Donor Expectations

We hear a lot from our supporting churches these days.  Often they are writing to tell us that they are in the process of dropping a number of missionaries and mission-fields due to budgetary constraints.  As they make up their mind, they ask us to put together a report of all the things we are doing.  Presumably, they collect these from all of the missionaries and mission-fields they support and then decide which ministries are worth a continued investment and which are not.

For mission-fields and missionaries, these are hard times.  Even during what I call "the era of excess liquidity" (1993-2008), it was getting more and more difficult to raise funds as missionaries.  Supporting churches are often small (with the average probably being around 100), and large churches often divided their mission budgets between 40 to 75 different mission-fields and missionaries.  But there were many big donors behind the scenes--individuals who were doing well financially and could afford to give a lot to a building, or project.  So some big projects were supported and funds at times could come in fast because of these big donors.

All of this has changed. Now in the recession, a lot of small churches are struggling, large churches may be having problems paying off buildings as well as supporting so many ministries, and many individuals have seen their financial portfolios drop dramatically.  The competition between the many non-profits (which was already very competitive) has become even greater.

I strongly expect this global recession to last a very long time.  The market indicators may go up and down, but they are increasingly divorced from the actual earnings people make which have flat-lined or are in decline.  So we will probably continue to get more of these letters.

The good thing about this is that it enables us to have a closer relationship with those that do support us.  Mission-agencies and mission endeavors have to be more strategic in their investments, and accountability and standards need to go up.  Donors should be able to have confidence that mission-fields are being properly prepared and managed, that foreign churches and others receiving support are doing things that foster health, and that money is strategically used instead of a "blank check" mentality.  That is certainly what we are doing here at Three Worlds---examining everything from top to bottom to make sure that standards are high and that we are being as effective as we can be--and helping our fields to become more effective.

The reality is that there has been to much blind faith in non-profits, just as there has been too much blind faith in aid packages to needy nations.  The entire field of charity and aid is being re-examined and we think this is a very good thing.  The Mosaic project that I did between 2008-2010 was very eye opening in this regard as it became very clear in what areas we as a church can do better.

We understand that many of our churches are struggling financially.  And we know that many of our individual donors and tithers in these churches are struggling.  So we greatly appreciate all of your continued support.  We also continually try and think of how our work on the field, can benefit our supporting churches back home. We don't want this to only be a one-way street.

We greatly appreciate you!