by Jonathan Krause

I learnt my first big fundraising lesson in the dusty warehouse of a noisy printing factory in an industrial suburb south of Melbourne.

It was 1986. I had hair down to my waist. And I had the stupidest job in the world – writing poems for greeting cards. It seems I was the only person in the southern hemisphere with this job, which led New Idea to do a feature about it, and Gold Logie winner Ernie Sigley to invite me on to breakfast TV so he could crack jokes at my expense.

Each week I would be assigned 50 greeting cards to write poems for. Thinking I already knew everything, I set out to change the world of greeting cards forever by vowing never to write a rhyming poem. No love/glove/dove for me … which is when my boss beckoned me to follow her into the warehouse.

She pointed to a pallet of boxes of greeting cards – returned greeting cards from shops that couldn’t sell them. She said: ‘Jonathan, it’s not about you or what you want to write. It’s about what people want to buy.’

Fundraising is all about what you want to do for others.

So, my fundraising job at Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) is straightforward. I simply introduce you to people who need your help, support them to tell you what you can do to help and then leave you to decide what action you will take.

Of course, I try to present people’s story as clearly as I can. And I look for exciting ways you can act, such as Gifts of Grace, the GRACE Project, Walk My Way.

Of course, I respect you enough to be frank with you. Show you the urgency. Explain the challenges. Tell you what it costs.

Then, ask unashamedly for your help.

That’s Fundraising 101 – but really it’s one-to-one.

My dad sometimes grumbles that he gets too many letters from charities. Other people ask not to receive letters, so they can save money for the charity and help lower ‘overheads’. I understand those feelings, especially when you help people (and animals) through multiple charities.

However, in fundraising, we know that unless you talk to people at least every couple of months, they can forget about you, donations drop off, fewer people are helped, and ‘overheads’ actually go up.

So, my job in fundraising is to balance the ‘smell-of-an-oily-rag’ approach – over a five-year average ALWS ‘overheads’ are less than 15 per cent – with doing what my 30 years of experience have shown me to be the most effective, efficient way to raise money to help people.

I’ve been blessed to be able to teach fundraising around the world – the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand and even to 500 hospital administrators in the middle of China!

What I’ve found in all those places is that people always give from their heart. Someone’s need touches them, and they are moved to help.

You cannot educate people into giving by teaching lots of facts or statistics to persuade them. It doesn’t work, because the ‘head’ is not strong enough to overturn a decision made in the heart.

The only time fundraising should be about educating, is when we try to show you the most effective way for you to help others.

There’s another ‘Boss’ who has taught me about fundraising – Jesus.

Ever since I was on the Student Representative Council organising ‘Rice Days’ at Luther College in 1976, I’ve been driven by the words of Matthew 25:34–40. This is the story of the sheep and the goats, where Jesus talks about his people feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, visiting the sick … and pointing out that when you and I do this for someone overlooked, ignored or forgotten, we are doing it for him.

What’s interesting is what Jesus teaches directly before that, in Matthew 25:14–30. Here, he tells the story of the Master giving his servants ‘talents’ – or in modern translations money – different amounts according to the servants’ different abilities.

Each day I must ask myself which servant I am. It’s a question we as the Lutheran Church need to ask each day too.

As a fundraiser, I (and ALWS) try to be the bold, hard-working servant of verses 14–30 – inspiring you with ideas, being efficient with your donations, helping you have as big an impact as you can with the gifts God has given you … to bless others as we follow Jesus as the sheep of verses 34–40, feeding the hungry, giving water to those are thirsty, caring for the homeless and sick.

For me, fundraising is a critical part of this ministry.

I thank God I have been given the opportunity to serve this way and been blessed to see the transformation in people’s lives as we work – and raise funds – together to bring love to life. What a joy!

Jonathan Krause is ALWS Community Action Manager.


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by Helen Beringen

Who would have thought the once-popular children’s pastime of stamp collecting was still alive?

Well, not only is stamp collecting still going strong, but it continues to make a world of difference to communities around the globe through the Lutheran Church of Australia’s (LCA) Stamps for Mission program.

Since its inception more than 80 years ago, almost $446,000 has been raised for mission causes, says Peter Nitschke, Stamps for Mission national project director.

The process of collecting, cleaning and sorting stamps has been an activity in many Lutheran youth groups across the country for decades. Funnily enough, it is often still those same people who are helping to keep the program going today.

‘It was still a youth activity as late as 2006 and we realised the youth who were involved in stamps for mission were now in their 80s and 90s’, says Peter, a retired teacher.

‘There would have to have been literally hundreds of people involved from all around the country. Even the youth at Lameroo [in South Australia] are still cleaning stamps and there would be many more congregations still collecting them.’

Stamps for Mission, a fundraising arm of LCA International Mission, was established in 1938 through the efforts of Pastor Ted Koch and Mr Ern Unger, who spent 65 years collecting stamps and building a national team of helpers.

Peter began following Ern’s footsteps after a chance meeting in Parkes in 2003 when Peter and his wife Margaret were travelling back to South Australia after living in Queensland for 15 years.

Peter had been an avid stamp collector since the age of seven when his aunt gave him stamps and an album for his birthday. As a carer to Margaret, who was ill with multiple myeloma, it was a job with the flexible hours that Peter felt he could help with.

‘It was something I could do any time day or night while caring for my wife’, he recalls.

And so began almost two decades of support for an industrious team which gathers, cleans and sorts stamps.

While millions of stamps go through Peter’s hands each year, occasionally he finds a high-value gem, such as a post-marked envelope worth $2500.

‘Anything philatelic is saleable’, says Peter. ‘Whether it is mint stamps, used stamps, or stamps from overseas.’

The stamps are boxed up and sold to local collectors and larger philatelic businesses. An A4 paper box of stamps can be worth between $300 and $1100, depending on the stamps.

With all this work, you’d think Peter would be dreaming of stamps. He doesn’t – but knows clearly what good they can do.

Peter has seen firsthand the world of difference the funds raised from Stamps for Mission have made through a 10-day trip to Papua New Guinea in 2018. The trip included a visit to the Lutheran Highlands Seminary at Ogelbeng, near Mount Hagen, where seminary students grow food to support themselves while studying.

‘When you see the limited resources these people have and yet you see their love for Christ and wanting to serve him, it is mind-blowing’, Peter says.

‘We saw where they live, and their commitment, and boy it made me determined to continue our work … it’s made a lasting impression on me. If we can support them in small ways, they can do great things with it.’

The seminary is one of six $2000 projects Stamps for Missions provides to each year.

‘When I think what an Australian dollar does in places like these, we get eight to 10 times the value’, he says. ‘To me, these people have very little but they still have a real heart for the Lord, and that’s what motivates me. It’s about God’s love for us and what he has done for us.’

That is reflected in one of Peter’s favourite Bible verses, John 1:14: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’

Thankfully, Peter says there are no signs of stamp collecting dying out, with annual fundraising levels remaining consistent. And finding helpers became even easier during a year of COVID lockdowns!

‘When COVID first hit, I had three people come and ask for stamps as they didn’t know what they were going to do during lockdown’, he says. ‘I think we’ll be going for a long time yet, and while the post office keeps issuing more stamps year by year, we’ll carry on.’

Helen Beringen is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world.

Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor


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by Helen Beringen

Picture a bush picnic in breathtaking country at the foot of the Grampians mountain range in the Wimmera region of Victoria. But add to that the crunch of frost of midwinter early mornings and the challenge of chopping firewood before you can take a sip from the thermos and unwrap the sandwiches.

This is a regular winter pastime for a handful of hardy members of St Peter’s Lutheran Church in Stawell, a historic Victorian goldrush town.

Members of this woodchopping team, predominantly aged over 70, chop and sell firewood throughout the chilly winter months from May to September to help keep their 26-member strong congregation running, says congregational chairman and one of the team organisers John Simpkin.

On weekends they receive very welcome help from a couple of younger members, including John’s grandsons, Alex, 10, and Jamie, 8, who help with the loading and unloading of the big trailers. The fundraising scheme also literally brings warmth to the town, offering a great service to many community members, particularly older town residents reliant on wood heaters. And yes, temperatures can drop below zero in that part of the world!

But this country with its rolling, tree-studded hills is beautiful, and great for woodchoppers, thanks also to friendly farmers with fallen timber to spare, says John.

Since 2014 woodcutting has become a major fundraiser for the fellowship, which also supports chaplaincy programs at three local schools.

John, 76, and his team are experienced and well equipped with protective gear, chainsaws and wood splitters.

John’s wife of 53 years, Lorraine, 75, is the fellowship treasurer. Lorraine takes the orders which determine whether the band of woodchoppers sets out twice a week or once a fortnight, depending on demand.

They’ve been invited to collect wood at several properties, including one owned by a local Uniting Church member, with part proceeds donated to that church.

‘This is another way of letting people know that the Lutheran church is here in Stawell and happy to help people in the community’, John says.

It has also become a major financial support for the ageing congregation. John and Lorraine, both retired teachers who have called Stawell home for about 40 years, have witnessed the change in the congregation’s size and age profile, as happens in many rural areas.

‘Almost all of the younger members of our families have left the area to complete their education and have then found employment in other areas’, John says. ‘In 2002 the congregation had 74 active communing members with almost 30 members in paid employment. We now have about 26 active communing members and, of these, only six are in paid employment.

‘This decline has made it extremely difficult for our congregation to meet our budget requirements and so a variety of extra fundraising ventures have been created to help cover the gap.’

The hard work of the woodcutters has almost evened out that shortfall.

But their ultimate optimism is reflected in John’s favourite Bible verses from Romans 8, reminding them that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It certainly shows that being God’s salt and light in the community takes many forms. Whether through chopping wood in near-zero temperatures, promoting the Christian message of Christmas, or lobbying to restore a historical organ, God’s light can shine into our world wherever he places us.

Helen Beringen is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world.

Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor

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