“Make love your aim”
by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Reviewed by Susana L. Vasquez
When I was the resource development director for a faith-based nonprofit in Chicago’s Pilsen community, an avuncular priest from St. Adalbert’s parish gave me Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.
I have long admired Nouwen’s writing. And throughout my nonprofit career fundraising has been a bit of a calling. It was a genuine joy then to read A Spirituality of Fundraising, by Nouwen, which originally was published in 2010 as part of the Henri J.M. Nouwen Spirituality Series. A slender book, it captures Nouwen’s talk delivered in 1992 to the Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Service Foundation with depth and clarity.
Declaring from the start, “Fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry”, Nouwen weaves together the essential strands of fundraising, from belief in one’s vision and mission, to fundraising as conversion for donor and asker alike. I had never considered the act of raising funds as spiritual or a form of ministry. Nouwen explains succinctly, yet powerfully how “fundraising is as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry."
As only Nouwen can do, he also shares personal stories and reflections of his own journey of understanding how our fear of fundraising also reflects our complex relationship with money and love. Nouwen challenges us to question “[w]hat is the place of money in our lives?” and if our security comes from God or from money.
With the growing disparities between the rich and the poor in our communities and our country, Nouwen expresses how “the rich are also poor” and the value of building genuine relationships with potential donors that help the rich to give of their financial abundance and in doing so help bring them closer to God. Anyone engaged in fundraising and for whom faith is a motivation will find Nouwen’s words fortifying and inspiring. For as he explains, “if we raise funds for the creation of a community of love, we are helping God build the kingdom.” The book is not a how to guide, rather in reading it one feels the wisdom of Nouwen’s words and the renewal of one’s ideals in the power of faith to transform every act into an act of love.