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A Halloween Special on Fundraising Fears…Part 2

Last week we started a series about fears of non-profit volunteers in making face-to-face requests for support. Though it is by far the most productive and least expensive form of fundraising, it is also one of the most neglected methods. We posed several fears and concerns, and today I would like to begin addressing some of them.

People Are Afraid They’ll Make Mistakes

Actually we began to cover this fear in our last blog when I said our experience has been quite the opposite. As fundraising consultants, we usually try to cover this and other fears in our stewardship training sessions, because we know they exist. I’ve found that the best way to begin to address a fear is simply to begin with some logic.

First, mark this down. There are no perfect people and no perfect performances. In any venture individuals are bound to “make mistakes.” Watch your favorite college football team on any Saturday, and you’re likely to see someone or several someones make a mistake… a turnover…an offside…a wrong route. That doesn’t mean they pack up and quit. Instead they resolve to be successful and try to learn from their mistakes and improve their performance.

Successful fundraising happens the same way. If you’re resolved to be successful, then the route to success is to practice and then get busy asking. However, it’s important to understand that you are not likely to yield results if you don’t show up in the first place.

Practice, Practice, Practice

How does one practice? You practice by telling the story first to a mate, a colleague or a close friend. If you do that a few times, you’ll gain an advantage already. Also, you might consider bringing someone with you when you go to make the call. There is strength in numbers, although I don’t advise having more than two people when you visit with a donor. Any more than that can be a bit overwhelming.

Consider that during his career Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 shots, lost 300 games and 26 times he was called on to make the last shot in a game and he missed. To this apparent record of failure he commented, “I’ve failed over and over and over again and that’s why I succeed.” The point is, the more you try the more you’ll eventually be successful.

People are Afraid the Prospect Will Get Angry

Over my 30-year career that includes many hundreds if not thousands of major gift solicitations I’ve had only one occasion when a person expressed anger. My response to that was simple, “I’m not asking for myself. I’m asking for these kids that your giving helps. I’m sorry if I appeared to be bold, but these kids have no one else to be bold for them.”

That pretty much ended any ill feelings, and this individual actually gave the amount for which I asked him. Later on he also offered an apology and told me that he had been having a bad day. As I said earlier, people rarely if ever get angry.

People are Afraid that the Prospect Will Say “No

While a person may believe this is true, the facts just don’t measure up. As I mentioned in a previous blog, 70% of the time a peer visits a peer in a face-to-face solicitation the answer is “yes” and not “no”. Their gift may not be for the amount you ask, but it’s usually “yes” at some amount. In fact, in our campaign consulting we’ve seen some organizations exceed 80%. People want to help, and when you tell the story of the organization effectively they usually respond.

Next week we’ll cover more fears!


A Halloween Special - Overcoming Fundraising Fears

Halloween can be a scary time, not only for trick or treaters but also for fundraisers. By far, December is the best month for fundraising results. In fact, in a typical organization, 31% of all donations come in the month of December.

Preparing for the End-of-the-Year

However, to have a good December, non-profit organizations need to have active Septembers, Octobers and Novembers. Initially, you have to cultivate and then put a request in front of donors to receive a donation in the first place. Then it’s important to understand that it often takes time for people to make giving decisions, and the larger the decision the more time it can take.

Sure, organizations are pretty good at direct mail and special events. However, I often find that many non-profits miss out on the biggest source of potential income, and that is face-to-face solicitations of donors and friends. Simply stated, one successful major gift can exceed the proceeds from a direct mail piece or a fundraising event or both.

Face-to-Face is Still Best

For example, a study conducted by Cathlene Williams, revealed that the vast majority of nonprofit fundraising events yield $100,000 or less. After expenses, the yield is closer to $50,000 to $60,000. Yet, with a large enough database, the likelihood is high that there are several $50,000 to $100,000 donors right there and available to be cultivated and asked.

Also, according to Charity Science, the average response rate for donor renewal direct mail is about 8%, with the total giving from that source accounting for about 7.5% of the organization’s income. Likewise the ROI for fundraising events is often a lot less than anticipated.

Now I’m not suggesting that those efforts should be eliminated. They are important parts of the overall fundraising strategy, but they are not the only part. That’s where major gift, face-to-face solicitations enter the picture. While direct mail is the most expensive and least effective form of fundraising, face-to-face solicitations are the least costly and most effective form.

Why Face-to-Face? 

In our research on capital campaigns we’ve found on average that face-to-face solicitations typically yield a positive response 70% of the time. Of course, well-balanced development programs include all of these methods and more. My point here is simple…when nonprofits neglect face-to-face solicitations the program is far from being balanced.

In fact, gifts are much larger in face-to-face visits than in any other form of fundraising. Well then, if 70% of the time (many of our campaigns have achieved rates in excess of 80%) a peer visits a peer in a face-to-face solicitation the answer is “yes”, why wouldn’t an organization want to do more face-to-face solicitations?

So What’s the Problem?

 Well it’s time consuming and labor intensive, but mostly it’s fear. There are many fears non-profits face in asking volunteers to help them make calls. In order to get individuals comfortable in soliciting major gifts, organizations often have to work through those fears. Some of the more prominent fears include the following:

  • They’re afraid they’ll make mistakes and not be successful
  • They’re afraid the prospect will get angry
  • They’re afraid that the prospect will say “no”
  • They’re afraid they don’t have enough time
  • They’re afraid they will annoy friends
  • They’re afraid they don’t know how to fundraise or they can’t get comfortable with the idea

Actually, we’ve found all these fears among volunteers, but none of them is insurmountable. In fact, with appropriate and strategic responses and training each one of them can easily be overcome. In fact, over the next week or two we will address each and provide remedies to overcome them.


Americans Are Incredibly Generous

The annual results of Giving USA are in, and once again Americans gave in unprecedented fashion. Specifically, $390.05 billion was gifted in one of four categories: direct gifts ($281.6 billion or 72% of the total), foundation gifts ($59.28 billion or 15% of the total), bequest gifts ($30.36 billion or 8% of the total) and corporate gifts ($18.55 billion or 5% of the total).

What I’ve found interesting though, is the fact that individuals play such an important role in giving. For example, individuals make bequests, so that brings the total giving by individuals to 80%. Yet, it doesn’t end there. About half of all foundation gifts come from family foundations, which are mostly controlled by individuals. That raises the total given further to almost 88% or $343 billion.

I offer a few points of reflection about these numbers:

First, America is amazingly generous

Our level of giving is unparalleled anywhere in the world. For example, last year charitable giving as a percentage of America’s GDP was 1.44%. The countries closest in giving to the US are New Zealand at 0.79% of GDP, Canada at .77% of GDP and the UK at .54% of GDP. In contrast, the countries that were furthest away from the US were France (0.11% of GDP) and China (0.03 % of GDP). Fully, 83% of American households donated to charity in the last year compared with China (11% of households) and India (14% of households). Those were among the least charitable countries.

Second, too often nonprofit fundraising depends on corporations and foundations almost to the exclusion of individuals

All too frequently, nonprofits rely on a few foundation and corporate gifts and not enough gifts from individuals. No doubt, they receive gifts from individuals, but those usually come through direct mail or special events. Executives often work hard, but they sometimes fail to work smart by locating, cultivating and eventually soliciting major gifts in face-to-face visits.

That’s where doing your homework and building relationships with individuals pays off. Certainly that takes time, but the transformational potential of a large major gift is well worth the effort. And there is a high probability that there are people in your universe who regularly make major gifts. In fact, 93% of high net worth households ($1,000,000 or more) gave to charity, and their average gift was $25,000 or more. The money is there, but nonprofit executives will have to work and be resourceful to get their case in front of these donors.

Third, If you haven’t experienced increases in funding over the last year, you may need help.

Giving USA tracks nine sectors annually, and all of them experienced increases. These include giving to religion; education; human services; foundations; health; public-society benefit; arts, culture and humanities; international affairs; environment/animals; and individuals. Additionally, giving by individuals (the largest source of gifts) grew by nearly 4%.

The results are impressive, but what if your organization hasn’t experienced such increases? There may be several reasons. As a fundraising consultant, I would counsel clients to start by answering a few questions:

  • How many individuals give?
  • What has the trend been over the last few years?
  • What sources give (individuals, foundations, bequests or corporations)?
  • How do we grow our donor base and how can board members help?
  • What is our donor retention rate?

These are just a few questions to answer if you want to experience the increases other organizations have been experiencing. Professional fundraising audits and fundraising plans are also quite helpful. However, regardless of what you do, it will require deliberate work that includes analysis, strategic planning and action to move your organization forward. Yet, if you’re up for the task, it is well worth the effort!


What Exactly is Leadership…Part 6 (Conclusion)

For the past few weeks we’ve been studying principles/characteristics of covenant relationships that effective leaders use. Today we’ll cover the last principle/characteristic that covenant leaders apply in their relationships.

Transformational More Than Exploitative

The leader-follower relationship, if it’s to be effective long-term, is more about transformation than it is about exploitation. Essentially, it’s the intentional transformation of people and organizations for the better. That clearly is a theme of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. As a result of being led by spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Scrooge was transformed. These spirits led him through a series of purposeful and sometimes painful experiences that changed Scrooge and eventually achieved their intended outcomes. They brought him to an understanding of his own selfishness and awakened him to the needs of others around him. Scrooge chooses to use his resources to transform the lives of others because he himself had been transformed.

Transformational Leadership

James MacGregor Burns refers to this as transformational leadership. It’s a relationship where leaders recognize higher needs in followers (love, hope, meaning, esteem) and engage their full person by seeking to meet those needs and convert followers into leaders.

According to Burns,

“Transforming leadership ultimately becomes moral. It raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of both leader and those led. It occurs when one or more persons engage with others in ways that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality. Purposes, which may have started out as separate, become fused.”

In other words, though leader-follower relationships begin with transactions, they shouldn’t end there. As leaders earn credibility and trust through transactions they also gain more power to influence and elevate followers in transformational ways. Using power to elevate followers and as Burns says, move them “…to higher levels of motivation and morality,” is primary evidence that leadership instead of power wielding is operating. It implies regard, respect and commitment to followers, apart from which leadership is relegated at best to supervision.

Jesus, A Transformational Leader

Over some 2,000 years of history and mounds of convincing evidence, no leader has influenced people or changed the world more profoundly than Jesus of Nazareth. In Jesus we have arguably the best example of a transformational leader.

Witness His relationships with disciples. Jesus understood both their intrinsic value and very human needs. Based on those needs, He engaged them in a transaction that He initiated, filling their boat with fish, and thereby gaining credibility. And as Jesus delivered on other promises to disciples, His credibility grew. Jesus related to followers in ways that demonstrated genuine regard. That regard was manifest in the many acts of love, kindness and service He extended to them. No doubt, these relationships were covenants, covenants so powerful that they changed their lives permanently.

Leadership that Deepens Commitment

As a leader, Jesus transformed followers in ways that deepened their commitment both to Jesus and to the common purpose they shared. Specifically, by teaching, healing, challenging and loving these mostly uneducated and sometimes cowardly followers, Jesus transformed them into courageous and committed leaders. His mission and values became their mission and values. In fact, so powerful was their transformation that they boldly carried on the organizational mission in ways that cost most of them their lives. Yet, the power to lead and transform His followers did not come through any worldly position Jesus held. Instead it came through the relationships Jesus established and the love, commitment, respect and sacrifice for followers He demonstrated. It’s a clear illustration that leadership is not a position; it is a relationship with enormous potential to achieve and transform people and organizations for the better.


What Exactly is Leadership …Part 5

Mutually Beneficial More Than Selfishly Prosperous

In the midst of all the turmoil occurring across our country daily, the news about the hurricanes was almost welcome relief. Not that we get relief from the hardship of others; we don’t. Yet, it focused our attention on the very real challenges our neighbors were facing and gave us the opportunity to try to provide some help. Clearly, for more than 2 centuries, Americans have believed it to be mutually beneficial when all of our citizens are safe and secure.

Corporations Care

That belief is shared not only by individual Americans; it is also shared by our corporate citizens who have been increasing donations to help with relief efforts. Consider just a few examples:

  • Walgreens committed $200,000 to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief, and their customers can also donate at their stores. They are also donating food items, first aid and medical equipment to the American Red Cross.
  • The Kroger Foundation has committed $100,000 to the Houston Food Bank.
  • HCA Healthcare will donate $1 million to the American Red Cross. It will also match up to $1 million in employee donations.
  • Verizon has pledged $10 million to Harvey relief efforts.
  • NFL star J.J. Watt personally raised $30 million for hurricane relief and these are but a few examples.

All of this shows that there is a great deal more to relationships and business and life than making a profit and serving self. In fact, that was exactly the point Charles Dickens made when he wrote about the self-centered Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

What We Can Learn from Scrooge 

Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s deceased business associate, appeared one night in the form of Marley’s Ghost. As Marley explains his earthly regrets, Scrooge challenges him saying, “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.”

At this, Marley’s Ghost replies, “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

In addition to being a beloved and enduring Christmas story, Dickens’ work is also a commentary on business and the social conditions that existed in England around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Through the dialogue between Marley and Scrooge, Dickens points out that business exists for purposes beyond just making money for the owner. There is a responsibility for business leaders to attend also to the human needs of workers and others rather than exploiting or commodifying them. It is only in realizing and acting on the fact that Bob Cratchit is actually a person with a family and needs, that Scrooge finds redemption and becomes a leader. Essentially, Scrooge stops commodifying every aspect of his relationship with Cratchit and starts treating him as a person with value beyond what he can do for Scrooge.

Business Should be Mutually Beneficial

In order for leadership actually to be leadership, it necessitates that relationships between leaders and followers address a set of mutual needs and aspirations, not just those of the leader. Scrooge’s inability to recognize that point made him a selfish, commodifying power wielder instead of a leader. Certainly heads of corporations can drive performance and profits, but that doesn’t make them leaders. As Dickens and many others have expressed; leadership requires the presence of a common and ethical purpose that promises to benefit everyone involved in its pursuit. Beyond that, leadership is also a relationship in which people are respected, and leaders and followers are bound together by and freely give themselves to that common purpose. Simply stated, people are not commodities and they cannot be led effectively by treating them as such.

America at its Best

That’s what is happening in Houston and Florida today. Our citizenry is intervening because they believe people have inherent worth. Individuals and corporations alike are demonstrating this kind of leadership both in fundraising and volunteer efforts over and over and over again, and we are all better off because of it.


What Exactly is Leadership…Part 4

So, our series on What Exactly is Leadership has covered several characteristics of covenant leadership including relationships that are:

  •  Influential and Dynamic more Than Positional and Controlling…
  • Developmental More Than Dictatorial…and…
  • Humane More Than Commodified
  • Committed To and Valued More Than Used and Consumed…

 Today, we will discuss another characteristic, Respectful and Loving More Than Intimidating – One of my favorite authors is the late Henri Nouwen, who wrote about the temptation of leaders to rely on power. In talking of his own struggles as a leader, he noted, “I still have moments in which I clamp down and tell everyone to shut up, get in line, listen to me and believe in what I say.”

Wisdom from Nouwen

Nouwen offers a profound answer to the important question of why “leaders” sometimes do this: “Maybe…power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God, than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.” He explains further that many people opt for power and control because they don’t know how to develop healthy relationships. So what’s the answer?

At Southwest Job Satisfaction Flies High 

It starts with respect for others, which allows leaders to resist the power temptation and share rather than wield power. That allows building relationships and focusing on what Nouwen calls “the hard task of love.” Consider Southwest Airlines (SWA), a place where employees are known to work hard but also have fun while doing it. Recently it was named one of Fortune Magazine’s” top 10 most admired companies in the world. Uniquely, Southwest executives work hard to create partnerships, including with the unions. It makes sense because the focus within the organization is on building healthy relationships and a sense of ownership for the common purpose they serve.

The atmosphere commenced with former chairman Herb Kelleher, who talked consistently about respecting and even loving his people. Witness the big heart painted on the airplanes symbolizing that love and the energetic friendly demeanor of employees that reflects it. These and other attitudes at Southwest help explain why the company has lower turnover rates than any other airline. And evidently, all this talk and practice of love doesn’t compromise profitability. Consider that in 2016, for the 44th straight year, SWA netted $2.2 billion in net profit, despite the turbulence in the airline industry.

This stands in considerable contrast to the concept of commodification. Commodification works well with the purchase and consumption of actual commodities like groceries and cattle. However, it clearly inhibits the development of relationships in which people give themselves to a common purpose. That’s because commodification is dehumanizing and relies on power and sometimes intimidation to move people. When that is prevalent, then potentially everyone becomes a free agent looking for the best deal.

Examples from the Sports World

As my value in a relationship is measured and rewarded by my ability to perform and serve someone else’s self-interest, then my focus will be on keeping my perceived value high. The problem with that is the higher the stakes the more relational dynamics lend themselves to deception, manipulation, power wielding and even cheating to enhance my performance and keep my value high. Consider the results of increased commodification in professional sports. The growing incidence of illegal steroid use and other forms of cheating may enhance performance short-term, but they injure the long-term health and credibility of athletes and they diminish the respect of fans. Witness the rapid decline in popularity of Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds and more. In the final analysis, it’s difficult to embrace a cheater either as a hero or a trusted leader.


What Exactly is Leadership … Part 3

Committed To and Valued More Than Used and Consumed

This week, we will focus on why it is important that leaders display commitment to and value for others. Most people want to be valued for who they are and not just what they do. This doesn’t suggest that doing and performing never matter, clearly they do. But relationships with any sense of long-term commitment require more than doing and performing.

In covenant relationships, leaders value people regardless of their level of talent or performance. They hold people accountable, but they do so in a manner that demonstrates respect for individuals.

A Proper Perspective on Talent and Performance

For example, talent and performance are central to athletics. Yet, the best coaches understand other important aspects of the player/coach relationship. In fact, treating players with respect and consideration sometimes produces performances that make up for a lack of talent. When I played basketball in college, my coach went out of his way to help me in my personal life. No doubt, I worked harder for him than for any other coach, and I performed well beyond expectations because I knew he cared. In fact, that was the case with our entire team, and we lost only two games all season.

Conversely, commodification breeds mistrust and short-term commitment. It cannot engage the full person, because it doesn’t meet an individual’s deeper needs such as recognition and respect. When followers know that a leader’s primary commitment is based solely on their performance, then the relationship is not likely to survive long-term. They know that as soon as someone fails to perform up to expectations, the relationship loses value and can be terminated.

That said people simply aren’t products to be used and then terminated when performance slips. Individuals want leaders who are committed to them beyond their immediate performance; just like my coach demonstrated his commitment to me.

Trust Tends to Heighten Performance

This doesn’t suggest that covenants lack performance or accountability. Though power wielders might fear this result, research and anecdotal evidence demonstrate the opposite occurs. In our nonprofit and church leadership consulting, we remind clients that when people (staff or volunteers) are treated well and trusted, they tend to heighten performance and assume more rather than less accountability. Conversely, when leaders focus primarily on performance, it breeds competition over teamwork and defensiveness over accountability.

An Example from GE

Consider General Electric under the leadership of Jack Welch. One of the most successful companies in the world, revenues went from $26.8 billion to $130 billion during his tenure. By 2004 GE’s value was $400 billion, the largest in the world. Nevertheless, profits came with a price. The culture and strategic planning had always emphasized cost cutting and high performance. However, when Mr. Welch cut 118,000 jobs, he earned the name of “Neutron Jack”. Equally disconcerting, Fortune Magazine put him at the top of its list of America’s “Ten Toughest Bosses.” He also spent $75 million on fitness equipment and major upgrades. To his credit, Mr. Welch explained, “People weren’t buying it. The money I was investing was pocket change, (but) the symbolism of $75 million was too much in the face of layoffs.”

Lessons Learned

He freely admits that sometimes he was full of himself. As evidence he cites the acquisition of Kidder, Peabody, despite opposition by his board. Less than a year later federal officers arrested several company officials for insider trading. Mr. Welch commented, “There’s a razor’s edge between self confidence and hubris. This time, hubris won and taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.” Maybe that explains why GE performed at 2.8 times the market from 1985 to 2000, while Good to Great companies simultaneously performed at almost seven times the market. This is even more interesting considering that all “Good to Great” companies had as Mr. Collins described, CEOs who possess a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.

More to Leadership than the Bottom Line

No doubt, issues are never black and white at GE or anywhere else. Yet, the fundamental principle is still true. People cannot be commodified without compromising their commitment and their performance. While profit and performance are crucial to long-term success, sustaining them long-term requires leaders who realize that there is more to leadership than bottom line results.


What Exactly is Leadership? … Part 2

In Part 1, we started to define what leadership is and discuss the tendencies of covenant leadership including relationships that are:

  • Influential and Dynamic more Than Positional and Controlling, and
  • Developmental More Than Dictatorial…

 Now today we’ll discuss a third tendency.

Humane More Than Commodified

Being humane, usually means recognizing the intrinsic worth of individuals and treating them with dignity and respect. That happens not because of your power, abilities or personal attributes, but simply because you’re human and therefore worthy of dignity and respect. Organizations built on covenants are humane simply because leaders value people intrinsically.

The Commodities Model

By contrast, valuing and affording people dignity and respect only when they produce, is actually commoditizing them. What is a commodity? Investorwords.com defines commodities as, Substances like food, grains, or metals, interchangeable with other products of the same type. Commodities are bought or sold, usually through futures contracts.” Because corn in Indiana is really no different than corn in Indonesia, the value is quantified by its utility in consumption and is subject to fluctuations in supply and demand. Commodities markets are clearly of great benefit to both investors and producers. But what happens when the model extends into other areas of life?

Learning from Gary Becker

This was the proposition of Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker in, A Theory of Marriage: Part II. He demonstrates how even the most intimate of human relationships can be commodified. Becker cautions, Economic theory may…(soon provide)…a unified framework for all behavior (and)… marriage is no exception…”

He argues that decisions such as spouse selection, marriage timing, children, divorce, etc. can be quantified with certain utility functions including income level, physical capital, and intelligence. Becker is not suggesting that vast numbers of people test mathematical correlations to select spouses. However, it’s clear that this thinking is becoming more prevalent.

If commodification influences marriage, it surely influences our relationships at work. Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, speaks of that trend growing. Organizations attempt to get larger shares of customers, members or donors by becoming trusted advisors. According to Rifkin, “These ideas boil down to the commodification of a person’s entire lifetime of experiences assigning lifetime values to people with the expectation of transforming their lived experience into revenue.”

Covenants Provide More Benefits

Ironically, studies related to productivity imply that the relationships that yield the most benefits in any kind of structure are covenants. In fact, there’s substantial research suggesting that marriage covenants are more rewarding and beneficial than single life or cohabitation. Likewise, growing evidence suggests the covenant model applied in business or fundraising is also far more productive and profitable. That’s because commodities can be manipulated, but people must be led. It makes sense that individuals perform better when they’re respected. Valuing donors and gratefully acknowledging their gifts is a proven method of increasing donations.

Nevertheless, organizations today (including churches, non-profits and businesses) still cling to a model where the “value” of individuals is measured solely by how well they serve the self-interests of decision makers. This is not to suggest that people shouldn’t be productive or held accountable, but when there’s constant emphasis on production the intrinsic worth of individuals can be lost.

Power Wielders vs. Leaders

Power wielders commodify people; leaders don’t. That’s why covenanting with people to achieve common purposes is far more humane and productive than commodifying them. If that’s true then the decision should be clear. If you’ll never achieve optimal success through commodification, it defies logic to continue doing so. When people are commodified, they may perform temporarily, but they also lack long-term commitment. That’s because the product of the relationship is valued over the people of the relationship. Conversely, when people are treated humanely and bonded together in a humane culture, they’re free to give themselves fully to a common purpose and the sky is the limit.


7 Reasons Churches Fail in Fundraising…Part III

This blog should actually have been published last week since it is the final blog in the 3-part series, “7 Reasons Churches Fail in Fundraising.”  We apologize for any confusion caused by the articles appearing out of sequence.

Let’s Recap

Previously we covered the following reasons for fundraising failures in church campaigns:

  1. The pastor and/or leadership establish unrealistic Goals, and have nothing to back them beyond needs or wants.
  2. Churches that are not teachable because the leaders believe they are experts in every area.
  3. Church leaders who approach the campaign casually and lack a comprehensive campaign plan.
  4. The Pastor has a hard time giving up control and empowering others to act, and…
  5. The Pastor is reluctant to get involved and ask others for help.

Now today we’ll cover the last two items in our series.

  1. The pastor assumes people should give and therefore spends little time teaching the principles of stewardship…

Defining Stewardship

Webster’s defines Stewardship as careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. Many interpret it as simply giving money, but stewardship involves more than that. It is the assumption that all we own possessions (time, talent and treasures) that are provided by God. As stewards we’re called to care for these gifts. However, church members don’t always understand this principle and they need to be taught.

Therein lies the rub. I knew one pastor who didn’t like to talk about money or stewardship and therefore neglected it. Why? It was uncomfortable for him. Yet, Jesus talked a great deal about money. In fact, 16 of the 38 parables are about money and stewardship. In the Gospels one of every 10 verses is about money, and the entire Bible has over 2,000 verses on the subject. That’s more than verses on faith and prayer combined, so it appears to be a mistake for pastors to ignore the topic.

A Cheerful Giver

Second Corinthians 9:6-7 tells us, “…whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

There is a cause and effect relationship here. The more we give the more we’ll reap. Now God doesn’t need our money or our offerings of anything. Instead, He wants our hearts. Giving through the heart is actually the route to becoming what the Apostle Paul called a cheerful giver, one who gives not reluctantly but joyfully.

Yet, scripture also tells us that joyful giving is a decision of the heart. Decisions of the heart don’t just happen. They’re cultivated through teaching and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is much easier for the latter to occur if the former is present.

  1. The church hasn’t done a planning study to test their case and assess the level of support…In our work capital campaign consulting with churches, our practice has been to create a planning document (or case statement) that outlines the plans of the church. Once that is finished, we distribute it along with a survey to the entire congregation. We ask them to complete the survey either online or through personal interviews.

We ask questions related to the campaign but also to the overall ministry of the church. This provides vital information regarding levels of support, gaps in information, church growth trends and ministry opportunities. It is also one of the first steps in building consensus around the campaign. The findings provide a reasonable assessment of what can be expected financially and what needs to be done to get there. Without such a process the church is shooting in the dark.

Of course, there are many other reasons church campaigns fail, but these seem to be the most frequent ones.


What Exactly is Leadership?

Often leadership creates images of the charismatic CEO, expounding a vision to industry analysts or a charismatic coach giving an inspirational talk that turns a halftime deficit into victory or a fundraising presentation that secures a major gift.

A recent Google search on Leadership revealed over 800 million sites with multiple applications of the clearly overused word, “Leadership.” Yet, despite its many applications, the consensus appears to be that leadership is not only about, “what” is accomplished, but also about “how” it’s accomplished. That “how” happens through relationships, the characteristics of which we’ll describe in the next few blogs. Today we’ll begin with two important ones:

Influential and Dynamic More Than Positional and Controlling

As I read some titles and selected articles, I wondered, “Why is leadership so broadly defined?” After a bit more reading, I concluded, that many people confuse leadership with headship, job titles or responsibilities. However, true leadership is not positional, and its dynamics are far more complex than presiding on top of an organization or using people to get things done. Many organizational heads (including Syria’s Assad) get things accomplished through power, but that doesn’t make them leaders. Leaders use power and influence strategically to create or strengthen relationships and motivate individuals to achieve common purposes. Those purposes are about the needs of organizations, leaders and those being led.

James MacGregor Burns on Leadership

 In 1978, James MacGregor Burns described leadership in even simpler terms in his definitive (Pulitzer Prize winning) book on the subject. In Leadership, he argues that the term is best understood as a relationship between leaders and followers. Inherent in that relationship is power and how one uses power in working with the people, purposes and resources determines whether that person is leading or power wielding. To this point, Burns comments, “To control things – tools, mineral resources, money is an act of power, not leadership things have no motives. Power wielders may treat people as things. Leaders may not. All leaders are power holders, but not all power holders are leaders.” Leaders, then, don’t use power to control people or make them serve only the leader’s purposes. Instead, they influence followers to act on purposes that both leaders and followers have in common.

Developmental More Than Dictatorial

It’s interesting that the inability to engage people productively is often blamed on laziness. This logic follows that managers need only to dictate what should be done and punish those lazy people who don’t comply. While “laziness” could be a factor, often the lack of productivity is due to the manager’s inability to teach and develop people effectively. According to Dr. Mel Levine, a learning expert, developmental pediatrician and college professor, laziness is a myth. He explains that neurodevelopmental dysfunctions may cause what he calls “output failures”, but he argues convincingly that none of these failures is due to laziness. He commented, “We’re all born with a drive to produce, and we have within us the resources to bear fruit from early childhood on through our adult years, we want to show what we can do. We gain energy and feel good about ourselves whenever our personal output wins the approval, the acceptance, the respect of (others).

Assuming Dr. Levine’s observations are correct, what he says has significant implications for leaders. Though we may be born with the drive and resources to produce, these traits need cultivation and nurturance for individuals to learn how to produce. The learning “how” is the job of leaders. They teach by explaining, modeling, measuring and allowing followers to succeed and fail. Essentially they develop people by creating a culture of teaching and learning, where it’s safe to ask questions and take risks. Of course, talent is crucial for any organization (as well as in nonprofit fundraising), but unless leaders develop talent they are bound to be less productive.