What motivates you to make a charitable donation? Do you want to make a positive difference in the world? Perhaps you want to better the world by touching a person’s life or by supporting an organization trying to improve things in a more comprehensive way? Is your intent to do good and bring about change via your financial contribution?This is wonderful, and on behalf of all the beneficiaries, “Thank You!”. But is this all we can do with our finances? Can we do more with them to transform people’s lives, create a better world, and grow the kin-dom of God?
Yes! Yes, we can do more with our financial resources (cash, its equivalents, and invested funds) to bring about the just, inclusive, compassionate world where all life flourishes that we and God long for. We can use and invest them in socially responsible ways – ways that align with and reflect our Christian faith and values.
Using one’s financial resources to bring about positive social change through spending and investment and divestment practices (Socially Responsible Investing, SRI) has been around for centuries. Historically, exercising these types of financial leverage correlates well with the level of dis-ease in society overall, or in a specific group; for example, slavery, civil rights, farm workers’ rights, apartheid, tobacco, firearms/weapons, alcohol, and fossil fuels.
Recent years have shed more light on a number of great challenges facing our society and world, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, health care, climate change, and the environment.
Simultaneously, attention to spending and interest in SRI overall has increased. For example, the money invested in sustainable funds, a subset of SRI that includes investment funds using and measuring environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles and factors, more than doubled last year from $21 billion to $51.1 billion, the fifth consecutive annual record.1 And the number of sustainable funds to invest in grew to almost 400 — up 30% from 2019 and a nearly fourfold increase over a decade (see the graph below).2
I invite us, both individually and as Christian communities, to look closely at the world around us – our local community, state, country, world – and as followers of Jesus to reflect upon what we see. Do we like what we see? Is there room for improvement?
If we don’t, and if there is, then I further invite us to think deeply about our financial resources, our relationship to and with them, and how they might be a resource for bridging the gap between the world we see and the world we’d like to see. Some questions we could ask include:
- How might we direct our everyday spending toward businesses that have suffered, and continue to suffer, from racism and sexism, or conversely, ones that promote care for the environment?
- How might we direct our investments toward funds aligned with our Christian faith and values and further God’s kin-dom, and away from those that don’t?
- Overall, how might we use and invest our finances to move from the current realities we see to the future we envision?
Nota Bene: The UCC Cornerstone Fund, the Pension Boards of the UCC, and United Church Funds have resources to help you and/or your particular community think through some of the issues and questions with each offering different alternatives for taking action.
UCC Cornerstone Fund: https://www.cornerstonefund.org/
Pension Boards, UCC: https://www.pbucc.org/
United Church Funds: https://ucfunds.org/
Rev. Dr. David Cleaver-Bartholomew is the Director of Stewardship and Donor Relations for the SNEUCC.