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Six years ago Dallas residents Stephen Reiff and David Luttrell, two recent college grads with steady jobs and incomes, found they both had the same question: “How would God have us steward His money?” Out of their conversation came an idea: Why not form a group of young professionals with a heart for Biblical stewardship of resources?
Soon, the Ambassadors Club (AC)—a nod to 2 Corinthians 5:20, “we are ambassadors for Christ”—started meeting. Reiff, a business management consultant, calls it “a stock-picking club, except instead of sitting around in a circle talking about what stocks to invest in, we talk about what charities to invest in.” Since 2011, AC members have put nearly $400,000 to work with Christian organizations in Dallas and around the world. In 2016, with the help of matching gifts, 28 members gave $113,541.
Last year’s funds supported a Christian microfinance organization in South Sudan and gospel outreach groups in Paris and Spain. Locally, AC supported a pro-life group, a group helping homeless families out of the cycle of poverty, and a Christian school in a poor neighborhood.
Similar organizations often require a set annual donation from members—say, $1,000 that goes into a pot to be allocated to worthy nonprofits. In contrast, AC members submit “giving narratives,” which adhere to strict criteria inspired by the book When Helping Hurts. After the group identifies a cause, a three-week period of fundraising begins. Individual members—ages currently range from 24 to roughly 35—send donations to the National Christian Foundation (NCF), which administers the club’s donor-advised fund. AC members may give all types of assets into the account, including cash, stocks, and real estate, and receive an income tax deduction.
While charitable “investment clubs” abound, stewardship groups like AC are harder to come by. Debbie Ledoux, a former attorney in San Antonio, started her own Christian giving organization, The Sister Project, through NCF six years ago. Today, the all-female, 97-member group supports Christian nonprofits that “make known the gospel to women and children.” Ledoux only knows of one other such Christian women’s stewardship club.
Outside financial experts say groups like AC have to avoid two kinds of problems. One is lack of clarity about mission. Financial author Ethan Pope says having a statement that defines terms like “faith-based organization” and “gospel” is important: “Are we talking about a universal, social, works-based gospel or a Christ-centered gospel?”
Another problem occurs when a group uses its money as a means of control. Former church finance director Caleb Dean says members have to check their motives: “In some cases, it becomes almost like having a board seat [in the nonprofit], and any large donation is like a business transaction, as opposed to saying, ‘God is sovereign, he cares about this ministry more than I do, so I’m going to give what I believe is the right allocation of resources while encouraging my friends to learn and give as well.’”
Reiff, 29, says AC has also organized “fireside chats,” educational talks by seasoned Christian professionals on topics ranging from political donations to how to be a leader in the home in the area of financial stewardship.
Co-founder David Luttrell, an MBA candidate at Stanford, talks about the joy in being part of what God’s doing: “It’s all His; we just get to be the money manager.”