‘Tis the season for the celebration of Christ’s birth and many cherished family traditions. I have loved this time of year since I was a small child. One December my father took 8 mm black and white movies of our family gathering, which still exist today. Uncles and aunts, scads of cousins, and the matriarch of the family, “Little Mother,” are seen celebrating together. They look so happy, but the adults present on that day are all gone. These precious memories remain vivid in my mind.
But let’s face it. This is also a month when almost every charity and non-profit organization in the country asks its constituents for contributions. Why is there such urgency in their appeals? Because U.S. tax law motivates giving at the end of the year. The ability of ministries, churches, and benevolent outreaches to meet their budgets depends on these donations. To not receive what is needed means resources will likely run dry during the lean summer months or before.
Family Talk is among those asking the Lord’s people to be generous again this year.
In that regard, it occurs to me that our friends and supporters should be made aware of the policies that govern our finances. Frankly, I think we operate by a more restrictive set of guidelines than any organization of which I am aware. Here are 12 self-imposed “rules” that you can take to the bank.
1. The Lord has apparently chosen to place His mantle of approval on the ministry of Family Talk. Nevertheless, He gives and sometimes takes away. If He ever closes the doors to this work, we will accept His leadings and yield the outcome to Him. Until then, we will devote every ounce of energy to the task at hand.
2. One of the ways we can discern the Lord's will regarding the continuation of our work is through the support He sends (or doesn't send) from His people. Therefore, during lean times we will make our obligations known to our friends—but we will not squirm, scratch or beg for contributions. We will never resort to what we consider to be disrespectful and dishonorable methods of fund-raising, even when the needs are serious.
3. We will ask people not to support Family Talk or any other Christian program until their obligations to the local church have been met. It is the first line of defense for the family.
4. We will not operate the ministry at a deficit. However, from time to time it is necessary to borrow funds for capital expenditures. When that occurs, we will seek to repay the loan as soon as possible. Family Talk has borrowed very little in its first five years, and the board of directors has reviewed and approved each transaction.
5. We consider the contributions we receive to be "blood money"—sent from loving supporters who have sacrificed to make their gifts possible. Our obligation, therefore, is to spend that money conservatively and wisely in continuing the ministry. We have no limousines or airplanes or condos in Hawaii. Every penny is stretched as far as possible to serve the needs of today's families.
6. We will receipt all donations showing the fair market value of materials requested, in accordance with IRS requirements.
7. When we make a purchase, we will pay the invoice within 30 days, if possible. We do not intend to use the vendor's money.
8. We will not try to raise more money than we need.
9. I will not be the primary fund-raiser. I will say as little as possible about giving. Sending one monthly letter after another asking for contributions is odious to us.
10. My wife, Shirley, and I will accept no salary for our service to the ministry. This has been our policy for 38 years, both at Focus on the Family and now Family Talk. We also routinely reimburse Family Talk for any work the staff does on our behalf. These payments will be made monthly. When our books are offered to listeners through the ministry, we will waive all royalties to allow Family Talk to obtain the lowest possible price from the publisher.
11. This ministry will never sell or rent our mailing list to those wishing to use the names and addresses of our supporters. Those individuals contacted us in good faith, and if they wanted to receive mail from other organizations, I'm sure they would ask for it. We will maintain the tightest security on our list of friends and supporters.
12. We will conform to the standards established by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability–the Christian organization created to ensure ethical fund-raising and administration practices. Family Talk is a member in good standing of that organization.
To summarize, we will try to remember always that Jesus Christ is our possessor and our dispossessor. He ordained and blessed this ministry, and it belongs entirely to Him.
Our pledge to you is that we will continue to follow these principles to the letter, and that we will use your contributions judiciously to advance the cause of Christ. To do anything less would be to stand accountable someday for the trust placed in us by our friends.
In short, the way a ministry raises and spends money is one of the best measures of its integrity and accountability to God.
Thank you all for your support throughout this year. We appreciate that kindness more than I can say.
Merry Christmas to you and your family.