Generosity in Hard Times

By Beth Preuss

As anyone who works in small business can attest, work often ebbs and flows with the economy and client/customer needs. Trusting in the Lord and continuing to produce excellence is key to long-term success. Creating a work community of mutual respect, kindness and integrity is also integral.

Brian Dahl is a partner in a Minneapolis marketing firm. Economic downturns have at times proven challenging for the marketing agency he runs with two other Christian partners. “Marketing firms sell time — for design, branding, marketing strategies — so they are at the mercy of client engagements. The nature of the work ebbs and flows, sometimes for longer cycles.” Brian notes, “When the economy is down, we feel it early.”  “Moreover,” he says, “We are somewhat helpless to change the circumstances.”  

Dependence on God

Facing economic downturns are always challenging, but also very tender times. Brian is reminded of his dependence on God. “I realize again and again that I am called to be faithful to doing well the work that is put before me but ultimately, making it grow is up to the Lord.” 

In 2008, the bank cut the firm’s credit line by eighty percent. It was emotionally distressing. There was concern about layoffs. The firm owners went to the Lord in their churches, in personal prayer and together as owners. They prayed for trust and provision and were led to Proverbs 11:25. “A generous person will prosper; he who refreshes others will be refreshed.”  (NIV) The message they clearly heard was: “Don’t focus on what you don’t have, but rather focus on giving. There is always more to give.

It was a pivotal moment. Pulling the staff together they discussed how business was tight and not what they needed, but then launched out the idea that they could use the time to do good for others. They decided to take the opportunity to give of their talents to others who were struggling. Brian’s firm offered their services pro bono to two small businesses that were also facing dire straits.

”These are good Christian people and good friends. We realized that what we do as a firm could be a tremendous blessing to them, and to us. We had an opportunity to be used by God to bless others.” 

Turning It Around

While counter intuitive from a business perspective, the opportunity to give rather than receive, to put others first when the bottom line was lagging behind, resonated deeply with the staff and changed the whole firm’s perspective. 

“Coming out of a staff meeting,” says Brian, “we felt the weight of the burden of the downturn was lifted. Our path gave everyone something good to do. It gave us an opportunity to do good work, even though we didn’t choose the circumstances. It brought all of us great refreshment and I think that was because it is true to the gospel.” 

Everyone embraced the idea of generosity and started looking outwardly with hope instead of disparagingly inwardly. 

“What God has created,” reflects Brian, “will stand. His work will be done and he invites us to participate. He made us to be conduits of generosity which is a great opportunity for joy.” 

As is often the case in workplaces, tent-making, the non-ministerial work people do day in and day out, can seem inconsequential from an eternal perspective. 

“This felt important! And I know that caring for these two businesses and their families was transformational for them, and for our whole staff. We were all uplifted and affirmed by changing from self-focused to others-focused,” recalled Brian.

The talented team not only created new value for clients, but internal enthusiasm and energy skyrocketed. The opportunity to do good work as a team was a key differentiation that pulled them all out of the slump. Generosity to others and ability to work together for the good, proved profitable in so many ways. Moreover, pro bono work for Christian organizations and outreaches has continued to grow as an aspect of the firm’s labor for the Kingdom. 

Brian Dahl was interviewed on a Nine to Five Podcast. To listen to the full interview click here

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