Three Lessons on Giving from David Smith

1. Giving without Active Prayer Is Just Wasted Money.

“We give to organisations that depend on active prayer,” says David. As Genesis Foundation has grown to give to more than 150 organizations per annum, David has observed that “the ministries which take prayer seriously simply thrive! It is not rocket science: the most significant strength of a Christian organisation is their chief asset: the active presence of the all-powerful God. We ask ministries, ‘What is the role of prayer in the organisation?’”

“the ministries which take prayer seriously simply thrive!”

So what are some ways ministries can organize themselves for prayer?

David says, “It starts at the top. Some boards have a director for prayer, like you have a treasurer or secretary. Then on the staff you may have a prayer coordinator and staff gathering for weekly or monthly prayer together. Some organize days of prayer & fasting.”

“In meetings,” David says, “it’s a Christian thing to start and end in prayer. That’s good, but what about stopping midstream? What about spontaneous prayer when we encounter a situation? Saying, ‘Let’s pray now.’”

“What’s important about prayer is dependence on God,”

“What’s important about prayer is dependence on God,”

says David. He points out that we are prone to rely on our experience and gifting: “We all think, ‘I’m a good manager. I can do it myself. But as soon as you start thinking and moving mechanically, and not depending on God, then it just won’t thrive.”

David points to Youth for Christ International (YFCI) as an example. “They have a dedicated person, ‘Global Prayer Catalyst,’ whose sole job is to pray and organize prayer across the global movement. They have regular global days of prayer and fasting; they weekly prayer requests. Now it’s 140 countries and growing strongly.”

2. Give for Growth.

 “We want to support growth projects,” says David. “Will it be sustainable at the end of our grant? Ministries we support need to plan to grow to a new level and stay at that level when we back away. So we invest in increased sustainability.”

“The project has to have an income-generation model in it after we leave,” David says. “Their income generation may not be selling things. It could be ‘we’ll rely on donations.’ But if that is a ministry’s income strategy, then they need to be intentional. We make sure they have thought it through and have a written fundraising strategic plan.”

“For some, it’s a fundraising strategy to build regular donors,” says David, “then they will need a good donor database system, like Salesforce, regular newsletters and prayer letters, and must decide who writes them and publishes them. For others, it’s event-based fundraising, which involves different skills.”

Whatever strategy the ministry chooses, David believes in transparency and reporting on it.

Whatever strategy the ministry chooses, David believes in transparency and reporting on it.

“Accountability is a key piece. they have a plan to grow and we hold them to it: annual reporting to budget before the next grant payment!”

To implement these strategies, David looks for ministries led by people God has gifted.  “We look at management ability,” says David. “Some people are just good managers; they run a good ship. But others are gifted to take it to a whole new space.”

3. Give It All Away!

David believes God calls some foundations to sunset and others to be perpetual. He notes that wealthy Australians have just begun to start private foundations in the last ten years and are still mostly lead by the founders with little experience on how best to (and whether to) pass it on.

“Generally, the kids are not as interested in giving away dad’s money as they would their own,” says David. “They may give out of duty and respect, but not with the passion that the founder had.”

“We started Genesis as a perpetual foundation, but our Lord has patiently taken us to plan to give it all away in our lifetime,” David says, “and, if we are taken to heaven early, there is a plan to distribute all the remainder within five years.”

“Our sons are not that interested in the foundation and do not have the entrepreneurial skills to continue its support of growing ministries,” David says. “If left in the hands of managers, they too are unlikely to have the skills and incentive to continue the work, and only add a large cost line to the accounts!”

“Our Lord will raise up other wealthy givers to fund Kingdom work in the future,” David continues, “it would be arrogant of us to believe He needs ‘our’ money to continue to grow His Kingdom!”


David loves to give to…

Christian presence in schools, including initiatives like Scripture teaching, chaplaincy, school and holiday camps.

“I was born into a family that was not religious,” David says, “but I was sent to a Christian school because it was a ‘good” school! I rejected the teaching about Jesus, until He burst into my life at age 17 by miraculously saving me from my sailing boat being wrecked on rocks.”

In distress, David cried out to God, who immediately acted.

“Without the background of Jesus’s teaching and our school chaplain, I would not have had the framework to even call to Him in my time of need,” says David.

Genesis Foundation expresses that in various ways “We have supported strategic initiatives to promote and continue Scripture teaching in government schools (in class time) in those states that allow it,” David says. “School chaplaincy is supported by our Federal Government in about one third of Australian government schools. We support the necessary structure around that and most schools find their chaplain so valuable, they want extra time!”

Reflecting on his journey, David says, “I came to Jesus on a holiday sailing camp exactly 50 years ago this January 2019! So I have first-hand proof of that strategy, and it still works today!”

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