Transformational Giving

Thanks to Rev. Andrew Warner, Generosity Outreach Office for the United Church of Christ, for sharing this Great Idea in the MN Conference UCC’s July 26, 2023, COMMAntary.

There is no link to the article, so we share it here, verbatim:

Give from Loyalty? Or for Transformation? 

by Rev. Andrew Warner, Generosity Outreach Officer for the United Church of Christ

I recently received a thank-you letter from a college. My husband and I regularly give this college one of our most significant gifts. But no one in our family went there. We don’t give out of loyalty. Instead, we support a specific college program that engages student creativity to help solve challenges faced by people in a rural part of Guatemala. Transformation motivates our giving. 

One year, students learned that cardamon farmers needed to find a way to dry the pods more efficiently. Experiments among the engineers led to the design of a $2 baffle that increased the air turbulence of the cardamon pod dryers, reducing fuel consumption by 25% and increasing the farmers’ earnings. Projects like these captured our imagination. 

When we ask for support for our congregations, do we emphasize loyalty or transformation?  

Loyalty long worked to motivate giving. You might hear it in conversations about “paying our fair share” or “paying the light bills.” Loyalty giving can be powerful. It certainly built many of our institutions. But – and this is the downside – loyalty treats the institution as the ultimate center of our hearts. 

Transformational giving sees an institution as a tool for achieving impact in the world. 

You might hear this in the stewardship theme “Because of you, our church changes lives.” The slogan names this charitable equation: The donor acts through the church for a desired impact. 

Moving from a message of loyalty to one of transformation expands our pool of donors. Appeals to loyalty is “members-only fundraising” — it works only with people who identify as members. Speaking about transformation opens opportunities for people to share in your ministry, even if they don’t identify as members. 

When I served as a local pastor, a neighbor of the congregation regularly gave gifts to support our initiatives. He didn’t want to come to worship, but he appreciated our congregation’s justice work and witness. We were his favorite church not to attend. But, because we offered him a way to make a difference in the wider community, he gave through us. 

Reflect on how you promote giving: Do you make an appeal to members only to support the institution? Or do you invite an open circle of people to make an impact through your church? 

Here’s a way to test your church’s message: Look at your website. A picture of the building communicates a loyalty appeal. A picture of people engaging in ministry speaks to transformation.


Another approach to a similar concept: Creating a Narrative Budget: The story behind the numbers, is offered through the UMC’s Discipleship Ministries. The course may not be freely accessible to non-UMC folx, but the concepts will translate:

  • Sharing numbers alone does not move people to greater generosity
  • Stories can motivate to take the next step of faith in their giving
  • Stories can inspire giving that transforms the world

Find the online course and register here.


For specifically anti-racist transformation, see 5 Ideas for Stewardship for Churches Seeking to be Actively Anti-Racist.

  • Inspire members to ‘be explicitly engaged in ministry that works against the spiritual forces of racism’
  • Recognize that following Christ in this place and time calls us to be actively working to dismantle racism
  • Discover how the way we use our money, as individuals and as churches, testifies to our desire to be anti-racists

The top five ideas include:

  1. Fund antiracism ministry in your church
  2. Add antiracism to someone’s job description
  3. Invest in education for leadership to better understand racism
  4. Establish policies to examine diversity in your church’s vendors
  5. Identify ethnic churches that might be partners in guiding your work

Read the full article here.