Seven Questions Every Donor Should Ask: A Footnote on the World Vision Controversy

This past week, the evangelical world jolted to attention when World Vision announced it would permit the employment of practicing homosexuals who are committed in a same-sex marriage relationship. Thankfully, within 48 hours they humbly and penitently pronounced a policy reversal.

In the aftermath of the World Vision controversy, one issue lingers. Given our cultural trajectory, it will only intensify. How can a Christian donor know which ministries and institutions are most worthy of financial support? Seven questions should be contemplated by every donor and answered by every recipient before a gift is made.

Does the entity have a clear and functioning confessional statement?

An organization worth supporting must have a clear statement of belief—a statement that is publicly expressed, well-defined, and enforced within the ministry. It does not have to be exhaustive, but it must be faithful to the Word of God, the gospel, and, at a minimum, other first-order doctrines. It is not enough to have a confessional statement buried on the ministry’s website. Is the document actually functioning? Are employees truly expected to believe and teach in accordance with it? Does it have functioning accountability?

What is their code of conduct policy for employees?

Most every organization has some sort of code of conduct, or lifestyle expectation, for its employees. By reviewing these documents, you can ascertain not only what behavior(s) they tolerate, but also what they encourage. Consider carefully what is stated and unstated. Note what is not mentioned. For example, do they precisely speak to issues of sexuality, gender, and marriage? Ambiguity is the breeding ground for doctrinal unfaithfulness, moral decay, and ministry drift. Do not subsidize a ministry that is already slouching toward compromise.

What is their structure of accountability?

Generally speaking, the further from the local church you find an entity, the more prone it is to drift from its original mission. Thankfully, this is not always the case. There are some para-church ministries that are strong in confession and mission, but if the non-profit is not governed by the church, one should inquire of the entity’s legal structure. Who governs the organization? Who are the fiduciaries? How are trustees elected? To whom is the ministry ultimately accountable?

Do they give a clear and sound gospel witness?

As one who supports ministries in addition to my local church, I am often presented with good, better, and best choices. Whether it is feeding children, supporting orphan care, or general benevolence assistance, there are explicitly Christian organizations that meet those needs while giving a clear gospel presentation. Why settle for meeting only the physical needs when you can meet eternal needs as well? Seek out ministries that meet the needs of body and soul.

Are they clear and public on social issues?

If the entity is not clearly, publicly, and frequently making plain its stand on marriage, abortion, and other key issues, you have every reason to be concerned. Many nonprofits function under their own version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” If the entity is not clear on these issues, it is not cynical to assume the worst, it is wise. In this regard, do not settle for private reassurances. If the stance is not clear and public, it is not much of a stance at all. Have an eye for obliqueness and an ear for the passive tense.

From where does most of their funding come?

Just as flowers grow toward sunlight, nonprofits grow toward their sources of funding. If an entity receives most of its funding from the federal government, secular foundations, or more socially progressive sources, this should cause concern. After all, if the nonprofit is robustly Christian, then why would more secular groups be willing to fund them? Moreover, if a tug-of-war over a ministry’s future occurs, ministries tend to go the way of their most generous supporters.

How, exactly, will my gift be spent?

Finally, it is always right for the donor to gain as much insight into how the money will be spent as they desire. I do not give my children a dime without inquiring why they need the money. Why would I give an organization thousands of dollars without full disclosure into how my gift will be used?


Recently, I visited with the leader of an institution far to the left of the one I lead. When I inquired of her school’s position on same-sex marriage, she acknowledged their instructional staff was far more progressive than their older, more conservative donor base. She candidly admitted their intent to “hang out in the mushy middle as long as possible” so as not to offend the faculty or alienate their constituency.

I fear this strategy is common today. My greater fear is that many sincere Christians are naively supporting it. Do not be duped by a nonprofit’s sleight of hand. Make sure you know the cause to which you are giving is truly worthwhile. Furthermore, do not settle for a “good” option when even the best ministries and institutions are in urgent need of financial support.

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