For the next few Thursdays, I’ll be writing some theological reflections on our three-part strategy as an organization. Most family foundations focus either on granting funds to other organizations who are doing the groundwork or doing the work as a nonprofit with the need to raise outside funds for their programs.
Our foundation is different.
As one generation of wealth creators pass the responsibility to the next generation, new doors of opportunity and engagement open up. We intend to embark on a new kind of philanthropy where we are seeking to position our foundation for missional community development which requires holistic engagement. We need to be embedded in our local community even as we are connected with our global community.
The Pro Deo Foundation’s mission is to create pathways for children and youth to flourish. Our strategy for accomplishing this mission is three-fold:
- Strategic partnerships with organizations who share a similar vision and passion for children and youth
- Local program initiatives that instill the developmental and relational assets that children and youth need to thrive
- Grant funding to organizations in need.
Each of these strategic foci has a theological antecedent that frames our work as a Christian organization: Trinity, Incarnation, and Cross.
As Christians, we understand that we are connected with others through the Spirit of Christ. Christians are never meant to be lone rangers in our work of witness-bearing and kingdom-building. We journey with others. It is often said that faith is personal, but it is not private. We know this at an individual level, but we live in a competitive society where historically, even churches and non-profits have competed with each other for parishioners and funds. This competition makes no sense if we are working toward a common goal of building up the community for the sake of Christ.
We are Trinitarian. To be Trinitarian is to see ourselves in a deeply connected, relational manner. The doctrine of the Trinity describes how God lives in a relationship of constant, self-giving love between Father, Son, and Spirit. This is who God is. When John says, “God is love,” this is in part what he’s talking about. God is connected. God is relationship. God is self-giving love. And we are made in God’s image. Being made in God’s image means that we are meant to be in self-giving, loving relationships with others. Nonna Verna Harrison, author of “God’s Many-Splendored Image,” makes the point. “The unity of humankind is an important facet of the image of God, who is one. Humankind is a multiplicity of persons who are united in one body,” she says, “just as God is three persons united in one essence.” The Trinity lives without internal conflict. The three persons are perfectly agreed on what they should do and how their plan should be executed. They support one another, assist one another, and promote one another’s purposes. They mutually glorify one another, too. So, when humanity is united in a loving community, it is a reflection of the Triune God.
As it is for individuals, so it is for institutions. Our intention at Pro Deo is in part to institutionalize this doctrine of the Trinity in the work that we do. If we are truly meant to be in authentic relationship with other brothers and sisters in Christ, then we ought to do the same as Christian organizations. This is why strategic partnerships are one part of our strategy. We believe we can be more faithful and effective when we work together. Sometimes we partner with organizations to help them achieve their mission in other ways than funding, like collecting soccer cleats for Nicaragua for Better Together Ministries or brainstorming pastoral opportunities with Hope Refuge. We hope to work on projects together with local churches, non-profits, and schools. The question we seek to ask is, “How do we pool our resources together to reach a common goal in this community and beyond?” I think this is a Trinitarian question, one in which every Christian organization can ask.
Next Thursday I will reflect on the Incarnation in light of our second strategy of launching local program initiatives that instill the developmental and relational assets that children and youth need to thrive.