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Help us out!

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“We NEED your help!” was printed across the envelope, the fifth fundraising letter my household received that week. Every group that reached out said the same thing: Our organization requires more partners to ensure we can do the work.

With these consistent and important invitations to give, many of us are asking, “How do we, individually and corporately, decide which organizations to partner with?”

There is an overwhelming need for people’s time, talents and resources in our communities. This is not a new issue, and there is not a new response. We see evidence across Scripture of God’s direction to care for the orphan, the widow and the foreigner. God told his people then as now, “I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow [people] who are poor and needy in your land” (Deut. 15:11b). Jesus consistently lives this out in his ministry, caring for the sick, feeding the masses and spending time with outcasts.

Those of us following Jesus respond with a generous spirit, but knowing where or how to give requires further discernment. Jon Wiebe, president and CEO of MB Foundation, recommends that everyone “start with your heart” when answering the Holy Spirit’s call to generosity. Wiebe says, “Ask What has God made me uniquely interested in? What are my spiritual values?” Jesus responds from a place of compassion, as opposed to obligation or guilt, and we are invited to prayerfully do the same.

There are many wonderful organizations for individuals to connect with, including our own faith communities. The majority of people I talked to give time and resources to their home church because they trust the stewardship practices of their congregation. Beyond that, the list of where people give varies—from local food banks to individual missionaries—with a preference to Christian groups. Why they decide to give is similar: people want to address a need they care about.

Churches take varied approaches to partnership. Some vote on where their community should give, others ask pastors or denominational leaders to provide direction. Some provide focused support to one organization for a season; others divide their gifts between multiple groups. Some put an emphasis on gathering financial gifts; others opt to collect supplies and others encourage volunteering time. One ministry leader I spoke with considers their church building to be their greatest gift, so their congregation is finding ways to donate meeting spaces to outside groups during the week.

Whether you are a household or part of a church board discerning who to partner with, Wiebe says that it is important to “check out their history, belief statements and faith alignment,” and cautions we “be suspicious of those unwilling to share financial data.” My own grandmother, Alice Farmer, reminded me how crucial that step is and takes the time to research how her gift will be used. Sometimes wisdom looks like passing on or stepping out of partnership.

Lastly, wise giving requires communication. We don’t all agree on how partnership should look, which can create tension in our families and churches. I have attended budget meetings and missions updates where people’s ideas for giving conflicted. In these situations, Wiebe advises we “get everything on the table to hear clearly from each other.” Our church leaders should be equipped to navigate those conversations, and organizations like MB Foundation can provide help, too.

The Winter 2024 issue of MCC’s magazine, A Common Place, sums up our invitation well: “Can you help us help?” We give in different ways to different places but we can do it all with compassionate discernment.

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