|When I was the resource development
director for a faith-based nonprofit in Chicago’s Pilsen community, an
avuncular priest from St.
gave me Henri J.M. Nouwen’s
The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.
I have long admired Nouwen’s writing. And
throughout my nonprofit career fundraising has been a bit of a calling.
It was a genuine joy then to read
A Spirituality of Fundraising, by Nouwen, which originally was
published in 2010 as part of the Henri J.M. Nouwen Spirituality Series.
A slender book, it captures Nouwen’s talk delivered in 1992 to the
Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Service Foundation with depth and clarity.
Declaring from the start, “Fundraising
is, first and foremost, a form of ministry”, Nouwen weaves together the
essential strands of fundraising, from belief in one’s vision and
mission, to fundraising as conversion for donor and asker alike. I had
never considered the act of raising funds as spiritual or a form of
ministry. Nouwen explains succinctly, yet powerfully how “fundraising is
as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the
sick, or feeding the hungry."
As only Nouwen can do, he also shares personal stories and reflections
of his own journey of understanding how our fear of fundraising also
reflects our complex relationship with money and love. Nouwen challenges
us to question “[w]hat is the place of money in our lives?” and if our
security comes from God or from money.
With the growing disparities between the rich and the poor in our
communities and our country, Nouwen expresses how “the rich are also
poor” and the value of building genuine relationships with potential
donors that help the rich to give of their financial abundance and in
doing so help bring them closer to God. Anyone engaged in fundraising
and for whom faith is a motivation will find Nouwen’s words fortifying
and inspiring. For as he explains, “if we raise funds for the creation
of a community of love, we are helping God build the kingdom.” The book
is not a how to guide, rather in reading it one feels the wisdom of
Nouwen’s words and the renewal of one’s ideals in the power of faith to
transform every act into an act of love.