Not sure where to give to or what charities to support?
Here’s a list of nonprofits along the Front Range that are serving the spiritual, economic, and social needs of Coloradans.
Don’t see your favorite Colorado charity on here? Drop me a line by contacting me and, as able, I’ll add it to the list.
This post first appeared as a part of SharetheStimulus.org, a campaign to encourage widespread generosity to both individuals and causes affected by the recent pandemic.
So many charities, so many choices. This time of year, year-end fundraising appeals pour into our mailboxes. How are we to decide between the many worthy nonprofit causes that are asking for financial support?
If you’re anything like Kelly (my wife) and me, you have to make this choice carefully. We’ve set aside a certain amount each year in our charitable giving budget, and we want our donor dollars to make an impact.
For us, there are two giving categories that won’t budge anytime soon: the local church and the poor. We believe we have both a duty and a joyful opportunity to support our local church (Littleton Christian Church) as it proclaims the gospel to our community and nonprofits like HOPE International that are serving the poor and marginalized throughout the world. I believe these two categories should be universal priorities for Christians.
But I think many Christians have often overlooked a third category for charitable giving: culture. Actually, I believe the culture category is necessary considering the redemptive scope of the resurrection and what it means to be a follower of Christ in this world. Education, the arts, scientific research, leadership development, even politics (Did I really just write that?). The broader arena in which we work and live needs generous donor support – and without generous culture patrons, our entire civilization is negatively affected. Not a small claim to defend!
Here are three reasons why I think we all need to add “culture” to our annual giving priorities:
Imagine if you had to buy a $20 ticket to go to church each Sunday. Would you be incensed? What if you grew up in a community with no symphony, or you never visited an art museum or arboretum as a kid? Do you feel like other children should have that experience today – even if they can’t pay for it?
We live in the age of philanthrocapitalism – a view that says philanthropists ought to act like angel investors, and nonprofits should cease with this fundraising nonsense and act more like businesses.
Many nonprofits should indeed develop earned revenue streams (book sales, event ticket sales, or fee for service). And many organizations need to vastly improve reporting and metrics. But some valuable human endeavors are simply not profitable. And never will be.
(A) Education. It’s not profitable. It just isn’t. When a Ph.D. student spends five years studying medieval Hebrew manuscripts, or a kid learns a multiplication table for the first time in second grade, there’s no way these activities can – or should – be profitable. Experiments in for-profit higher education, like the University of Phoenix, haven’t gone well. The point is that education is good… and costly. And it will perpetually require donor and/or government support to impact lives and shape an educated citizenry, which our businesses, churches, hospitals and, yes, schools, depend on.
(B) Science. Building the large hadron collider, a massive particle accelerator, is costly. Really costly – to the tune of about $13.25 billion. Now, why on earth would anybody fund this? Because this activity could push all of humanity forward through a new scientific breakthrough. It’s not profitable – but it is valuable. Cancer research, a children’s hospital, the chemistry department at your local university – each need donor support.
I fully understand the need for sustainability in the nonprofit world. Trust me: as the executive director of a nonprofit, I understand this. We actively work on minimizing risk and diversifying our income streams. But it’s also worth remembering that there are incredibly valuable human endeavors that require generosity and can only flourish with the support of people who think private schools and preserving primate habitats – “culture” – are worth donor support.
Colossians 1:19-20 says, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” All things, many theologians have pointed out, means the individual soul but also neighborhoods, cities, and entire areas of human endeavor, like art, law, manufacturing, agriculture, retail, and investing.
Or take a less-quoted example: Zephaniah 3. When God judges Israel for her sin, he says, “Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.” God is judging not just individuals, but cultural norms that had become unjust. He speaks to government leaders, the media (ancient prophets functioned in many ways like the media of today), and corrupt religious leaders.
God’s law, given through Moses at Sinai, lays down a vision for a just society, not the private salvation of individuals nor isolated acts of charity. As soon as he tells people to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God,” he follows up by mentioning the integrity (or lack thereof) of their business practices (Micah 6:8-11).
God cares about all of his creation, from neurotransmitters to nuclear energy. And because of human sin, each area of the world is distorted due to sin. Syria is crumbling, spiritual emptiness is rampant, caustic partisan division is paralyzing Washington, and refugees are suffering.
Anthony Bradley, a theologian at The King’s College, defines human flourishing as “a holistic concern for the spiritual, moral, physical, economic, material, political, psychological and social context necessary for human beings to live according to their design.” Does our giving reflect this broad view of human flourishing?
We can’t change all that has gone wrong, not give to every cause. But we can do something. Why not pick an area of culture – like spurring on the generosity movement, contributing to the formation of a potential leader, or even giving to a bunch of scholars thinking about culture – and give generously?
Last week I was talking with my friend David, who, through his career, has become personal friends with many high ranking government officials in Africa. One day, he took an emerging leader from the Congo (a lawyer by trade) to visit one of the world’s biggest private equity funds (hundreds of billions in assets). The fund manager said, “We’re interested in investing significantly in the Congo. But we can’t yet. Because of the scope of the investment, we need to see political stability for at least 10 years before we invest.”
The young leader went away encouraged – knowing that this investment could create thousands of jobs for his countrymen – yet knowing he needed to work on building networks of moral integrity in the upper echelon of leadership in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help stabilize a county that’s been torn by civil war.
The point has been well made by documentaries like Poverty, Inc. or books such as Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing that entrepreneurship and business does more to alleviate systemic poverty than charity ever will. But that’s not to say that charity isn’t necessary. On the contrary, what we most need is a certain kind of moral fiber among business leaders that turns wealth creation into societal benefit. Earning more money can mean the chance to buy more whisky and prostitutes, or it can mean the chance to invest in your kid’s education. The formation of ethical leaders, especially in business and government, is critical to poverty alleviation. (Gary Haugen has also made the case that the rule of law and preventing violence from sweeping through countries is also critical to development work.)
In summary, if we care about the poor, we can’t just give to the next natural disaster or emergency fundraising appeal we get in the mail. We need to build up institutions and the people who lead them because it leads to jobs, stability, and cultures of virtue that can put poverty to rest for good.
The Most Generous Country in the World
Americans are the most generous people in the world. We give away over $1 billion dollars a day. We give away $373 billion a year – and 73 percent of that is from individuals like you and me. (Though we give the most by total contributions, Australia and New Zealand edge us by a greater percent of people who give to charity each year.)
And people of religious faith are the most generous of all Americans. It’s controversial, but true. Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute reports that the average annual giving among the religious is $2,210 per year, whereas it is $642 among secular Americans. Christians even give to secular causes more generously than secular people.
Each year, Kelly and I strive to give more generously for the core reason that God has first given generously to us.
It’s makes me excited to give this year to the church, to the poor – and to the cultural endeavors that God so loves (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:19).
In late 2012 I resolved to create new nonprofit called Denver Institute for Faith & Work. The following is a letter I sent to friends and family in January 2013 explaining my idea.
Dear Friends and Family,
I’m writing to share with you a new project that I am launching in 2013 along with several good friends. I’m creating a new nonprofit organization called Denver Institute for Faith & Work that helps people integrate their faith and work.
Why faith and work? Well, there are several reasons. First, we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, yet most struggle to relate the two worlds of faith and work. God calls most believers to secular work – electricians, account managers, teachers, homemakers, engineers – yet many are stuck in the sacred/secular divide, or isolated from other believers in their fields. One of my favorite theologians, Lesslie Newbigin, has said,
“And we need to create, above all, possibilities in every congregation for laypeople to share with one another the actual experience of their weekday work and to seek illumination from the gospel for their secular duty. Only thus shall we begin to bring together what our culture has divided—the private and the public. Only thus will the church fulfill its missionary role.”
This is what I’m trying to do with Denver Institute – connect what our culture has divided through illuminating our work with the gospel.
Second, I believe we’re living in a cultural moment that desperately needs the gospel applied to areas of public life. Strategies to influence culture in the past 50 years have been too heavily focused on seeking political power. I think a better strategy to influence public life is through work. As author Andy Crouch has said, culture is changed not primarily through critique, copying, or condemnation, but through creating more of it. Work is where we do our culture-making.
There are many more pressing reasons as well, ranging from the feeling of hopelessness many feel in their work to the need to provide a supportive community to individuals struggling to live as Christians in secular contexts. There are too many important reasons for this new organization to mention in a short email, which is one reason why I recently launched a blog on the topic of faith, work and culture. It deals both with the “why” of integrating faith and work, and the “how” – what this looks like in real life.
Denver Institute for Faith & Work will have four programs:
The mission of Denver Institute for Faith & Work is to cultivate a movement of personal joy and cultural renewal through applying the gospel to work.
I want to ask for your prayers. I’m beginning to create class materials and develop our website (under construction), and am also in the early phases of recruiting a board, getting 501(c)3 status, requesting donations, and setting the foundation of the organization. Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance, and pray for “early adopters” who will give their passion, time and commitment to this vision, especially as board members and donors.
Please let me know if you’d like to be on our email list as well. I plan on sending monthly newsletters tracking our progress.
Thanks for your support and prayers. I look forward to hearing from you.
Grace and peace,