Why Not Just Have One Fund?

Why Not Just Have One Fund?

“I want to try something new.” That was a comment a pastor made to me a few years ago. A competitive firm was pushing a “new” concept called One Fund. Many SBC churches have embraced this concept. Many others, while not fully adopting a one-fund approach, combine all mission gifts. I’ve been in the stewardship field for over twenty years, and while there may be a few times that a strategy like this is effective, I believe the long-term impact will be a decline in giving. In this post, I want to share with you what a one-fund approach is and why I don’t recommend it to 90% of the churches I consult with.

What is One Fund? Let me first attempt to clarify the strategy of One Fund. The premise of the One Fund strategy is that instead of continually taking up offerings for everything under the sun, why not just have one fund that takes care of everything, including capital needs and missional giving? The idea is to take up only one offering and then divide the funds wherever they are needed. The money could go to missions, supporting the church budget, capital needs, or any other need the church has. People pledge, typically for two years, to give a certain amount to one fund, and the church distributes the money from that fund to wherever it is needed.

Why is a one-fund strategy not what I recommend? Here are my basic reasons for advising against a one-fund approach…

One major objection I have to this process is the premise that drives it. The premise is that this type of program will be less invasive in your attendees’ minds and will ultimately result in increasing money for your operating budget and any capital needs you have. The premise is that no one likes it when a church talks about money, so let’s make it easy for people. Being generous is never easy and shouldn’t be. Unknowingly with a one-fund strategy, we are attempting to downplay the importance of giving, dumbing the process down by supposedly making it easier for people to give.

I believe in making the giving process easy, but the principle that disciples should give should never be made easy.

A one-fund approach blurs and dilutes the impact of giving. This is my most ardent objection. It blurs the impact of focused mission and development goals within the church by mixing everything into a single convoluted statement. When I give to one fund, how do I learn the impact of my gift to missions or in helping build that much-needed children’s wing? When the appeal is general, the specific vision statement gets lost for various projects, mission support, or other church endeavors. Enthusiasm and support can get dull. Without excitement, your giving will decline, not increase.

With a one-fund strategy, giving to everything is like giving to anything. I think a “pooled” appeal soon loses its sense of urgency to respond to God’s urging. It handcuffs the pastor to having only the single basic “message for everything” to the point that folks in the pews hear it as just a repetition of an appeal that’s a “message for anything.” This severely limits any stewardship education.

My wife and I go to an SBC church that, right before we joined, initiated a One Fund strategy. In December, I never heard anything about Lottie Moon or Foreign Missions. I am still waiting to hear about Annie Armstrong and supporting missional work here in North America this spring. How can we advance missions to the next generation without discussing our missional work?

A one-fund approach ignores the reality that your leaders will always be the ones funding today’s needs. The basis of a one-fund approach is to increase giving, yet the increase will be born essentially by your current giving leaders. Asking these leaders to give to a generic pool of money will not motivate them to vastly increase their giving. You must cast a more specific vision than a one-fund approach can accomplish. Let me be clear. A One Fund campaign is just a capital campaign dressed up to look different. Just because something is new doesn’t mean it is better or more effective.

Is there never a time that you would recommend a one-fund approach? I do think there is value in this approach, particularly for those churches that are in a multiple-campaign scenario. I have in the past put together plans similar to this. It is an in-between type of approach that can serve as a bridge between major capital campaigns. Yet, even with this strategy, I only link campaign giving with regular giving, not missional giving.

There is no substitute for hard work. One reason One Fund gained popularity was that it promises to make the giving process easier for the pastor. Most pastors hate any talk about money. Thus, a strategy that takes this off their plate is appealing. I have found that fully funded churches have engaged pastors in the giving process. They realize the importance of their influence and time towards helping fully fund their church. They don’t shirk their responsibility.

In the end, there is also no substitute for what truly moves people to give, a compelling vision coupled with your hard work in getting the message out. What is your ultimate goal? It is to make disciples who understand generosity is not an option but an obligation they freely participate in! Disciples don’t need a new gimmick approach. They are looking for a church with a vision that impacts the community for Jesus.

That is how to increase giving and see your Annie Armstrong giving increase as well!

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