Donor Perks


There are two instances in Luke’s writings where Roman centurions get special treatment for being good people.  The first is the Roman centurion in Luke whose valued servant is ill and the second is Cornelius in Acts who had a vision of an angel telling him to bring Peter to his home.  For both ” they had earned a reputation of being godly men whose gifts to Jews had been generous.  It’s the first Centurion who interests me the most for a couple of reasons.

First” it seems he sends some elders of the Jews to make his case to Jesus.  As they describe it to Jesus he is a man who deserves this favor because he “loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”  I can imagine the centurion thinking this is the only way to get access to Jesus and the Jewish elders assuring him they can move his case to the front of the line and get the ear of Jesus.  After all he is a significant donor a good man ” a friend of Israel and such a leader would expect this.  Does it sound familiar?  Do we have similar expectations as donors and are there people around us who can make things happen because of that?  Do we get invitations to meet with powerful people?  Do we get moved to the front of the line or close to the head table?  Are there people around us who work hard to get us into the right places to meet with the right people due to our status as donors?  Of course we do and we get used to it.  It’s part of the advantage of being a donor.  We can pull strings and get special treatment. That’s how it works.

The real surprise for me is the response of Jesus.  I would expect him to be offended or to say “The first will be last and the last first.”  No one gets VIP access to Jesus.  But he does not say this.  For whatever reason” Jesus leaves what he is doing and goes with the men sent by the centurion.  Then on the way to his home the word comes from the centurion that he has changed his mind and Jesus does not need to come.  Instead he recognizes the authority of Jesus – making the trip unnecessary.  Again ” the unusual response of Jesus.  “This is the greatest faith I have seen.”  He isn’t upset about the request for special treatment and then the reversal.

I would love to see more of us make the same shift in our thinking as the centurion.  Instead of using the system to get special treatment” we would say about ourselves “We do not deserve this because we are donors.  This is not the way things should be done. We will trust instead.” It’s not easy to stop all the well-intentioned (and some not so well-intentioned) people who have learned how to get passes and favors for donors…but it is a step in the right direction. After all we don’t really deserve it.


  1. That’s why I love sitting under the shade of your tree:-)

  2. I have been following your blog since April and have lenraed quite a bit by watching ideas take shape and evolve (particularly in the way you challenge conventional measurements of charities). There has been a certain amount of expectation/suspense in waiting to see what the final “formula” for evaluation looks like.You’ve come across in your own research the same thing that I have in regards to that % of funds towards the cause metric…it’s borderline irrelevant. I say borderline because there is a piece there that can reflect how fiscally responsible or cost effective an organization is that gets reflected in that number…granted it takes a bit more analysis to get to the detail but it’s safe to say if you saw a charity with a 60/40 ratio of money going towards programs/admin costs a red light is going to go off.“What really matters is what the programs areand whether they’re helping people.”That right there has been a huge struggle to determine. So I have a few questions for you:-Do you still plan to do the following? “we want to share what we find in a centralizedorganized placewhere all the world can view usediscusscriticizeand improve it.”?If yeswill you also share the methodology used? Or is that really dependent on the type of organization you are evaluating?-Do you foresee your organization offering services to other organizations whom are looking for help in determining how to give their donor base the best bang for their buck?p.s. I hesitated using words like formula and methodology because I know this isn’t some computer algorithm that you just feed charity data into and it spits out “hey you are great” or “hey you are wasting our money”.


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