In the world that Bahá’u’lláh has envisaged, the resources of the planet will be used to bring about spiritual and material prosperity for the entire human race. Shoghi Effendi has written that “the progress and execution of spiritual activities” is “conditioned upon material means”.1
Within the Bahá’í community, funds are established at the local, national, continental and international levels to which its members may alone contribute. This allows the Bahá’í community both to sustain its activity and to channel financial resources in ways that promote the well-being of humanity.
The administration of these funds is entrusted to the care of Bahá’í institutions at each level, which are responsible for taking decisions about the allocation of resources on behalf of the community. The act of contributing does not, of course, grant an individual the prerogative to direct the specific way in which the funds are expended, although any Bahá’í may earmark their donation for a named geographical region or for a particular area of activity, to be used at the discretion of the institutions.
Individual Bahá’ís strive to give selflessly and joyfully to the various funds of the Faith, each according to his or her circumstances and means. Contributions are private and voluntary, and soliciting money from individuals is not permitted. However, the state of the Bahá’í funds may well be a subject of consultation among members of the Bahá’í community at gatherings of various kinds.
It is certainly the case that the sacrificial contribution of a wealthy individual will be far larger in size than that of a person without access to substantial material resources. Yet the Bahá’í writings state that, in the eyes of God, any sum offered with sacrifice is acceptable. When donations are made selflessly, a fundamental truth underlying the principle of generosity—that the giver is also the receiver of bounty—shines forth: “We must be like the fountain or spring that is continually emptying itself of all that it has and is continually being refilled from an invisible source. To be continually giving out for the good of our fellows undeterred by fear of poverty and reliant on the unfailing bounty of the Source of all wealth and all good—this is the secret of right living.”2