Robbing the Rich

Every church steals from the rich and I wish they’d just get over it. Take money from the rich because, believe it or not, they are looking for ways to give their money away and when you don’t give them a chance to give their money to the causes the church supports, then you are robbing the rich.

I’ve dealt with a lot of rich people over the years. One guy that took me under his wing (thanks, HG!) quoted about $15 million in various bank accounts; another guy wrote a check for $2.2 million to the Community Foundation I worked at because that’s what his accountants told him he had to give away that year. A few years ago the magazine Town & Country (whose target audience has a gazillion dollars to their name) ran an entire issue on the subject of philanthropy. The rich are being asked for their money every day by their alma maters, hospitals and other charities. But churches don’t want to approach them.

Here’s a secret about the wealthy – many of them are very lonely because of their wealth. They’ve learned that people want to be around them so that they can get something out of their rich “friends.” That has made the rich extremely cautious in who they’ll talk to. However, the rich are people just like you and me and they need honest, true friends – not people who plan to use them.

Churches have two hang ups about the wealthy and we need to get over those hangs ups!

  • Some people misinterpret verses in the book of James and take them that we should pretty much ignore the rich. Actually, James talks about how to help the rich be better Christians – something we all can use. You don’t need to overtly favor the rich – they don’t want it anyway – but you don’t need to ignore them either.
  • Most pastors have never been rich and so have no idea how to talk about money. I’ve learned that the rich have no problem talking about money, they do it every day. It is the church and its leaders that need face that they have a problem talking about money. Here’s a solution: go to a rich person and get him or her to coach you in how to talk to the rich about money. I’m pretty sure they’d love to help you.

Some wealthy people have the gift of generosity. They know they have money and they want to use that money for God. When church leaders do not give the rich the opportunity to be generous, those leaders have robbed the rich and failed to be the leaders God wants them to be.

Suggestions

  • Every pastor should know the top 25 donors to his/her church
  • Every pastor should meet with those 25 donors at least once a year and better, twice a year. That means that once a week, the pastor will set aside two hours for a meeting. That way, every year the pastor will meet with the top 25 donors twice a year.
  • The meetings should NOT be about money. The meetings MUST be about the donor, his needs, his family, the vision the pastor has for the church, and what is currently going on in the church.
  • At a minimum, the pastor may gain business insights in how to run the church’s business more efficiently and effectively
  • The pastor may gain some strong acquaintenances and perhaps even friends
  • The pastor will definitely gain the right to talk about money when the time comes for a capital campaign or other need
  • The donor will gain insight into what the pastor goes through in a week and have a better understanding of how churches work
  • The donor will learn of opportunities to fund specific needs where his money can make a real difference
  • The donor will feel like a person and not a pariah just because he has money

Please, please, please get to know your top donors and know them well. Treat them as people (not as ATMs) and meet their human and spiritual needs. Then, when you are in need financially, you’ll be surprised by how generous they are even before you ask! And again, if you feel uncomfortable, ask them to teach you – I can promise you that most of them would jump at the chance to help their pastor and other church leaders!

Lead On!
Steve

I am a strategic thinker, a short- and long-term planner, and I am experienced in creating and managing operating budgets, endowment funds, and giving campaigns. I believe that church finances must be efficient, effective, and excellent.