[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]
#41. Nancy S. DeMoss. Philanthropist b.1938
While evangelical leaders recognize that God’s will and blessing are the most important ingredients of successful Christian work, it should be no surprise that funding is a vital lubricant for successful ministries. The primary sources of this funding are the individual donors who provide relatively small but regular gifts—“tithes and offerings”—to local churches and to national and international ministries.
However, large ministries must also receive major gifts from individual donors and foundations focusing on Christian ministry. The largest U.S. group providing money to evangelical causes is the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation, a family foundation led during the last 30 years by its matriarch, Mrs. Nancy DeMoss. The foundation was begun by her late husband, Arthur S. DeMoss, an insurance innovator and highly respected Christian businessman. Art DeMoss founded National Liberty Corporation, the pioneer of direct response insurance marketing (whose advertising featured Art Linkletter) and then began the foundation before his untimely death in 1979.
His oldest daughter Nancy Leigh DeMoss said her father was “a living illustration of the principles he taught us,” showing his seven children to put God first in everything by giving the first hour of his own day to the Word and prayer—every day for 28 years. He taught his children to be generous givers through his own goal of giving away an extravagant sum of money during his lifetime.”
His wife Nancy has guaranteed that Art DeMoss’ goal became reality, as she has guided the foundation—with a strong hand–in its extravagant giving to Christian and conservative causes over the last three decades.
The DeMoss family, like many families of means who give away large amounts of their treasure, is mostly private to reduce badgering by grant-seekers and for family safety. But since all foundation giving records are public, the generosity of the family cannot be hidden. Also, the foundation has sponsored some very public programs, and several family members—although not Mrs. DeMoss–have been quite visible. “The Foundation has a history of not seeking publicity. Foundation grantees sign a confidentiality agreement so strict that they will not even discuss the group to praise it.”
Although media coverage of evangelicals, such as Time’s 2005 cover story on 25 influencers, usually focused on political action and hot-button issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, in reality most evangelical attention goes to the spiritual priorities of the church, such as evangelism, Christian growth, and care for the poor and suffering.
This emphasis is reflected in giving within evangelicalism and is typified by the DeMoss Foundation. Records show that DeMoss provides gifts of some $21 million a year, largely support of evangelistic efforts in this country and around the world, with the top recipients including Campus Crusade for Christ, Prison Fellowship Ministries, and Liberty University.
The foundation has also conducted some high-profile projects of its own, such as Power For Living, which has as its objective to acquaint as many people as possible throughout the world with information on how to get right with God. This is done through a multi-media campaign promoting the free book, Power For Living. The project has shifted overseas, but in the early 1990s it was quite visible in some major U.S. markets, with the foundation reportedly spending “more than $27.8 million–a sum outpacing [at the time] the media buy of a presidential campaign. 
Among its visible projects over the years was the 1992 ad campaign with the slogan “Life, What A Beautiful Choice,” one of the most effective and tasteful pro-life campaigns ever created. On his radio program, BreakPoint, Chuck Colson said at the time:
“The DeMoss commercials are an excellent model of how to win hearts. In a gentle, engaging style, they nudge people to reconsider how to respond to a problem pregnancy. It holds people up as admirable if they carry their babies to term. It reminds the audience that there are millions of couples ready to offer a loving home for those babies. The De Moss Foundation’s decision to air these commercials during prime time is brilliant. Right during thirtysomething, no less, when the audience consists of just those middle-class, single women most likely to abort.”
Another high-profile ministry heavily supported by DeMoss is a Campus Crusade program called Executive Ministries, an evangelistic outreach targeting business and professional executives. The points of contact are luncheons and dinner parties featuring prominent Christian speakers, with these events often conducted at Mrs. DeMoss’ Palm Beach mansion, or at a facility in New York City called the DeMoss House.
Three of the DeMoss children have been in the public eye.
- Nancy Leigh DeMoss, a best-selling author and popular speaker, has served on the staff of Life Action Ministries, a revival ministry based in Niles, Michigan, since 1980.
- Mark DeMoss heads the nation’s largest public relations firm serving Christian organizations and causes and is the author of The Little Red Book Of Wisdom , a book of principles for personal and professional fulfillment. (Note: I was a vice president at The DeMoss Group in the late 1990s).
- Deborah DeMoss was a forceful and sometimes controversial aide to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), championing Nicaragua’s contra rebels and advising conservative politicians in El Salvador and throughout the region (where she married and still lives).
Although liberal stalwarts like to criticize Mrs. DeMoss and the foundation for their support of conservative politicians and causes, most who know of her work sense the heartbeat of evangelism. Eastern College sociology professor and author Tony Campolo said:
“Their purpose is to propagate the evangelical commitments, and that includes the social values associated with those commitments. But what they are really about is old-time religion, endeavoring to see that every person in the world comes to know Jesus.”