5 Lessons on Generosity from a Philanthropic Leader

Rob Martin has been in Christian ministry and philanthropy since the 1980s, including serving two decades as the executive director of First Fruit, a philanthropic foundation. He puts his experience to use coaching leaders on a number of organizational issues. Rob’s experience as both a fundraiser and a giver compelled him to write When Money Goes on Mission, a must-read for any Christian who gives money. In this book, Rob discusses some fundamental lessons learned from his career giving money away to advance Christ’s kingdom around the world. We had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Rob about his book and about what it means to give with wisdom.

Giving is much more than just a transaction.
Mere transactions are the everyday occurrence of our lives. You buy gas so you can drive your car. You buy food so you can eat a meal. Giving can often be treated like a common transaction. We give so we can get a tax deduction! However, when it comes to mission work, your motivation has as much to do with the giving as the act of giving itself. When you give, you’re investing in something transformative. You are contributing to a mission that has an outcome that changes somebody’s life. As givers, we think a lot about numbers by necessity. However, our giving can’t merely be about numbers. Rather, our primary interest must be extending the reign of Jesus.

Treat giving like an investment.
When we invest money, there’s a high level of intentionality. We investigate options to mitigate risks and maximize returns. We should do the same with our charitable giving. We need to consider what sort of return for God’s kingdom we can reasonably expect from our gift. We also need to assure the organizations to whom we give have a track record of using money wisely.

When you give, you are becoming a stakeholder and investor in the outcomes of your gift. For comparison, when you contribute to your 401K, you’re investing in corporate funds and mutual funds with the purpose of helping those corporations turn a profit and then return a portion of that profit to you. Profit is why you took the risk of making the investment. When it comes to mission work, you’re investing in a transformative idea that you want to see accomplished. Those gifts should come with a smile and a hopeful heart that fully believes in the mission of the receiving organization.

Don’t be concerned with the size of your gift.
The Bible doesn’t emphasize the size of gifts and neither should we. Rather, the act of giving is what transforms us. As we give, we are becoming more dependent on God and declaring the priority of His kingdom. The giver is as impacted by the act of giving as the recipient. All mission comes down to one Christian doing a loving action for another, and we should be as thoughtful when giving a $5 gift as we are when giving a $5,000 gift.

Pray.
Being thoughtful with your gift means searching your own heart and asking God for wisdom. You should do more than pray but you should never give without first praying about it. Pray before you give and pray for the organization after you give. Ask God to multiply and utilize the resources needed for the ministry to accomplish its desired objectives. You should also ask God to show you ways to be involved in the advancement of his giving beyond donations. There are more ways to give than just money. Let your wallet follow your heart and become a friend of the organization.

Use available tools.
You aren’t the first to give or the only person giving. Ask others who have more experience than you about the best practices they’ve adopted. Research organizations through their annual reports and 990 tax forms. When it comes to executing your gift, consider tools like donor-advised funds. By utilizing a donor-advised fund, you get the necessary tax deduction while having time to do your homework and know where you’re going to put the gift.

Rob Martin explores these lessons and more in his book. One point rises above the rest: giving is love.

  • Because of God’s love for us, we give.
  • Because of our love for His gospel and His kingdom, we give.
  • Because we love the nations, we give.

Giving is one way God has chosen to spread the love of the gospel around the world. Thanks to Rob Martin for reminding us that giving is about God’s mission and not merely transactions.

The Generosity Trust specializes in donor-advised funds that allow you to have your own charitable fund to support Christian ministries and other worthy causes.Visit our website to learn more about donor-advised funds.

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