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Generosity’s Future Effect

Faithful Giving
The Heart of Planned Gifts

By James W. Murphy
Church Publishing, 256 pages, $29.99

When I first encountered the term “planned giving” as a very young lay volunteer, I thought it was an oxymoron. Wasn’t all giving planned? Did we not call it theft when one “gave” without planning to? By the time I entered ordained ministry in 2013, I had a vague awareness that planned giving was somehow tied to estates, endowments, and trusts. It was the same vague awareness I had that calculus was a kind of math.

Until recently, I still believed that planned giving was for massive church denominations or Ivy League colleges. As the archbishop and primate of a small, global independent Catholic jurisdiction, I do have ministries to fund, but I believed we weren’t nearly large enough or influential enough globally to bother with “exotic” financial planning.

Such an ignorant fool I was.

After reading Faithful Giving, I now realize how my misconceptions could have affected even those donations we already receive. This book so violently shook my internal paradigm about financial gifts and ministry funding that I began to take notes. Faithful Giving isn’t a repackaging of some tired theory of stewardship; nor is it an inaccessibly jingoistic treatise on how everyone fails. James W. Murphy has written a practical, readable manual for successful planned-giving donations that elucidates the best practices in several faith traditions. From the first two chapters, I immediately saw the change we could make by enacting just a couple of principles, for my ministry’s future (and current) financial stability.

In between specific case studies and stories about successful ministries and institutions from a wide range of religious traditions, Murphy condenses the pertinent lesson of each case into practical advice for all levels of leadership. He holds a mirror to faith leaders and asks us to truly know ourselves and our constituents. He offers down-to-earth, constructive advice gleaned from his many years in the field. In his teaching, one can see how Murphy applies universal ideas to make them efficient and pragmatic. It’s obvious he has made a career of forming relationships — he does the same with his audience. It is as if a friend is mentoring you in a field you are only beginning to grasp.

I learned that I have earned the trust of my church’s regular supporters, but to maintain that trust, I will have to demonstrate that I am planning for an institution that will outlive me. I must ensure that donors see a future effect of their current generosity. Their investment is not a “subscription” to what we currently offer in spiritual currency, but a way of enacting a legacy for themselves, as well. I learned about the importance of having a policy for planned giving, transparency in accountability, thanking donors meaningfully, and ensuring that they see the effect of their gifts in real time.

This is a book I wish I had read 10 years ago. However, any point in ministry is the right time to learn how effortlessly one can incorporate planned giving and its principles into one’s financial planning. Murphy has made a concept — once as frightening to this liberal arts major as algebra — accessible, interesting, and easy to implement. I cannot give it a higher recommendation. It is now required reading for all my priests and lay leaders. Incorporate its wisdom and your ministry will flourish.

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