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Supporting Local Causes

Bookstore owners are constantly asked to put up posters, donate merchandise, or otherwise get behind locally based Christian ministry projects. We have about nine parachurch organizations in our community, and we both personally and as a bookstore endorse six of these. When we’re asked to donate to broader community programs we explain that our particular mandate is to church-based or church-related organizations; that the population at large will give to the more popular causes, but only church people will give to causes that identify boldly as Christian-centered.  At the same time however, I’ll mention the large contribution that one local church — which we happen to be part of — recently made to things like the MS Walk and Habitat for Humanity. 

Some days we feel if anyone needs a fund raising banquet or a tag day it’s us.  We regularly support things where the ministry staff receive — no exaggeration — eight to ten times in salary what we’re drawing from the bookstore.

Still, some of you are in larger communities, and it must be difficult to decide who to help; especially when three or four converge in a single week looking for golf tournament prizes, silent auction  items, and outright cash donations. We try to use a complex formula consisting of questions like (a) How widely known is the organization? (b) How great and urgent is the need? (c) Who else is on board? (d) How able is the constituency benefiting by this able to help themselves or secure their own support?

Here’s another formula to consider:

“We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside… but one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that a system that produces beggars needs to be repaved. We are called to be the Good Samaritan, but after you lift so many people out of the ditch you start to ask, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be repaved.”

~ Martin Luther King Jr., from “A Time to Break the Silence” (sermon, Riverside Church, New York, April 4, 1967) 

So how do you deal with requests for support?

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