Recently I read some material from a highly-regarded fundraising consultant. The consultant discussed the psychology of philanthropy, or ‘why do people give?’
It was emphasized that giving satisfies one or more personal needs. In other words, a person may be moved by a specific need or appeal, but that person responds and becomes a donor for his or her own reasons.
The consultant pointed out a laundry list of reasons people give. The list began with items most of us would expect - a moral obligation to help, religious influence and compassion, all of which I would have assumed were fairly universal.
Then he went through a cadre of reasons that may be less obvious. Self-interest, the need to be needed, to express anger, to express love, or to express hope. He also mentioned the need to be remembered, to gain recognition, or to gain immortality.
Less altruistic motivations were to remove guilt, peer pressure, and even to fulfill a condition for employment. It was suggested that tax benefits were important, but was usually not the main reason a person gave.
All that is well and good, but today in my morning reading I came across another reason a person gives.
Psalm 112 says that the man who fears the Lord is a blessed person. In fact, the Psalmist says that not only will he be gracious and righteous, but his descendants will also be mighty on earth. There are so many ways this person will be blessed including his heart will be steadfast and he won’t be afraid of evil news. In other words these are typical results that such a person will experience.
Then it mentions what is a common characteristic of a person who fears the Lord. This person gives freely to the poor.
Some would say that is just the ‘religious influence’ that the consultant mentioned, but I think it is deeper than that. It seems to me what the Psalmist is talking about is more than just some external influence. Being a generous individual is actually a natural result of a person who fears the Lord. Because this person dwells in a close relationship with God, giving freely is a normal part of his life.
It is as ordinary as an oak tree producing acorns. That is what an oak tree does. Giving freely is what the person of God does. This person cannot help but give. Her relationship with the Lord has made being generous an inherent part of who she is.
So, I am not really taking issue with the consultant discussed above. As people who are involved in raising financial support for a ministry, we need to understand that what he says is true. As such, we need to implement that reality as we deal with individual donors so we can help them to realize the personal benefits of generosity.
As long as we do not forget that many give because they are God fearing people whose spirit is pure, gracious and generous. They are such a joy to know and be around. And we are so thankful for everyone one of them. They are a continual source of encouragement and support for Kingdom activities.