ELCA World Hunger has had an annual goal of $18,500,000 for fiscal years 2010, 2011 and now 2012.  As of January 31, 2012, the completion of fiscal year 2011, we are so excited to report that giving from individuals, congregations, synods and others totaled nearly $19,100,000. 

It was possible to exceed our goal thanks to wonderful stewardship, faithful support, and the efforts of many passionate people across this church – pastors, synod hunger leaders, volunteers, donors, advocates, educators.  And now, important programs of relief, development, education and advocacy to address the root causes of hunger and poverty will be funded and implemented as planned. 

We have ambitious financial goals.  Could we grow our program to double such annual giving levels?  How do we engage the membership of the ELCA to own these efforts and the scope of programs?  What is our capacity for the breadth and scope of programs we can support in the U.S. and internationally?

Articles from recent issues of the Chronicle of Philanthropy lack substantive mention about fundraising results of religious-based organizations and philanthropic interests by donors to various denominations.  This is likely because results are not large enough, a significant portion of the pie, to attract attention or merit.  And yet this omission suggests tremendous opportunities even when it comes to fundraising and stewardship for ELCA World Hunger.  Can we change and grow a culture of giving, philanthropy, stewardship and legacy within the church that is not counter to the values of our faith and teachings through scripture?

 Here are some of the hot topics from the Chronicle:

  • America’s most wealthy individuals are under a lot of pressure to be philanthropic, and there is scrutiny to consider investment in addressing social problems such as poverty as opposed to other common naming and legacy gifts.
  • Of the top 50 philanthropists in the U.S. during 2011, zero gave $5,000,000 or more to a social service group.  Religious organizations and related donor affiliations were not mentioned on the list.
  • As government funding is decreased, there will be increased demands for private giving will to make up the difference.  A recent study found that in states with the greatest reductions, private donors would have to increase giving by 60% to make up the difference.  Private philanthropy cannot begin to fund what the government can accomplish, and as a result, advocacy efforts are expected to increase and intensify by nonprofits.
  • For continued fundraising success and philanthropic investment, nonprofits must excel at showcasing results and communicating the impact of programs.

One of my favorite worldly quotes is by Sir Winston Churchill – “We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.” 

Is it a challenge then, that in a world where philanthropy can make such a strong statement, we can make a life of faith by what we give, and as people of faith, we can give generously of all that God has given us — in a public way and as an example for others?

Here’s to fiscal year 2012 and creating change in our faithful culture through stewardship and philanthropy.  AND to our efforts together to support a future in an ecumenical world where hunger and poverty are reduced and all communities thrive!

Sharon Magnuson, Associate Director — ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal