How can foreign donors encourage local giving? Wisdom from Zenet Maramara, The Philippines

Introduction: A Great Expert to Answer a Great Question

This was a great question from Sarah. I invited my dear friend, Zenet Maramara of the Asian Theological Seminary (ATS) in Manila, for her perspective. During her tenure, Zenet has led ATS from relying primarily on foreign funds to receiving a staggering 99 percent of funds from Filipino givers. She knows what she’s talking about!


The Situation: Sarah’s Desire to Encourage Sustainability

Sarah has learned the joy and benefits of giving. She wants to continue giving to the overseas ministry that she has supported over the years. however, she wants others to experience the same joy . Sarah also wants to encourage local giving so there will be sustainability and support from the people themselves.

Generous donors such as Sarah have learned that giving is part of what we do as followers of Christ and as an expression of our gratitude to God and love for neighbors. Our attitude in giving is very important to the Lord as we see in 2 Corinthians 9. Paul encourages giving generously, regularly, proportionately, and cheerfully.  As a matter of personal Christian living we ought to continue this generous giving lifestyle as encouraged by the Apostle.


Zenet Maramara’s Response

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Act s 20:35

In 2 Corinthians 8-9 we see the example of the Macedonians giving to the church in Jerusalem and Paul exhorting them to excel in this ministry. Sharing and generosity marked the church then and even now. Interdependence models what it means to live in a Christian community.


The Opportunity to Participate in What God Is Doing

The question of dependence upon foreign support as opposed to local giving needs to be addressed by the local ministries even if they continue receive foreign gifts. The local leaders ought to decide to make an intentional effort to raise indigenous support to ensure sustainability. Local people must be given the opportunity to participate in what God is doing in their midst through the local ministries. This is does not come easy and it takes a process to make it happen.

Local people must be given the opportunity to participate in what God is doing in their midst through the local ministries.

How can Sarah encourage her favorite ministries toward this lifestyle of giving and generosity and to pursue local funding and sustainability? There are several ways to do this.


1. Give Toward Teaching Stewardship.

She can give gifts toward the teaching of stewardship, giving, and generosity which is the first step to raise local stewards who are rich towards God.

When I learned what the Bible teaches about money, giving, generosity and the impact of the truth that it is God who owns all things, it liberated me and I embraced my work of fundraising as a ministry. Treating fundraising as a ministry is not about money but connecting people to God and their resources. This needs a paradigm shift on the part of the ministry leaders. It is the mindset that fundraising is providing opportunity and privilege to participate in God’s kingdom work by supporting what he is doing through the local ministry.

The creation mandate in Genesis 1:26-28  to go and multiply fill the earth and subdue, is also our stewardship mandate. It exhorts us to create surplus and sustainability in every endeavor whether it for profit or for non-profit. The command to subdue and have dominion over creation implies an entrepreneurial spirit that creates the flourishing of man’s pursuit in building the Kingdom of God.


2. Fund Capacity-building Programs.

What Sarah and the Western ministry partners can do to encourage their favorite ministries abroad is to fund capacity-building programs to enable local fundraising and sustainability.

When my seminary began to nationalize its leadership after 20 years of western dependence, it followed that we also have to raise local support.  As the newly-appointed development director, I was tasked to reverse the 70/30 ratio of foreign and local giving and raise the 70 percent locally. Today, 99% of our operating expenses come from local support.


3. Make It Practical.

  • Here are some practical ways in which western partners can help promote local giving:
  • Provide a grant to build the capacity of the local ministry for local fundraising and long term-financial sustainability
  • Offer matching gifts
  • Provide teaching materials on stewardship, giving, and generosity
  • Invite the local leaders and potential partners to join a Journey of Generosity retreat


Zenet Maramara is a professor of biblical stewardship and resource development at Asian Theological Seminary in Manila. She organized the department of communication and local fundraising when the seminary transitioned from western to national leadership in the early 90s. She is a creation care advocate and loves to garden.

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