An Example to Explain How Keeping Organizations Accountable for Donations Works

BY JOHN MONTAGUE

What follows is a simple example that I hope will illustrate the good that can come from applying basic principles of stewardship to our decisions about what Christian organizations to support. I explain those basic principles of stewardship here. Although the example seems very simplified, the real world works in much the same way, albeit in a slower and more complicated manner.

Facts

Mary lives in a simple world. She is a citizen of the country Red, which has a population of 10,000 people. The average income of people in Red is $50,000 per year. Mary makes a salary of $50,000. Mary is a Christian, as are one quarter of the people who live in Red.

There is one other country in the world: Blue. The population of Blue is 100,000 people, and most of the people who live in Blue are very poor. About 95 percent of the population in Blue makes less than $100 per year. Many are in constant risk of starvation and lack the money to afford simple medical treatments. About one quarter of the people who live in Blue are Christians.

There are four Christian ministries in the entire world: Matthew, Mark, Amos, and Obadiah.

Matthew and Mark devote their ministries primarily to evangelism. They share the gospel with people in both Red and Blue. In addition to evangelism, Amos and Obadiah also provide food and medicine to the people in Blue who are at risk of dying because they need food and basic medical care.

Each of the organizations had a total budget of $200,000 last year, and this is how they spent it:

Matthew

Salaries: $100,000 to Matthew; $50,000 split between two assistants.
Programs: $25,000 to putting on 5 “crusades” that each drew 100 people.
Overhead: $15,000 for office space and $10,000 for travel expenses.

Mark

Salaries: $25,000 to Mark; $75,000 split between three assistants.
Programs: $85,000 to putting on 34 “crusades” that each drew 100 people.
Overhead: $5,000 for office space and $10,000 for travel expenses.

Amos

Salaries: $25,000 to Amos; $50,000 split between two assistants who work in Red; $25,000 split between 25 assistants who work in Blue, where the cost of living is much lower.
Programs: $85,000 towards food and medicine for people in Blue.
Overhead: $5,000 for buildings and $10,000 for travel expenses.

Obadiah

Salaries: $75,000 to Obadiah; $60,000 split between two assistants who work in Red; $15,000 split between 10 assistants who work in Blue, where the cost of living is much lower.
Programs: $25,000 towards food and medicine for people in Blue.
Overhead: $15,000 for buildings and $10,000 for travel expenses.

Mary wants to spread the gospel to non-Christians in both Red and Blue, and she also wants to help many of the poor people who live in Blue. Mary has 9 Christian friends who each make $50,000 per year. Last year, Mary and her Christian friends each gave away $10,000: $2,500 to each ministry. In other words, Mary and her 9 Christian friends gave, in total, $25,000 to each Christian ministry.

Mary only recently discovered how each of the Christian ministries spends its money. Mary’s friends still do not know what each Christian ministry does with its money.

Issue

How should Mary donate $10,000 that she wants to give away this year? What, if anything, should she say to her friends?

Answer

Mary should give $5,000 to Mark and $5,000 to Amos. She should write a letter to Matthew and Obadiah explaining why she is not giving them a donation this year and encouraging them to emulate the careful stewardship of Mark and Amos.

Mary should also tell her friends how the four ministries use their money and try to convince them to also give all of their donations to Mark and Amos and to write letters to Matthew and Obadiah explaining why they are giving to Mark and Amos instead.

Analysis

If Mary follows the suggested course of action and successfully convinces her friends to follow her lead, and if everything else stays the same, Mark and Amos will each receive $225,000 in donations this year, and Matthew and Obadiah will each receive $175,000.

Because Mark and Amos use their money more efficiently, they will be able to put more money towards the goals of evangelism and helping the poor people in Blue. The additional amount that Mark and Amos devote to such work will more than make up for the amount that Matthew and Obadiah lose.

Thus, in the end, more people will hear the gospel and more people will receive needed food and medical supplies because Mary chose to give her money to Mark and Amos instead of Matthew and Obadiah and because she convinced her friends to do the same.

Chances are, Matthew and Obadiah will do some soul-searching as a result of receiving 12.5 percent less in donations. The letters from Mary and her friends will explain why they received less money and tell them what happened to it. It is likely that Matthew and Obadiah, especially if they are led by an independent board of directors instead of by Matthew and Obadiah alone, will decide to trim their expenses and make their operations more efficient.

Therefore, in the following year, they will devote a higher percentage of their money to their core mission, and even more individuals will hear the gospel and receive food and medical treatment.

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