“Why does funding ministry have to be so hard?! Why don’t people just give?!” Every struggling stewardship leader is afraid to ask these questions, but wants to know.
If I had the answer, we would all live in Endless Summer. Forty years into this work at the intersection of faith and philanthropy, and I still haven’t cracked the code.
It’s still hard to get appointments with donors. It’s still disappointing to hear ‘no’ to a gift invitation. It’s still discouraging when your best gift income year still isn’t enough.
But it’s still God’s work. It’s still noble work. It’s still life-changing work. So we keep getting out of bed and we keep inviting people to join us with their generosity.
No doubt about it, it takes lots of resilience and faith to be a great stewardship leader. The average tenure for a pastor in any one position is about 4 years. The average stay in any one post for a professional fundraiser is less than 2 years.
How DO we hang in there? How do we – people who long to pass on a legacy of faith through generosity – defy these odds?
I have this particular (i.e. quirky) spiritual practice…
Begin With the End in Mind
It started in early 2021 when I wrote my own obituary.
Not because I was sick. Not because I was afraid that COVID would kill me. But because I wanted to clarify my focus for the 3rd third of my life.
Now you might think me morbid, but I spend about half of my professional hours working on legacy giving and charitable estate planning. Thinking about death and the life with Jesus that follows is normal for me.
I’ve learned that knowing what you want people to say about you at the end of life is a good way to guide how you live today.
Now you’ll think I’m even more odd…but I launch each day by reading my eulogy.
The most important stewardship practice I’ve developed over the years begins each morning at 5:00 in my Jesus Chair. After Bible reading and prayer time, I open my planner, review my mission and purpose statements, and read my obituary. I align my thoughts and plan my Big 3 objectives for the day with what is most important to me over the long haul.
I spent more than 30 years in the Jesus Chair reading other peoples’ obituaries after devotion time. Now I read my own. It makes me more grateful. It makes me more intentional. It makes me begin with the end in mind.
Drafting Your Own Eulogy
Because I’ve been asked to share it so many times with people who want an example to start with, here’s my simple 4-paragraph obituary. (I hope you won’t see it in newsprint for a very long time.)
Brenda Moore was a person who lived by faith, always full of hope for the future she now enjoys with Jesus.
Brenda cherished her family, never squandering the life-changing gift of a husband and daughters in her middle years. She gave Scott, Christina and Lillian love, security, and a life example worth following. Her joy was contagious, and it was fueled by her fun-loving Peterson family, treasured friends, and colleagues.
Brenda’s faith, values, and vocation were rooted in the legacy of her parents, grandparents, and the family farm in Fisher, MN. She dedicated her 50-year career to faith-focused philanthropy. In the footsteps of those who mentored her, she poured herself into others who now continue to lead the way in moving the needle on charitable giving for ministry.
Brenda enjoyed a long, healthy life, always striving to give her best self to God and to others. “Well done good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your Master”.
Crafting a Charitable Dream
The best part about our stewardship and fundraising work is relationships. We have the privilege of deep conversations with faithful, grateful people. These visits teach me that generous people have deep hopes for the impact their gifts will make in the lives of others.
I’ve learned that inviting people to share their charitable dreams for the future often means that a legacy gift plan is not far behind.
“I want my church to be here in this community for future generations of neighbors” could lead to the invitation to continue their annual offerings beyond their lifetime. A gift now or later, 20 times the size of their annual giving, could endow that dream.
“We hope that your ministry that we love will continue to serve God’s people that we love” could lead to the simple invitation to be remembered in their will.
“This community of faith is like family to us” could begin a conversation about being included as a member of the family in their estate plans. This is our charitable dream. We have two daughters. The ministries we love will be the ‘third child’ beneficiaries of our final gifts.
May drafting your eulogy and crafting charitable dreams spur you on to the legacy living that inspires legacy giving.