Missionaries often appeal to individuals and churches to support them in their ministry, either through cash donations or checks. This approach can only be so successful, according to Greg Ring, co-founder of Fulcrum Philanthropy Systems. Greg has worked with more than 200 ministries and has raised more than $3 billion in documented planned gifts. When working with organizations, he says that only nine percent of the average American’s net worth is in cash, and yet, that’s where missionaries tend to look for their funds.
Greg presented at WorldVenture’s 2015 annual Renewal Conference, giving advice and insight into planned giving and the creative places missionaries can look for their funds.
What has been your experience in helping missions organizations increase their funding?
Our work at Fulcrum is focused on helping donors understand how to steward assets. Most of the fundraising that’s done—not just with WorldVenture, but also across the Christian community—is focused on cash. But cash makes up about nine percent of the average American’s net worth. Most of what they have is in assets: home equity, their IRA, and their life insurance. What we do is to educate folks on how they might be able to gift assets in a way that can provide for ministry, fulfill the inheritance goals that they have for their children, and hopefully save taxes at the same time.
What are some of the blind spots missionaries have in raising support?
The first one is focusing on cash versus understanding assets. The second biggest is limiting God. Most believers sitting in the pew on a Sunday morning want to look at the future based on their experience from the past. I think limiting God’s resources and power is a huge mistake, not just with missionaries, but also with all of us as believers.
What examples do you have of people using their assets to further someone’s ministry?
I had a widow in East Texas that had a lake house worth $125,000. She was not a wealthy gal, but she had a heart for missions, so she transferred the title on the piece of real estate to charity.
It can be land, it can be family business, it can be stocks and bonds, it can be precious metals, but it’s all under the category of assets.
How can your organization help people that don’t have a business or lots of money?
Together with WorldVenture, we have a link on the WorldVenture website called My Legacy Planner. It’s confidential, it’s fully encrypted, secure, easy to use, and free. It’ll take your information uniquely and it will construct an illustration showing how you can save taxes, provide for your heirs, and give money to your ministry. It’ll give you three different charitable options that you probably weren’t aware of before.
Where have you seen missionaries succeed at getting their support in creative or unconventional ways?
I think one of the best organizations I’m aware of would be Young Life. Young Life is very engaged with their donors; they do an excellent job. Moody Bible Institute has also done a great job in this area for over 100 years. If more mission agencies had been doing this 100 years ago, they wouldn’t have a few dollars dribbling in every so often; they would have millions of dollars coming in every year.
How do you broach the subject to supporters about planned giving?
I think the key is to retain the focus of serving the donor. This is not about getting more money out of them; it’s about helping them with issues. It’s just a matter of listening. They don’t have to understand all of the complexities of the trust—that’s what we’ll do.
You mentioned the believer in Acts who sold his field and gave the money to the apostles. What other biblical examples of giving assets do you use at your organization?
The biggest one is King David. When they built the temple, King David himself gave all kinds of assets from timber to precious metals. It was virtually all assets. Scripture has lots of other examples. When God took Israel out of Egypt, all the Egyptians flooded them with gold and silver and objects. They didn’t hand them dollar bills; they handed them all kinds of stuff, and they essentially plundered Egypt at Egypt’s urging when they left.
How can WorldVenture do better in the area of planned giving?
There’s wonderful things God’s doing through missionaries at WorldVenture. I think WorldVenture could get better at celebrating what’s going on. There’s no shortage of charities people can give to. What WorldVenture needs to do is celebrate what God’s doing and to make it clear.
To learn more, please watch Greg’s talk at WorldVenture’s Renewal Conference in Denver: