Charles Dickens and Fundraising, Part II: How Do You Define “Scrooge”

Posted on Dec 07, 2020 by Jon Dize - Funding the Mission

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It is the Christmas season, and that means I will watch several versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol before New Year’s. I had previously posted that in my opinion, the story of Mr. Scrooge is an 1843 playbook on face-to-face fundraising. I will leave it to you to decide if I am on to something there.

This year I want to ask you- how do you define a “Scrooge”? Yes, the online dictionary defines a scrooge as stingy, but I think this is a short-sighted and ill-conceived notion. Instead, I offer that the person chronicled in the classic Dickens story is a financial leader that was redeemed and became a force for good. I mean, we all have fallen short; in his case, Ebenezzer had fallen so far that most who dare cast their eyes on him saw nothing but misery, money, and a lost soul (other than his nephew Fred, that is.) But as we all know, through Grace we are forgiven, even for the likes of him.

Scrooge is a person not unlike others we may have in our lives, in our churches, or associated with our schools. They are financial leaders; we are aware of the youth leaders, worship leaders, and small group leaders that bless our organizations, but God also grants each of our groups financial leaders, people that He has given the gift of finance and the ability to amass wealth. As GW Bowersock stated, “Faith can exist without money, but religious organizations cannot.”

Unfortunately, at first he didn't know how to use that wealth. I next see Ebenezzer as a redemptive character. In his case, he was “shown the light” by 3 ghosts. The ghost of Christmas Past reminds him of what used to bring joy in his life (his sister Fran, Ol’ Fezziwig’s, Belle, old friendships). I call this “bringing back the warm-fuzzies”. We all have fond memories of a past teacher, a favorite activity, etc. Sometimes organizations need to remind donors of the warm-fuzzies and why they originally supported their programs. The Ghost of Christmas Present introduces a need that needs filled in the forms of Tiny Tim and others who are suffering (debt, illness, squalor), and the Ghost of Christmas Future allows Ebenezzer to see, perhaps for the first time, that he can make a difference, he can be the hero. In his own words, “What is to become of Tiny Tim?”

As the story ends: “Tiny Tim, … did not die, he was a second father. Scrooge became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city of London knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. And from that time on it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” The ghosts indeed helped Ebenezzer rediscover his Cheerful Giver as the cause became personal and within his power to help.

If you happen to watch the version of the movie staring Patrick Stewart, after his visits, he stops off at a church service before heading to Fred’s house. Not a bad idea.

Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t; but just perhaps you will watch the story a little differently next time. God bless us, indeed.