Posted on November 28th, 2016 at 6:00PM
Last Tuesday our patron, the Archbishop of York, addressed a conference run by Stewardship on "Raising Funds for Christian Charities and Churches" on a topic that I know is close to his heart: 'Joyful Giving'. The Archbishop is certainly a man who exudes joy and the Bible is clear on this principle of giving joyfully:
"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7
and of course "it is more blessed to give than receive" (Acts 20:35).
As the Archbishop and I both know from our experience of Acts 435, we would say people give joyfully when they believe their gift is going to make a difference. That has been the big success of Acts 435 for donors - they read a story and empathise. Then when they choose to give, they believe their gift will make the promised impact.
People give joyfully when they believe in what they are funding. Acts 435 donors will often give to situations that they can particularly relate to. So if I see a request for school uniform because the child has uniform that doesn't fit properly and is being teased, I can relate to that. I take it for granted that when my children grow out of their uniform, I can go and buy the next size up. I can see what it looks like when a child is in uniform that doesn't fit and the impact this has on that child's self-esteem. As such, I can see why it is worthwhile to give to someone who cannot afford to do that for their child, but wishes they can, and it brings joy to know that I have helped.
This extends across the whole gamut of needs - the power of raising a deposit to get a homeless person off the streets, the importance of a working TV for an isolated pensioner, the comfort of getting the train fare to be able to go and visit a dying relative and say goodbye.
We have worked hard with our advocates to improve the quality of their writing on our website, and in the thank you messages that go out to donors - to really get across why a particular item is required and why it will make a difference. This enables donors to connect quicker and increase their joy in being able to help.
The thank you messages are also a lovely aspect of encouraging joyful giving. Our donors do not expect them, but many have commented how wonderful it is to suddenly get an email with a short message from the advocate or beneficiary to thank them and express a little of the difference it has made. Just a 'thank you' isn't the main thing, it is the personal touch of how it has impacted, eg. "Thank you so much for my new cooker - my favourite meal is roast and it is such a joy to be able to cook it for the first time in 8 months". Their joy is contagious and in turn the donors are filled with joy.
There is also a sense that when we read through the stories on our website, we realise how blessed we are - which instils inner joy and gratitude to God for His goodness, out of which generosity towards others can well up.
This Giving Tuesday, we have an opportunity to give to someone in need of a specific item that can make a big difference to them in their circumstances. If someone purchases an item on Black Friday, then gives a donation on Giving Tuesday, I think I have a pretty good idea which they'll feel most joyful about. We can enjoy our new purchases, but there is a deeper joy when we give to others less fortunate than ourselves.
My favourite tweet from that conference last week was this one:
"Love the challenge from Archbishop Sentamu : God loves a hilarious giver! How hilarious are you?"
You can just hear the joy! Let's spread it.