The Spirituality of Generosity – An Interview with Bob Dupuy, TMF Board Member

Bob Dupuy

October 18, 2018

Interviewer: Can you speak to your upbringing, family practices, or role models that influence your giving?

I grew up in comfortable, but modest circumstances. There was not much talk of philanthropy in my childhood home, but both my parents were generous with others in small and subtle ways.

For instance, I was a Boy Scout and our troop went camping once a month. My dad learned that our Scout Master loved a good cigar, so every time we went camping, my dad would bring the Scout Master a package of cigars. Nearly every time the scout troop needed anything, dad would buy the needed item.

My mother was another influence. She was an elementary school teacher and was passionate about education. I remember her staying late to help a student or work with parents of a struggling student. After dad died, I helped mother with her financial matters. One day she called me and wanted to know if she had enough money to make a gift to her house keeper, Brenda. Brenda had been taking courses at night and on weekends to get her degree and a teaching certificate. She needed some assistance with tuition, books, and other related expenses. Mother wanted to help, so she gave Brenda what she needed. Brenda went on to receive her degree and teacher’s certificate, before starting her career in the rural school where she grew up.

Lastly, my grandfather (mother’s dad) was a very influential person in my life. He owned and operated a rural general store in the Brazos river bottom farm lands south of Waco. Almost all of his customers were farm workers who lived from paycheck to paycheck. I got to spend part of the summer “working in the store” with papa. On one occasion I witnessed a farm worker telling papa that he needed groceries but was unable to pay. Papa said, “Get what you need. I will put it on account and you pay me as soon as you can.”

These family members made an impact on my understanding of generosity.

Interviewer: How did you develop your sense of philanthropy? How has it evolved?

Initially, our philanthropy was mostly based upon obligation and was largely transactional. We felt obligated to pledge to the church. We made donations in reaction to a request from a friend or professional colleague, knowing that we would likely ask that person later for a donation to an organization we supported.

Over the last few years our philanthropy has evolved and now most of it is driven by the answers to the following questions: About what are we passionate? What do we want to accomplish with our gift? With whom do we want to partner and for what purpose?

My view has been influenced by the work of Henri Nouwen in a small book entitled A Spirituality of Fundraising in which he talks of philanthropy as a spiritual experience - “When those with money and those who need money share a vision, we see a sign of new life in the Spirit of Christ.”

While we still make some donations out of a sense of duty or reciprocity, we try to base our philanthropic decisions on the answers to these strategic questions. Viewing philanthropy as a spiritual experience certainly encourages us to follow this discipline. We reflected on the foregoing questions in deciding to make gifts to TMF’s Leadership ministry and making those gifts has been a spiritual experience for us.

Interviewer: Why do you support TMF’s Leadership ministry? What are the most compelling reasons to support TMF’s Leadership Ministry, even if you were not a board member?

Virginia and I have supported the Leadership Ministry for a few years because its activities have changed individual lives, The United Methodist Church, and other organizations for the better. These services helped these individuals and organizations identify his, her, or its purpose and steward their potential for bringing about the world that God imagines.

Beginning with the formation of Clergy Leadership Groups in 2004, the Leadership Ministry now sponsors and facilitates Learning Communities, Learning Projects and conversations to develop cultures of purpose, generosity, and courage in United Methodist congregations.

We believe that this ministry helps and supports persons and organizations that bring about change for the good and thus is very important.

Interviewer: Why do you think it is important for board members to support TMF financially?

First, I believe that the ministries of TMF are important and are empowering the church to achieve its God appointed mission, the purpose of TMF. Second, financial support from Board members sends a very positive and encouraging message to the constituents of TMF—other board members, TMF officers and staff, United Methodist Churches and conferences, individuals who have relationships with TMF and other foundations and organizations. Finally, many grant making organizations look at the level of board financial support as an important criteria for making a grant.

Interviewer: What made you want to be a board member with TMF?

I decided to join the board many years ago because I was impressed by the persons serving on the board or as officers and staff. I was also impressed by TMF’s core values of servanthood, integrity and competence, and its purpose—empowering the church to achieve its God appointed missions. I thought the work TMF was doing was important. Finally, there was a real sense of community and common purpose among the board, officers, and staff.

Interviewer: Why would you encourage others to give?

I would encourage others to give because I believe it is a spiritual experience. A well-made gift brings joy and a sense of closeness to God.