As written for Habitat World Magazine
Tithe Testimony from Mike Sutton, CEO of Habitat of Pinellas County
By Mike Sutton
Our organization, Habitat of Pinellas County, finds ways to include the work that we do internationally in the work that we do locally. For example, at each home dedication we take time to acknowledge our home-for-a-home program: for each house we build in St. Petersburg, Florida, we build a house in Guatemala or Malawi. This has helped us from a local standpoint by making it known that Habitat is not just at work throughout Pinellas County and the United States but also throughout the world, as our ministry touches hundreds of thousands of lives each year.
Before joining Habitat of Pinellas County, I worked for an affiliate in Texas for 5 years. We tithed on average $2,000 - $5,000 annually to the global work. We were not really engaged. That affiliate has since become more engaged, but my experience at Habitat of Pinellas County has always been different. One main reason is because there are great champions for the global work within our organization, such as Gabby who is the VP of construction. She has been with our organization for 10 years and has led a number of Global Village trips. Gabby, along with several other staff, helps our organization stay focused not only on our local impact but also on our global impact.
Our organization has made a commitment internally to the tithe program. We budget for our tithe, and at the end of the fiscal year, we finds ways to give extra. This commitment is possible through strong board support. We cultivate this board support through a variety of ways. For example, at least one board meeting each year is dedicated to the international work. In addition, a few years ago, we had Susan Yow, the director of affiliate tithe and global engagement at Habitat International, come talk to our board about the global work. During her visit, we hosted a panel of three individuals in our community who regularly join our global village trips and who talk passionately about our global work. Ironically, these three panelists do not support Habitat of Pinellas County locally and so are only focused on our global engagement. Susan’s visit and this panel helped our board understand that not every single person is going to support us locally, as some people are just more interested in our work abroad. Recently, Kelvin, the national director of Habitat Malawi, also visited our staff and board to talk about the impact of our tithe. These visits build up great excitement around our tithe and global engagement.
Our organization is very fortunate to have a board that trusts our staff to make recommendations around our tithe. Our global work is driven largely by these passionate and dedicated staff. Malawi, in particular, has tugged at our heart strings. We have really rallied behind them in terms of support. For example, we have made a commitment to Habitat Malawi to send a global village team every other year to build with them. The trip to Malawi is a bit expensive though, and so our organization also offers global village trips to Latin America and the Caribbean region, which is more affordable and can attract a different type of supporter. We are looking forward to our next trip to the Dominican Republic in 2019.
Our organization continues to think creatively around how we can do more. We are in the initial planning stages for a fundraising event that Kelvin with Habitat Malawi would help us to host through which we will raise awareness about and funding for future global village trips to Malawi. We would also highlight the need for adequate housing in Malawi and other low-income communities around the world. This type of event is all about listening to the donor, which will allow us to attract new supporters. We are looking forward to this great event next year, among other global initiatives.
Mike Sutton is the chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Click here to learn more about the upcoming Global Village Trip to the Dominican Republic.