TMF Blog

Transformational Philanthropy

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January 25, 2017

by John Rivas, TMF Executive Director for New Mexico Activities

Transformational Philanthropy

When a ministry’s great need fulfills the passion and values of givers’ hearts, we see God’s hand at work in our world. I had the opportunity to witness such a union a few years ago, when working for a ministry that provided care for abandoned, neglected and abused children. Most of the young ones in our care had a parent, or parents, who were caught in the cycle of addiction, incarcerated, or disabled to the point of not being able to care for them. Many children were being raised by extended family members who, eventually, became unable to care for them, as well.

It was difficult to see children suffer from the lack of care and love that they deserved. Many became completely uncommunicative. We learned that an effective avenue to connect with these youth was through equine therapy. Horses, it seems, have a tremendous capacity for communicating non-verbally in a way that can heal their deep hurt and pain. The ministry decided to step out in faith and build a new ranch specifically for this purpose.

But a major barrier existed: there was no land on which to build and no funds to purchase property.

Then one day, a family met with me and said that God was working on their hearts. They felt compelled to give the ministry over 200 acres of prime ranch property. The husband and wife included their children and grandchildren in the decision-making. In fact, the final decision to donate the land was made by their daughter who gifted her portion of her parents’ estate that would have been bequeathed to her. This act was truly transformational for the whole family. The generosity was overwhelming for every member and is a great example of transformational philanthropy.

“Transformational philanthropy” may be a new term for some. Here is an easy way to understand the concept: imagine a gift that has as profound an impact on you, and possibly your family, as it does on the ministry receiving the gift. That is the essence of transformational philanthropy.

One of the most interesting aspects of this kind of gift is that there is no correlation between the size of the gift and the degree of transformation it can bring about. Instead, the transformation occurs because of the passion behind the gift.

Transformational gifts create philanthropists. When someone experiences the joy and meaningful accomplishment that comes from fulfilling a passion, they are inspired to commit even more of their time and money to meaningful ministries and causes. Transformational giving keeps on giving.

How can we give like this? I find that answering these three questions is helpful.

  1. Can you name and describe your core values?
  2. What ministries speak to your values and passions?
  3. Can you articulate the significance of a gift to you and your family, rather than only describe the value of your gift to the ministry?

By answering this third question, you both identify and articulate your fulfillment and connect it to the ministry you support. This step is what makes a gift transformational. And, achieving that vital objective can be as simple as asking, “What did making that gift mean to you?”

When givers answer that question and take that third step, they become charged with enthusiasm and passion. They often become more active in their commitments of time and money. Their connection to the ministry strengthens, and their relationship to the ministry evolves from one that fulfills an obligation, to one that fulfills their soul.

To begin your conversation about transformational giving, email John Rivas.

Editor’s note:  Our TMF blog shares stories and essays inspired by our purpose: to help individuals, families, congregations and like-minded organizations achieve their God-inspired potential. n this post, John Rivas shares his thoughts on the importance of Transformational Philanthropy.


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