HomeInterviewsThe Accidental Philanthropist with Steve Perry

The Accidental Philanthropist with Steve Perry

When he was young, Steve Perry embraced a notion that he called the poverty gospel. Somewhere along the way, we all take up this mantel believing that poverty is next to godliness. “I looked at wealth as a spiritual poison,” says Steve.

“I looked at wealth as a spiritual poison.”

But as his faith matured, Steve’s philosophy of wealth changed. Steve and his wife believe that they are blessed to be a blessing. The wealth they developed exceeded their initial vision and they became philanthropists – not by design, but by accident. Steve’s book, The Accidental Philanthropist, chronicles his journey through faith and the development of his philosophy of philanthropy.

When Giving Causes Harm

Too many Christians give without clear intentions or guided purposefulness, says Steve. “Giving becomes a knee-jerk reaction rather than something that’s proactive, planned, or intentional,” he says. This can cause real damage, because it doesn’t give enough thought into how the gift might impact the ministry.

Harm to the Ministry

Big gifts are hard to turn down, but sometimes a ministry leader has to make that difficult decision. A large gift can lure a ministry into initiatives that do not align with their particular mission. Now they are stuck in a project that they are not equipped to execute. They start robbing from other ministry resources (time and people) to pull it off – all in service to this big gift. Most likely, neither the giver nor the ministry will ever be satisfied with the results.

Harm to the Giver

Steve also believes that a misaligned gift can hurt the donor. He explains that the frustration that comes with watching a ministry execute poorly can damage the relationship between the donor and ministry. “It may hinder you in terms of wanting to be more generous next time,” he says. “It may even corrupt your view of nonprofits.” This can do serious damage to a person’s spirit of generosity.

A Philosophy of Philanthropy

Steve and his wife have developed a philosophy of philanthropy based on a few key principles:

  1. Examine Your Interests
  2. Look for Leadership
  3. Start Small
  4. Take time

Examine Your Interests

Steve came to a point where he needed to refocus his giving to be more effective and follow the will God had for him. “God gives us all passions in our heart, but those passions should never negate God’s passion.” When he examined his previous giving habits he was able to see clear patterns that outlined his interests. Steve and his team broke down their grant strategy into four quadrants: local, regional, national, and international. He found that only 3% of his previous giving went to international ministries. Now they knew they were needed to find ministries doing God’s work on an international stage.

“God gives us all passions in our heart, but those passions should never negate God’s passion.”

Look for Leadership

When Steve is evaluating the strength of a ministry, he looks for strong leaders who can deliver. He is looking for someone with whom he can develop a real relationship. For Steve, it’s better if the story coming from the ministry isn’t always good news. “If they don’t recognize what the bad news is in the organization, they’re never going to get better,” he says. Every organization experiences ups and downs. Steve wants to know about all of them. For him, that’s how he can spot a relationship built on trust.

Start Small

When Steve and his team are first getting to know an organization, they start with small gifts. “I call them love gifts,” he says. They are often to fund the operations of the ministry. This gives him the opportunity to walk with the ministry for a while. “Usually, we start off with just operational grants. Someone has to pay for the lights.”

“Usually, we start off with just operational grants. Someone has to pay for the lights.”

They talk to other people who know the organization. A small gift allows the giver to engage with an organization in a different way than just watching from the sidelines. Smart ministries consider their givers to be part of the team. This gives the giver more of an inside look into how the organization responds to giving and how they treat givers.

Take Time

Time is the most critical element, according to Steve. Over time, Steve and his team are able to meet with the leaders of an organization; they get to know one another. Steve wants to find out if their strategies are really going to be effective or not. The only way to know is to stick around for a certain period of time. That is how trusting relationships develop.

Steve’s experience in giving according to God’s passions helped him form his own philosophy of philanthropy. His book, The Accidental Philanthropist chronicles his journey of giving and is designed to help people form their own guiding principles for giving to God’s Kingdom.

Steven L. Perry, graduated from Azusa Pacific University (’75) B.A. Religion; Masters of Divinty from Wartburg Theological Seminary (’79); Served Associate Pastor Grace Lutheran (’79-’84), Huntington Beach , CA’ and Senior Pastor Mission Lutheran Church (’84-’96), Laguna Niguel, CA. 1996 Co-founded the Foundation for Christian Stewardship (now National Christian Foundation California); 2003 Founded Sacred Harvest Foundation with his wife Susie. Currently serves of the boards of Azusa Pacific University, National Christian Foundation California, Mission Increase Foundation.