Most of us have seen the advertisements on TV for ASCPA, the organization that helps dogs and other animals. The ad shows several dogs, in cages or staked to the ground, usually shaking, looking worn and forlorn. What you might not have noticed is that the ad shows you several dogs, but nearly always one at a time. That is by design, not by mistake.

Giving psychologists (yes, there are such people) tell us that people are more generous when they think they can help one person or animal, than they will be if they think they are helping thousands or millions. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes large numbers overwhelm. Often, they make us think we can’t possibly put a dent in the problem. Some of us think the larger the problem the easier it is to be anonymous. Mostly, it is easier for us to identify with one person or place, rather than many.

A hungry child is easy to identify with. We have all been children. We all like to eat. Many of us have raised children. So, a picture of a child, or a child with its mother, fosters a connection that is powerful.

This has strong implications for how we communicate in our churches. Don’t share that we “served 45 kids in VBS this summer.” Share about one child who was helped by grace. That child will be the window to the larger group. If you want to show VBS pictures, make sure you show half a dozen individual pictures for every group picture.

Instead of sharing that our church supports an addiction group, we could share that we have 9 people meeting in room #3, or better we could share about our church member Larry (with picture), who is leading the group, and how Larry could use $200 for supplies next month. Watch the generosity flow.

This same idea, oddly, can be expanded to think about larger needs, only keeping in mind to shape the concept as one. For instance, part of the appeal of Habitat for Humanity is that we are helping one family. Hoosiers all over the state supported Operation Classroom because we could help one school.

You get the idea. We all find it easier to can connect with one. Connection fosters compassion. Compassion gives birth to generosity.

Glenn HowellIf you would like information on stewardship and giving development feel free to reach us here or 877-391-8811.

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Glenn Howell
Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana