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This has been a rough year for almost all nonprofit organizations. When people encounter financial difficulty, charitable giving is one of the first places they cut back. I haven’t seen any hard numbers, but I know, from anecdotal evidence, that a lot of organizations are struggling. I have a handful of writing clients that exist on donations, and it seems that lately I’ve had to write quite a few fundraising letters that say something along the lines of “We know it’s hard, but don’t forget us.”
Plenty of organizations have been forgotten over the last 12-18 months.
Churches aren’t immune, either. One local church with a sizable staff recently went through several rounds of layoffs that impacted friends of mine. The church got into a big building campaign, moved into the new facility, and were struggling to pay the bills. Others have cut back in a variety of other ways, from programming to marketing, in order to stay afloat.
This has been a hard year for my church, too. Our part of the world has been insulated somewhat from the recession, but not entirely. Giving is down, and with three months left in the budget year we’re at least $100,000 below where we had projected to be. Ministries are starting to look at ways to tighten belts over the next couple of months.
And yet, this weekend, our staff made a decision that impresses me to no end. They decided to take everything given in this weekend’s three services — every loose bill and coin, every check written to the general operating budget, every online donation — and apply it toward relief efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.
If this weekend’s giving was like most January weekends at our church (I haven’t heard a total yet), that will be something like $60,000 to $75,000 that we’ll give to an organization helping on the ground in Haiti. And that’ll be $60,000 to $75,000 that we won’t be able to feed into our own budget. It’s the equivalent of an individual giving up a full week’s salary.
It’s a big sacrifice.
It’s a big step of faith on the part of our pastoral leaders.
And it’s the right thing to do.
I’m thrilled by this decision to put the needs of others above our own needs. How can you not? Their needs are life-and-death. Ours are in support of recreation ministries and youth ski trips and heating costs and advertising.
It’s hard to justify spending money on yourself when there are people who so desperately need it. And at the end of a week in which a prominent religious person said stupid things to justify Haiti’s suffering and a prominent conservative voice said a lot of stupid things meant to discourage giving to relief efforts, I am proud that at least one conservative Texas church didn’t listen to the voices of idiots and instead made a choice to love. It might seem we can’t do much at the moment to help so many hurting people, but a cash donation is practical, meaningful, and an example of Christian love.
I’m proud my church chose to help. I hope there were others — churches, families, individuals — who made the same choice.
Right now, donations are the best way to help relief efforts in Haiti. Here’s a good list of reputable organizations leading Haiti relief efforts.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.