A new year is upon us! Along with a half-dozen or so New Year’s resolutions, perhaps you’ve determined to be more generous in 2016. You want to give more giving of your time, your skills, and your money. But of the three, giving money wisely and confidently presents the biggest challenge. In my role as a Strategy Director for the Maclellan Foundation, I will be responsible for spearheading the granting of approximately $5 million this year. This sum will be divvied up among more than 40 organizations in at least 15 countries. On the whole, Maclellan will give almost $25 million in 2016.
It’s time to do your homework
How can we give so much money with confidence that it is being used for the purposes that God intended? And how can you have that same confidence? The answer is simple: we must do our homework! The good news is that this kind of homework can be meaningful, fulfilling—even fun. The homework I’m referring to is sometimes called due diligence. The term due diligence can be intimidating because it sounds technical and very detailed. But it doesn’t have to be. And it will only help your giving.
Here are a few simple ideas to help you be more confident in your giving in 2016:
1. Use a consistent filter. Have you ever read professional consumer reviews when shopping for a new washing machine, a smart phone, or even a new vehicle? We have confidence in those reviews because we assume they’re objective and because we know that the reviewing companies evaluate each product according to the same standard. Because their tests and filters are consistent, they are able to provide us with effective comparisons. The same can be true for you as you evaluate the sometimes overwhelming number of opportunities to give. To have more confidence in your giving, evaluate each opportunity to give with the same filter, a filter that matches your values and allows you to choose projects and people that will accomplish things that are important to you.
2. Assess leadership capacity. No matter how promising a program, project, or organization is, ultimately it will only be as strong as its leadership. But leadership assessment is more than looking at a resume; it’s understanding the strengths, weaknesses, character, and capacity of leaders. In my mind I often ask questions like these: “Does this leader’s preparation go beyond theological training? Does he or she have past experience leading a growing organization?” In recent weeks at the Maclellan Foundation, I’ve heard the following statements: “She’s more focused than ever and articulates the vision and plan of her organization clearly.” “His character underpins his content seamlessly.” Those are leaders worth betting on, and—all other things being equal—they have a greater possibility of effectiveness. Knowing there are strong leaders behind the projects and organizations to which you give will provide an extraordinary amount of confidence.
3. Discover a consistent narrative. Because God has given you extra financial capacity you are in a position to hear lots of stories of impact from ministries seeking funds. When you read ministry newsletters or meet with ministry leaders, what are they saying that’s consistent? Are there themes that keep coming up in those readings and conversations? If so, you can bet that God is at work in a way that is worth investing in. For example, if you have developed a passion for stemming the tide of human trafficking around the globe, what trends have you identified by listening to those ministering to trafficked people? Are most describing the difficulty of working with local governments, or are most saying that local governments are motivated to help? Are most finding local churches to be good places for long-term care for victims, or do most prefer to hire caregivers from outside the church?
You should be looking for consistency in those narratives. Beware of ministries that claim they have an inside track to effectiveness, especially if their story seems to be different from all of the others.
At Maclellan we’ve found that God moves in ways that allow many of His people to participate in His work. In the Kingdom, God rarely gives insight or effectiveness to only one leader or one organization. If someone is claiming Kingdom fruit where no one else is, be cautious. When you discover consistent themes through your due diligence, you can be confident that you’re giving to the right things. For more tips on confident giving or other examples of these three ideas. Or feel free to contact me at The Maclellan Foundation: Lee@maclellan.net