How a little “no” opened up the opportunity for a big “yes”

John Putnam loves to help his givers find the joy in giving. But Jim and Andrea* had lost some of that, because much of their giving felt so reactive. They weren’t as able to seek to make an impact, because they were constantly responding to requests.

By John Putnam, NCF Carolinas

Jim and Andrea* love funding ministry efforts locally and around the world. But they’re open-handed with their lives as well. They secretly make gifts to people they know have a need. They open their home as a sanctuary to people going through tough times, invite others to live with them. They make significant gifts to their community. Everyone loves this couple.

But they had begun to feel overwhelmed by the volume of letters, emails, and meeting requests that have resulted from their generosity. Even deeper than that, they felt a confusion beginning to form and the joy of their generosity slowly slipping away.

That’s when I got an email from them.

This is not an isolated situation. After hundreds of conversations like this over the years, I know we all can feel overwhelmed with so many needs and with having only so much to give each year. The needs are very real. The pictures are challenging, and the stories are powerful, but generous families can begin to feel their giving becoming increasingly diffused and more reactive. Families know they are giving to good “causes,” but, inside, many can feel conflicted. “Is this where God wants me to give?”

The pictures are challenging, and the stories are powerful, but generous families can begin to feel their giving becoming increasingly diffused and more reactive.

Jim and Andrea set up a time to meet with me. I asked questions and listened. It was exciting to hear that they felt God strongly leading them to do a unique work for him. I loved their energy and desire for oneness in their decision. Jim was thoughtful and strategic, a true planner. Andrea was more spontaneous, but she had her focus on growing and improving people’s situations and current needs.

Like so many families, they also wanted to include their children in their giving, to expose them to the joy of giving generously and the blessings of seeing God’s results in his timing. A generous nature and sincere dreams of impact flowed from them throughout our conversation, and it was obvious they cherished the opportunity to give.

The answer was clear. This reactive pattern of giving was stifling their joy. They wanted to be proactive and follow the passions God had given them.

But it was going to be bittersweet. Ultimately, they knew they would have to say some little “nos” to organizations they respected, in order to be able to say a “big yes” to the organizations they felt called to focus on.

One God + two willing spirits + prayer + good communication = BIG kingdom opportunity

From my work with people who want to create a giving plan, I have found that the plan is usually as unique as the individual or couple who creates it. Every situation and conversation is different, however, I find that the following nine topics are usually core considerations in the process. This is not formula, but instead some helpful questions to ask:

  • Prayers – How might the gift, the grant, and you, as givers honor God and his kingdom?
  • History – Where have you found yourself being most generous with your money and time in the past?
  • Passions – Where do you feel called? Where is God leading you?
  • Focus  – Is there a specific community you want to impact?
  • People – Do you know who you want to help?
  • Vision – Can you see in your mind what you want the ultimate result of your giving to be?
  • Projects – What will you need to do each week, month, or year – as a family – to execute your plan?
  • Partners – Is there an organization or organizations who can help you accomplish your goals?
  • Review – What will success look like? How often will you see if you’ve achieved it?

The giving plans that resulted from my conversations with Jim and Andrea covered these topics and were aimed at their passions.

They prayerfully landed on a plan to continue giving spontaneously and reactively in some situations, but the majority of their giving would go toward their new strategic planned goal. They were so open-minded and coachable, and they were ready for God to move them away from their plans at any time, if he chose to do so. It reminded me of Proverbs 19:6, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” This couple was living like they believed this verse.


Whether giving is reactive or proactive, it’s always an action that is after God’s own heart. Our prayer is that we would all take the time to be thoughtful, bold and humble in our giving, so that we each fulfill the role and calling he has on our lives, to accomplish his glorious plans.

I continue to be inspired by Jim and Andrea. They are so intentional about their faith, their children, and their use of what they have to accomplish what God places on their hearts. I hope they will inspire you, too, on your ongoing journey of generosity.

*names changed

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