How to manage money well
In the early days of the Christian church, Paul asked his supporters in the city of Corinth to regularly set aside a small part of their income to help people in Jerusalem affected by famine and poverty. The letters he wrote to the Corinthians have since become the basis of Christian teaching on generosity, fundraising and accountability.
Paul did not beg for money. Instead, he taught his supporters how to give generously. He encouraged them to regularly set aside money so they would always have funds available to share.
‘Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made’ (1 Corinthians 16:1–2).
Paul then instructed the Corinthians to choose trusted people to administer and deliver the gifts. Bad or corrupt management of the funds would have stopped people from participating in the collection.aaaaa
‘Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to those you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem’ (1 Corinthians 16:3)
These letters of introduction provided proof that the people looking after the money could be trusted.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians we see the rules followed by those involved in the fundraising campaign. For example, they travelled in groups of two, reducing the temptation or opportunity for theft. This involved extra work, but they took these precautions to make sure they honoured God in all they did.
‘We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man’ (2 Corinthians 8:20–21).
When people fund work, they expect the money to be used wisely. If it is spent well, they will trust the church or organisation with their money again. However, if it is not used wisely, they will not be interested in funding the work in the future and the organisation might get a bad reputation.
There are different ways to show accountability. These include giving feedback in meetings, producing regular reports and independent evaluations.
Today, many churches and Christian organisations work together in ‘accountability groups’. Each group makes sure that its members are following established standards of responsible stewardship. Certified membership of one of these groups provides reassurance to givers that their money will be used well.
Accountability groups have been established in several different countries including Australia (CMA Standards Council), Canada (CCCC), Egypt (NABLA Initiative), Guatemala (CONFIABLE), India (EFAC), Kenya (AfCAA, serving Africa more widely), Philippines (CCTA), South Korea (CCFK) and USA (ECFA).
For Paul, generosity, fundraising and accountability were very closely connected. God’s people were to follow certain guidelines to maintain and prove their honesty and integrity. This pattern of maintaining standards to build trust and encourage generous, local giving continues today.
In Egypt we have many of the leading Christian ministries in the region, but we largely rely on outside support because we lack a tradition of giving.
However, we are beginning to realise that God has already given us all we need. Our accountability group – NABLA Initiative – is unlocking the potential of churches and other ministries by equipping them to encourage generosity, teach about biblical fundraising and promote financial accountability.
Today NABLA Initiative includes six accredited members and we anticipate many more will join this movement. In time, we also hope to serve the wider church in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Adel Azmy Matta, Managing Director of the NABLA Initiative, Egypt.
CONFIABLE, which means ‘trustworthy’, is an accountability group that has been established in Guatemala. The group was formed to help ministries build trust and increase local giving, despite a history of corruption in the country.
CONFIABLE promotes seven standards of organisational stewardship:
- commitment to operating according to biblical values and practices
- good governance including an independent board made up of at least five people meeting twice a year
- financial accountability including independent audits and the production of complete and accurate financial statements
- compliance with the law, ensuring that resources are used in a responsible manner
- transparency including the provision of financial statements and any other documents required by law
- fair wages, integrity and decency in all transactions with people and organisations
- good administration of charitable gifts based on principles of Christian generosity
Although CONFIABLE is a new initiative, members of the group already have strong reputations and credibility among givers. People in several other countries, including El Salvador and Brazil, have expressed interest in discussing the seven standards and setting up similar groups.
Juan Callejas, Chair of the CONFIABLE Board, Guatemala.
- How does your church or organisation talk about and encourage generosity? Is there more you could do?
How can you make sure that you have trustworthy people engaged in the ministry of fundraising?
How might a group like NABLA Initiative or CONFIABLE strengthen financial accountability in your context?
Accountability: Being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it.
- Credibility: The ability to gain trust.
- Stewardship: Careful management of money or possessions belonging to God and entrusted to individuals, groups or organisations for use according to biblical instructions.