Almost every North American mission I know plans for December to be their major month for donations in the entire year. In fact, the last ten days of December typically supply as much as 40% of our needed giving for the year. For this reason I annually write a December letter asking old friends and new friends to help us finish the year strong. My current letter will be mailed early next week to those in our database but that letter is also currently available on our Web site home page at www.reformationrevival.com. Even if you are not a donor, or do not intend to be a donor to our ministry anytime soon, you will enjoy reading the letter since some very important news about our future is provided this year. I hope you will take time to read it.
I also thought about this matter of year-end giving for another reason. Many have told me that their work has faced what has been termed "Katrina fatigue" since September. So much has been designated to relief efforts that other charitable causes have suffered. There has clearly been a noticeable drop-off in giving to scores of good ministries that I know personally. I have personally tried to give more this month to help these friends.
At the same time I am reminded that many non-profit agencies do not tell their donors the whole truth about what they do and why they do it. Even though an agency belongs to a watchdog group that monitors their fianancial practices and holds them to certain standards of accountability it is still no guarantee of complete integrity. The always interesting and controversial Ralph Winter has given an entire issue of Mission Frontiers to this very concern by asking the question: "Do Some Agencies Mislead Donors?" His answer is a hard-hitting, helpful piece that should make us all take stock of what we tell people about a ministry.
The simple facts are these:
1. You do not know for sure what happens to your gift money but you can have a very good idea if you know the person and the ministry you donate to.
2. You can follow a ministry carefully, read its materials, ask hard questions and make good decisions if you pay attention and retain solid stewardship practices.
3. The IRS provides important records that are open to the public. Overpaid executives who have huge salaries are public record.
4. Ask good questions about the practices used to raise funds. How does this group appeal for my money and what do they tell me, or not tell me? What is this ministry doing and why?
Get to know those ministries you support and pray for them. Read carefully what they say and watch what they really do. Share generously if you believe in their work.