Rooting for Rivals

Today’s guest post is an excerpt from Rooting for Rivals by Peter Greer and Chris Horst, released last month. We appreciate the generous, humble leadership Peter and Chris consistently demonstrate, both in their work with HOPE International and as our friends. We hope you’re encouraged and challenged by their words as much as we are.

Does “Enough” Exist?
A few years ago, a donor wrote us an exciting year-end email. He and his wife had already given generously to HOPE that year, but they had a $15,000 giving surplus. They sought to meet an unmet need that would further God’s Kingdom, and they wondered if HOPE had any needs remaining that year.

For a nonprofit fundraiser, emails do not get better than this.

I quickly pulled together some options and emailed our CEO, Peter, about a few projects where we could use these funds in the following year. But, as Peter pointed out, my response wasn’t quite answering the question. Of course, we could use the funds someday. But this donor’s question was whether we had met our core budget needs for this year.

Peter and I both knew something I was reluctant to admit: Because of the generosity of our supporters, we were in the unusual situation of knowing that it was likely that we were going to hit our annual fundraising goal that year.

Still, every nonprofit impulse within me bristled at the prospect of acknowledging that we had enough. Of opening the door for this donor to potentially decide to give that $15,000 to another organization. Next year will be a new year, I thought. Our economy could stagnate. We hope to expand our budget. Rooted in insecurity, the rationalizations went on.

But, in the face of my inner debate, Peter challenged me to consider generosity. To open my hands and see beyond the walls of our organization. To relinquish control of something that was never mine to begin with. To trust God to provide.

Peter responded with a simple sentence acknowledging our reality. “We could certainly put this investment to good use in serving more families,” he wrote. “However, I did want you to know that it looks likely we will hit our core fundraising target this year, in case there is another organization with a greater need.”

Discussions about having enough are uncommon among nonprofit leaders. We spend more of our time wishing we could grow faster and bigger than our current resources allow. Like the Israelites with manna, we see the gifts of God as something to hoard, protect, and store up. Greed twists our understanding of these gifts, and we close our fists around what we ought to share.

Image: Members of a savings group program in Haiti. Photo by Michael Rothermel/HOPE International.

Openhanded Generosity
We believe there is an opportunity not just to build our organizations but to participate in building the Kingdom of God. As we take on a Kingdom perspective and live out of a posture of abundance, we are free to give generously and together accomplish much more than we ever could alone.

After speaking with many nonprofit leaders who model uncommon generosity and openhandedness, it was clear that they held a countercultural answer to two key worldview questions, “Do we believe in a world of scarcity or abundance?” and “Is our focus on our clan or the Kingdom?” Plotting these two questions on a simple two-by-two, we see that leaders tend to be drawn into one of four categories.

Some (quadrant I) are so consumed with striving to meet their own needs—real or imagined—that they fail to acknowledge the Kingdom beyond their cause. Others (quadrant II) are aware of the Kingdom and perceptive of the needs around them, but their fear of scarce resources keeps them from celebrating the impact of others. Still others (quadrant III) fail to grasp the extent of God’s Kingdom and grow apathetic or cynical toward other organizations.

One quadrant alone—Kingdom-minded, abundance-perceiving leaders—will be equipped to root for their rivals in the unity Christ enjoins. It’s these leaders who celebrate the successes of others, believing the world is not one of scarcity. And it’s these leaders, with minds and hearts transfixed on Christ, who have the greatest Kingdom impact. By placing collaboration above competition between like-minded organizations, we imagine the prospect of building the Kingdom of God together.

Header photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

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