner
- Give to the projects (according to your ability) that you ask them to give to