Self control, whether we are donors or fundraisers, is a biblical principle for doing business.
The Bicycle Man
by Bill Evans with Brenda Evans
Dawid Wozniak balanced
his bicycle between us and gleamed at me from his slightly almond-shaped eyes. “Listen to this,” he said and rang the silver thumb-operated bell mounted on the handlebars.
“Nice. Do you use the bell a lot?” I asked.
“Just when I need to let people know I’m coming. Call me Dave if you want to,” he added.
“That’s what everybody says ‘cause that other is too hard.”
Though 50, his grin was childlike and edged with delight. He had painted his old bicycle with 26-inch wheels deep red and buffed the chrome to a high sheen.
“That’s where I put stuff,” he said, pointing to the basket attached to the front.
“What kind of stuff?”
“You know, cans and bottles I find…and sometimes figs or persimmons or walnuts from them.” He pointed to several trees lining the backside of the fenced trailer park that was his
For several years, Dawid had collected aluminum and plastic to redeem at a time when California paid premium returns on recyclable items. He canvassed his Baldwin Park neighborhood weekly, then sent the redemption money to the Christian organization where I worked. He also sold fruit and nuts from the trees on his property.
When I talked to Dawid by phone, I had noticed a slight slurring of words as if his tongue was larger than he could fully manage. Our exchanges were simple, but I decided Dawid was a good, uncomplicated man who loved the ministry of our organization. This was the first time I had seen him face to face.
“Here, I want to show you,” he said, leading me into a small three-room wood building set at the entry to his trailer park. His office was in the front with a motel-like wooden counter and bar stools. A shelf with a chair was behind the bar. Two doors at the back led to the small rooms where he lived.
I was not certain of Dawid’s intellectual capacity. He was short, slight-framed, and tended to the business of a small trailer court, inherited from his parents. From our phone conversation, I gathered that he handled the income and outgo of his own money, understood some basics of property ownership, and filed taxes. But standing by his bicycle, his face guileless and open, he seemed like a child.
Then what about the fact that he had asked me to come see him on financial business? What should I do about that? He had a history of modest regular gifts to our organization, but wanted to contribute more to world evangelism, he said. He had read about our gift annuity program and wanted me to explain the concept.
Inside the building, Dawid moved behind the counter, pointing to a black two-foot cube—a key-operated safe. He knelt, moved aside a few boxes, and slid a piece of wood along a thin slot.
“There. There’s the key. I need you to see that,” he said. I was pretty sure I didn’t need to know where the key to his safe was, but he was certain I did, and that was that.
He slid the piece of wood back in place, slapped his hands together as if to clear them of dust and said, “Let’s go look.” So we walked the perimeter of his trailer park. It was a one-acre square surrounded by an eight-foot chain link fence and dotted with eight tidy-looking older trailers. Along the back were the fruit and nut trees he had pointed to earlier.
As we walked, I explained the simple concept of gift annuities, what benefited him and what benefited the ministry.
“I want a $25,000 one of those,” he said as we circled back to the entry.
A young Asian woman pushing a stroller was waiting for Dawid by his office. “Three figs,” she said, “for 75.” They had obviously done business before. Each pale purple fig was plump, almost as big as her fist. The baby fidgeted in his stroller, but waited for the transaction without crying. Dawid took her money, passed her three figs, and she moved away with her infant.
“She likes figs,” he said with a grin, a childlike pleasure returning to his face.
Before leaving, I promised to return later with the gift annuity agreement then asked if I could visit his brother while I was in Baldwin Park. “I’ll tell you where, “ he beamed.
As I took the short route to the Wozniak Appliance Store, I rehearsed my three concerns: Was Dawid capable of making a wise $25,000 decision? Was a gift annuity in his best interest financially? Would his family agree with him on this plan?
Dawid’s older brother was tall, with dark curly hair, and pleasant. I told him my concerns. “Whatever Dawid says is what you need to do,” he said. “He manages his property himself. It came to him from Mom and Dad, and they trained him to operate and maintain it. He keeps the rent reasonable, has mostly long-term residents, and he knows what he’s doing and what he wants. So do whatever he says.”
I left Baldwin Park and headed west on I-10, glad to be headed home—glad, too, that I had spent that extra time with Dawid’s brother, and especially glad that I had already established guidelines for dealing with people and their money.
There are three major principles that I subscribe to as a fundraiser, principles that donors look for in those who ask us to support their ministry:
I will do no harm. Although we’ve heard that this is part of the Hippocratic oath for physicians, it isn’t. Yet the concept is a valid guide for me. I will be as guileless and open as Dawid and do no hurt to either the donor or his financial resources.
I am both accountable to and accountable for. What I mean is that I am answerable to both the donor and the organization I work for. Ethically, I am bound to act according to the best interests of both. If the organization does not subscribe to exemplary standards and expects something exploitive or unethical, I’ll resign. If the donor expects something unethical from me, I’ll decline my service.
And that brings me to accountable for. Above all, my responsibility is to conduct business according to scriptural standards. I am personally committed to daily deep, practical study of the Word that guides me to truth, justice, fairness in every relationship. This means that when I’m fundraising, I am led by a spirit of service that is uncalculating and open before God and man.
I will serve with restraint. Self-control, whether we are donors or fundraisers, is a biblical principle for doing business. Greed, next to pride, is perhaps our most pernicious and corrupting sin. Suppress it. Disavow it. Lay no guilt trip on donors. Exercise no undue influence. Keep greed out of Christian fundraising.
When I returned to Baldwin Park a few weeks later, Dawid was waiting eagerly to sign the paperwork on his gift annuity, his red bicycle propped by the door of his office. I can only imagine how God used his gift.
About the Writer: Bill Evans, former director of the Free Will Baptist Foundation, lives in Cattletsburg, KY, with his wife Brenda, a retired English teacher. They are proud grandparents of seven. To learn more about planned giving, visit www.fwbgifts.org.