Scriptural Foundation to Major Gift Fundraising

“Warn the rich people of this world not to be proud or to trust in wealth that is easily lost. Tell them to have faith in God, who is rich and blesses us with everything we need to enjoy life. Instruct them to do as many good deeds as they can and to help everyone. Remind the rich to be generous and share what they have. This will lay a solid foundation for the future, so that they will know what true life is like” (1 Timothy 6:17–19, CEV).

Planned Giving is a major approach to fundraising in the Adventist Church. The 2021 Report indicates that there were over $88 million dollars raised through Planned Giving & Trust Service (PGTS) in the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide. This is a major gift given by Seventh-day Adventist members and friends of the church to support the mission of the church. In a presentation* developed by Professor Russell James III, PhD, JD, CFP, he elaborates on the scriptural foundation of planned giving and major gifts fundraising. This article highlights some of the key principles he brought forward.

Giving vs. Sharing

In his presentation “Biblical Fundraising Is a Scriptural Ministry Focused on the Wealthy,” James distinguishes between giving and sharing. Giving down is almsgiving (eleemosune), usually out of pity. Sharing (koinonikos) is giving across, sharing with the fellowship community.

Giving down matches with begging, not major gift fundraising. Matthew 6:3 provides directions on how to give alms. Sharing or giving across is illustrated in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, where apostle Paul discusses sharing with the fellowship community. Giving down and giving across are significantly different types of giving. Each of these types of giving should be approached in very different ways. When giving alms, Scripture instructs not to let your left hand know what the right hand is doing. When sharing or giving across, Paul makes a very public statement that we can still read today, commending the generosity of the believers.

If It Feels Like Begging, You Are Doing It Wrong

Building sincere peer relationships is the most crucial feature of fundraising. The text in 1 Timothy 6:17, 18 shows a direct command to all gift planners to build relationships with wealthy people and deliver a specific message of trust in God and sharing liberally. Scripture supports this ministry of encouraging good works and generosity. As PGTS Gift Planners, we fill a very specific niche as trusted counselors.

Donors give because generosity is part of their identity. We do not pressure donors to give, but assist donors in accomplishing what God has already put on their hearts to give. At times we serve the purpose of reminding donors of their core values and helping these values to remain at the forefront in their mind.

Transformational Giving

A significant difference exists between giving down from disposable income and giving across from wealth. First Timothy 6 refers directly to wealth and does not mention disposable income. Planned Giving speaks directly to donors about giving from their wealth during their lifetime, in addition to having the plan to provide for the needs of their families and supporting God’s mission to reach the world for Jesus.

James asserts, “The first time most people ever commit to a gift from their wealth (not from disposable income) is in their estate plan.” As PGTS Gift Planners, we are there when this happens; PGTS Gift Planners are building relationships with these donors and stewarding these relationships. A tremendous amount of trust is developed between the donor and the PGTS Gift Planner. This trust is sacred and must be carefully nurtured and protected by the gift planner. This protection requires the highest standard of ethics and integrity on the part of the PGTS Gift Planner.

The Joy of Giving Makes Beautiful Things Happen

When donors trust God in all areas of their lives, God supplies all that is needed to enjoy life abundantly. The value of wealth is that it enables donors to share in a way that significantly benefits and impacts their community and the world around them. The donor rejoices in the identity of being rich toward God. First Timothy 6:7 tells us that we bring nothing into this world and will take nothing out of this world; having an identity that is rich toward God while in this world brings the most joy to the donor. Generosity toward those in our community who are in need is a way to praise God in action for His rich blessings to donors. God gives big gifts to me, and I, in turn, give big gifts to support God’s mission on earth. This attitude brings joy to the donors.

We Cannot Take Wealth With Us, But We Can Send It Ahead

First Timothy 6:19 declares, “Storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come” (NKJV). This text indicates that there is an eternal benefit to sharing what God has blessed us with here on earth. There are everlasting results for the wealthy who are faithful to God in their earthly stewardship.

We may not think of ourselves as wealthy, but on a global scale of poverty, we would probably be counted among the wealthy. Biblical fundraising provides the basis for donors to enjoy wealth to the fullest in their current and eternal life. There is only one standard for being a faithful steward. God does not have one standard for the poor and another for the wealthy. All are expected to faithfully invest and increase the talents God gives them.

What Is Most Important?

You may have seen this bumper sticker: “Those who die with the most toys win.” It is usually on a large recreational vehicle or a trailer hauling the “toy” behind it. Biblical fundraising challenges the donor to question this materialistic philosophy and consider replacing it with a God-focused command that states: “Those who do the most good by impacting their communities enjoy current and eternal life.”


Planned Giving Fundraising can move forward with the following assurances and determination:

  1. Yours is a scripturally commanded ministry.
  2. You are an authorized messenger.
  3. You can come alongside the rich—these status differences are temporary and tentative.
  4. You encourage wealth sharing, not just disposable income “almsgiving.”
  5. You are offering the best deal ever. They get . . .
    • To enjoy their wealth
    • To create good works
    • To do good
    • To become generous and sharing
    • To store up treasure for the future
    • To take hold of a superior life experience*

The ministry of Planned Giving & Trust Services allows each gift planner for God to encourage members and other friends of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to live their lives abundantly and experience the joy of giving.

*This article is a summary of a presentation developed by Professor Russell James III, PhD, JD, CFP, on the biblical foundation of planned giving and major gifts fundraising.

Dennis R. Carlson

Dennis R. Carlson is the director of Planned Giving & Trust Services at the General Conference