by Dr. David P. King, Karen Lake Buttrey Director
As we release the 2019 dates and locations of the Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising (ECRF) course, we are highlighting one aspect of the course with Dr. King's article below. For those that may be unfamiliar with ECRF, here is a brief summary.
The Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising is an intensive, 4-day course intended to equip religious leaders with the perspective and skills needed to lead with integrity around faith and giving. Beginning with an understanding of the challenges facing religious organizations in the 21st century, the course addresses the changed landscape of religious giving, and the capacity of individuals, leaders and donors alike, to engage with money and generosity within their own faith context. The course then addresses the practices of stewardship, fundraising, and philanthropy, with practical tools and analysis, and concludes with intentional integration of this work within the frame of a holistic theology of money.
The course is intended for religious institutional leaders who are interested in and excited about the challenges of sustainability and vitality for their organization, and ready to undertake the work of leading around faith and giving through the 21st century. Clergy, religious institutional leaders, executive directors, and professional fundraisers working in a faith-based context are all welcome participants in this course, focused on the application of learning by practitioners.
Autobiographies and memoirs are all the rage. The New York Times has called our current context the “Age of Memoir.” It appears that we love to learn from the lives of those that have gone before or those that walk alongside us. For those of us that share a sense of spirituality, morality, and the divine, the magnetic pull toward memoir suggests a religious dimension to the telling of any life. As Duke Divinity School professor and accomplished memoirist, Richard Lischer has noted, life “begins in mystery and ends in faith. So compelling is the mystery that it must be puzzled over and prayed out and finally written down.”1
Socrates’ most famous philosophical maxim was “know yourself!” This is not only true for one’s spiritual journey, but it is also the first step in nurturing generosity. As a central aspect of our educational courses at Lake Institute, we ask that individuals step back and reflect on their own philanthropic autobiography.
The concept is not new. Paul Schervish, Director Emeritus of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College, has spent a career studying the moral life of philanthropists. He has focused on developing a framework for exploring an individual’s moral biography, which he finds vital in developing virtuous giving. It’s not enough that one gives to various causes. How do our passions, vocations, and gifts align with why and how we give?2
Most often we move too quickly to the technical – cultivating generosity and philanthropy for our particular cause by examining prospects and examining gift range charts. We would be wise, however, to step back and consider how generosity is nurtured over a life. What are the childhood experiences, communal practices, and spiritual intersections with why and how we give?
In our courses, the Philanthropic Autobiography is an opportunity to step back and think consciously about your own involvement with giving, volunteering, and charitable activities. It is also your opportunity to recall the ways in which you came to experience and learn about giving and volunteering as well as rediscover what it is in your story that motivates you to be generous with your time and money on behalf of others. While not exhaustive, we believe these questions might be a starting point for examining one’s life and engaging in a broader philanthropic conversation.