We Know the Power of Customer Satisfaction, What about Donor Satisfaction?

We Know the Power of Customer Satisfaction, What about Donor Satisfaction?

Anyone who gives time or money to a charity does so with the expectation of satisfaction.

That’s not to suggest their motives are selfish. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Donors and volunteers simply want to know that their time or money has been invested wisely, and that our organization has helped them make a difference in the world.

That is, after all, the promise we make in our value proposition. (Assuming, of course, our value proposition is clear and compelling.)

This isn’t new information. Every leader in non-profit organizations I’ve encountered understands this at an instinctive level. Unfortunately, the concept of donor satisfaction rarely finds its way into the marketing or donor development activities of charities, and almost completely overlooked on the ministry side of their operations.

For-profit organizations live or die by customer/client satisfaction. In the non-profit world, satisfied donors and volunteers do two very important things: they donate or volunteer again, and they tell other people about our wonderful organization. And that’s the key to maintaining financial stability while cultivating steady growth.

Many charities eagerly devote precious resources to acquire new donors and volunteers, yet give little thought to making donating and volunteering a satisfying experience.

Seasoned leaders, however, understand that the key metric in organizational growth is not new name acquisition or even first-time donations, but consistent re-engagement. Astute leaders understand that ministry operations and donor development are not two separate functions, but interdependent teams that share a symbiotic relationship.

Consider, for example, two of the largest Christian humanitarian aid organizations in existence: World Vision and Compassion International. Both use a child sponsorship model, which is clearly not appropriate for every kind of charity and may not even be possible for most. However, their system leverages several principles that can be adapted when developing our own marketing and communications strategy.

In this series of articles, we will consider some of these principles and explore ways to apply them.

Principle 1: Donors and volunteers give to people, not to causes or organizations.

If the majority of promotional literature and donation appeals are any indication, this principle isn’t as basic as it might seem.

The child sponsorship model maximizes donor satisfaction by maintaining a direct connection between individual donors and the people served through the organization. Donors get to see the faces, and learn the names, and even carry on direct communication with the people they are helping. This helps each donor experience the satisfaction of generosity while appreciating the organization for its role in facilitating the work.

Any communications strategy we employ needs to connect donors and volunteers to the people they are helping as closely as practically possible.

Take a few minutes to examine your promotional literature and the last several appeals for donations or volunteers.

Who is the hero of the story you tell? Do you highlight the size, strength, successes, or qualifications of your organization? Or do you show the reader how to become a potential hero, a genuine change-agent in the fight against a particular evil?

Do you present statistics or describe the size of the problem you address? Or do you highlight the people potentially helped by the donor or volunteer? Can you tell the stories of representative individuals whose lives have been changed by the efforts of past donors and volunteers?

Can you communicate your value proposition in terms that feel accessible to your potential donors? What can be accomplished with a single donation of [insert reasonable donation here]? How will that donation or volunteer activity change the life of someone for the better?

Now the more difficult question: How can you bring a sense of satisfaction to the donor or volunteer after the initial transaction is complete?

Principle #2 (coming soon) will consider this challenge.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

It’s been several months coming, but last week I made it official. I’m beginning the next leg of my vocational journey. My final day at Global Aid Network (GAIN) will be June 16, 2017.

I first joined GAIN in 2014, primarily for the purpose of establishing a new marketing and communications department. The new president, Al Goff, had set a new direction for the ministry and understood the importance of messaging, which requires a certain professional discipline to be successful. I had hoped to complete the task in five years and, in the meantime, find a bona fide marketing professional to take the reins permanently. Alas, the timing of blessings is rarely in our control. GAIN found a very capable leader in Michelle Oney, formerly with the Josh McDowell Ministry, and the department now runs smoothly with her guidance.

I leave with few regrets. Much of what I was building was still in the chaotic throes of development and I don’t like leaving things undone, but that does not appear to have caused many problems. Mostly I leave with a sense of satisfaction, and much of that because of the team God assembled during my tenure.

Kim Davis was the zig to my zag, often counterbalancing my weaknesses with her steadfast “git-er-dun” determination. Ever mindful of the heart, she never let tasks become more important than the people doing them. She takes the job seriously yet always finds ways to make work fun.

Lara Strain brings to the organization an unassuming intelligence and wide-ranging skillset that GAIN is just beginning to discover. The challenge will be to find mentors she won’t quickly outgrow and challenges that bring out her amazing potential.

Joshua (Jam) Robinson brings to video production an innate sense of timing, style, and voice that cannot be taught, only discovered. Meeting Jam was like finding a magic genie. I learned quickly to trust his instincts, keep direction high-level, and stay out of his way.

Jason Cress holds great promise for the future of GAIN and Cru; he’s clearly destined for a great challenge. His natural curiosity, his ability to learn, his focused work ethic, and his easy-going way with peers will make him a strong leader as seasoning works its magic in him.

MaryBeth Berry knows far more than she lets on. Her affable, self-effacing demeanor masks many years of experience. I soon discovered that her gentle suggestions carry weight; ignore them, and you have only yourself to blame for the egg on your face.

Kerry Olson is among those people who are too easily overlooked because they don’t wear their competencies like merit badges. She’s amazingly astute. And when she completes a task, there’s no fanfare; it simply gets done.

Leaving Global Aid Network is bitter-sweet, but it’s the right path forward for me. Over the Christmas holidays, I took time to do some crucial self-assessment, to determine who God made me and what kind of work will keep me excited for the next forty years. While marketing and communications had been my role the past five or six years, I always understood it to be a season, a valuable part of my preparation for something yet-future. Now, I take a conscious step toward that destiny.

As I set course for that future—that frontier we must all explore—I do so with peace-filled confidence, knowing that God has already ordained my days (Psalm 139:16). I pray He now orders my steps (Psalm 119:133).

 

Navel-Gazing Done Right

Navel-Gazing Done Right

I remember when my first child discovered her belly button. Having recently learned to sit up on her own, she looked down, and found this funny-looking hole in her tummy. Thus began her journey of self-discovery.

Our evangelical tradition correctly warns us that focusing on self can lead to all sorts of problems. An egocentric worldview inevitably leads to pride, self-aggrandizement, lack of empathy, and other neuroses. Unfortunately, we have taken this subjugation of self to unhealthy extremes.

Some calvinistic traditions have even turned self-hatred into a core spiritual discipline.

I grew up in a healthy home with a well-adjusted family, but it was considered downright tacky to think about oneself or talk about oneself, unless it was to identify the motivation behind wrongdoing or failure.

So, the words of Chuck Swindoll felt like a cool breeze on a stifling day when he wrote,

No one needs to hear these words more that parents in the process of rearing little children. The impact they have on a child under the age of ten is profound. These vital, fundamental words are important at any age but critical to little ones. Here they are: Know who you are, accept who you are, be who you are.[1]

True humility begins with an accurate and realistic view of self—strengths and weaknesses, darkness and light—and then making the conscious choice to regard others as more important. Without an honest assessment of self, true humility will prove elusive, as pride continually seeks to fill that vacancy.

During the season I have called my crossroads moment, I have been forced to do some honest self-assessment—something I should have been led to do as an adolescent. Parker J. Palmer’s work, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Josey-Bass, 2000), has been an invaluable help.

In this dense little volume, he encourages readers to rediscover our “birthright gifts,” those innate abilities and interests that have always been with us. They offer clues to who God made us, what makes us uniquely special. This, in turn, points to what we should be doing as a vocation.

When I spent a few weeks reminiscing with myself and others who know me well, I discovered a number of birthright gifts. One day, I felt ready to list them out on a whiteboard to see what picture these puzzle pieces might form. What emerged resonated as true and filled me with a sense of calm.

 

my-vocational-puzzle-pieces

I now know that I will find most satisfaction and achieve greatest success in any vocation, any job, that incorporates these innate abilities and acquired skills. And the relationship is proportional. The more natural ability I can apply, the more everyone benefits: the agency I advance, the people I serve, the people who love me, and myself.

I encourage you to do some reminiscing. What stories from your past reveal natural abilities and interests? Are you trying to “do what you ought” or are you being who you are?

 

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, Parenting: From Surviving to Thriving (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2008), 63.

Active Listening

Active Listening

Listening to God calls for a cessation of normal activity, but it is not a time to remain idle. Our posture must be submissive, while leaning forward.

In my first semester at Dallas Theological Seminary, the list of classes included “Bible Study Methods,” then taught by “Prof” Howard Hendricks. His had been one of several names that graced the shelves of my father’s library, so I was excited to learn firsthand from this master of teaching.

I routinely arrived for class thirty minutes early to be first at the classroom doors. As the previous class dismissed, I would slip in, make my way to the front along the side wall, and wait for a front-row-center desk to open up. And Lord help anyone who happened to get between me and that desk! I was more aggressive than an Evangelical in a church parking lot!

We’re more likely to hear from God when we place ourselves in an optimal position. Front-row-center, no distractions, pen and paper in hand, well-rested, and leaning forward.

Having ceased normal activity for a time, here is what I have been doing to make this unscheduled Sabbath “solemn,” to give my rest purpose.

First, I repented of my sins and made certain my primary relationships were clean and clear of unresolved conflict (Matthew 5:23–24; 1 Peter 3:7).

Second, I began a daily Scripture-reading program. When I most need to hear the Lord, I gravitate to the Gospels. There’s just something soothing and clarifying about hearing the words of Jesus and observing His actions.

Third, I called upon several faithful friends to pray for me as I sought direction from the Lord.

Fourth, I began reading books that relate to the issues at hand: identity, calling, and vocation.

Fifth, because my particular circumstance involves a reevaluation of my identity and calling, I reviewed some old personality assessments and took some new ones.

Finally, because creativity makes my brain work better, I began indulging some random creative whims:

I resurrected this blog (as a more personally satisfying alternative to journaling) and relaunched the Redemptive Divorce Web site.

I created the “Jesus-Actual” Social Media and Web Site.

I conducted a Christian Leadership Alliance Workshop.

I led a Christian Leadership Alliance Webinar (now accessible to CLA Members only).

These activities, combined with lots of conversation with loved ones and lots of alone time with God, will hopefully put me in front-row-center desk, where I can hear the Master’s instruction.

I don’t hear from God in secret instructions or circumstantial signs. Instead, the Holy Spirit reorders the chaos in my head to create clarity.

His leading usually points to a next step that’s undeniable. It may not be easy or comfortable, and it may run contrary to conventional wisdom, but it becomes unmistakable as a moral imperative.

It’s a next action that resonates as “right” deep down in that serene place of knowing that gives me peace when I move toward it and fills me with disquiet when I back away.

How do you position yourself to hear from God? What works best for you?

Are You Hearing from God?

Are You Hearing from God?

“Hearing from God” is a curious phrase.

In the Old Testament, a rare few people received communication from the Almighty via audible sound (1 Samuel 3:8–10) or a supernatural vision (Daniel 8:1) or a divinely directed dream (Genesis 20:1–3). Sometimes, the message from God would come via an angel (Judges 6:11–12).

Theologians call this “special revelation,” meaning that the divine message came by supernatural (beyond natural) means and was exceedingly rare.

The New Testament era has changed all of that. Now, things are different.

Precisely fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, something extraordinary happened:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, [the followers of Jesus] were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.

(Acts 2:1–4)

The gathered believers began to speak in the native languages of visitors from all around the world. The visitors said, “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God! (Acts 2:11).

This fulfilled the promise given by Jesus: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

The indwelling Holy Spirit is now the inheritance of all who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Ephesians 1:13–14).

Consequently, New Testament believers have something that would have amazed Old Testament believers. We have the indwelling Spirit of God to guide us daily. Hourly. Moment by moment!

“Hearing from God” doesn’t mean what it used to mean. The New Testament way is a new and improved brand of divine communication. We no longer need audible voices or bizarre visions. We have something far better!

When the Messiah inaugurated the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34), it came with an extraordinary promise:

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.”

(Jeremiah 31:33–34)

Rather that write down commandments, send angelic messengers, induce strange dreams, or speak audibly, God has given believers His own Spirit to change their hearts, to help them think as He thinks, desire what He desires, and then act as He wants them to act.

Instead of giving us step-by-step instructions, God is changing our hearts to beat in perfect rhythm with His.

“Hearing from God,” then, isn’t about waiting for messages or seeking supernatural signs. That’s Old Testament. The New Testament way is to observe how God is transforming us and then make decisions in harmony with His new creation.

That’s what it means to be “led by the Holy Spirit.”

This isn’t a “do what feels right” theology. In addition to His indwelling Spirit, He has also given us His written Word and His church.

This isn’t to say that God can’t use audible communication or visions, or that He never will again.

This is simply to acknowledge that if God’s promise of a transformed heart is real, then “hearing from God” might include a discerning inward look.

What has God been doing in your life lately?

As you look back over your spiritual journey, what trends do you see?

What might this say about what He wants you to do with your life?

Resting in I AM

Resting in I AM

I received a divine tap on the shoulder.

That’s what the late preacher, Peter Marshall, called it. It’s a God-initiated interruption to life-as-usual that demands attention.

It could be a inexplicable sense of restlessness or unexplained feelings of dissatisfaction. It might come on the heels of a professional failure or a moral tumble. It’s not uncommon for a divine tap to follow a great success.

oil-warning-lightRegardless, to ignore the tap is like failing to heed the low-oil warning on your dashboard. You run the risk of a severe and costly breakdown. So, you’d better pull over.

In the Old Testament, God gave His people a weekly tap on the shoulder. “Sabbath” derives from the Hebrew command, “Cease.” This commandment gave God’s people permission to lay aside their normal routines, not only to give them rest, but to remind them that He–and He alone–is their provision and protection.

God’s call to rest isn’t a command to remain idle. He may call us to cease activity for a time, but idleness isn’t what He has in mind.

“Sabbath” involves more than the cessation of normal activity. It’s often described in Scripture as “solemn rest” (Exodus 16:23). It carries the idea of rest with purpose, in the same way we might block out time in our schedule to spend time with a spouse, a lover, a child, or a friend.

The Lord gave His people a Sabbath one day each week, and then one year out of seven to not cultivate their fields–to forfeit valuable income–to rest in His provision and protection.

While we are no longer bound by these Old Testament, land covenant laws, the principles that animated them remain alive today. We are granted an opportunity to enjoy a day of “solemn rest” each week. And, from time to time, God’s issues a personal command to “cease” and to give Him focused attention.

It’s a divine tap on the shoulder, calling us to stop, turn around, and discover what He wants to reveal. (For some of us thick-headed people, the “tap” comes like a brickbat to the head.)

For me, lately, the Lord has invited me to reexamine my identity and calling. I have described it as my “crossroads moment.”

If you have received a divine tap on the shoulder, cease! Stop what you’re doing. Give the Lord your complete attention by asking, simply, “Lord, I’m listening. What do you want me to know?”

If you know what I’m talking about, let me know. I’d like to hear about your divine tap on the shoulder.

No Admittance: Coming to Terms with Limits and Failure

No Admittance: Coming to Terms with Limits and Failure

I don’t like admitting failure. No one does.

Failure is especially difficult for those of us who embraced the American myth: “With enough determination and enough desire, you can do anything and become anyone!”

I am a citizen of a nation founded upon this myth, and reared by a generation who lived and preached the myth of no limitations. I was bathed in “can-do,” clothed in “can-do,” and fed to the gills with “can-do.” Failure, according to this myth, is the result of my own unwillingness to claim my birthright or my lack of faith in God, who gave it to me.

Having come to my crossroads moment, I’m beginning to accept the possibility that my successes and failures may have little to do with my character, and everything to do with my identity.

As author, Parker J. Palmer, writes,

Each of us arrives here with a nature, which means both limits and potentials. We can learn as much about our nature by running into our limits as by experiencing our potentials. . . . Our problem as Americans . . . is that we resist the very idea of limits, regarding limits of all sorts as temporary and regrettable impositions on our lives. Our national myth is about the endless defiance of limits: opening the western frontier, breaking the speed of sound, dropping people on the moon . . . We refuse to take no for an answer.[1]

I hate limits. I despise failure. They offend my American sensibilities and they challenge my male identity. Consequently, I have made them my lifelong sworn enemies.

Now, as I stand at a crossroads, I’m beginning to see that limits and failure may have been my allies all along.

It’s not that I didn’t have the smarts to succeed or that I lacked the work ethic. Instead, my failures show me where I did not attempt the right things while my successes reveal where my strengths are best applied.

Limits help me channel my potentials in harmony with my God-given identity as I walk the path He has set before me (Psalm 139:13–16). Failures are the signs that identify limits and keep me from going down dangerous paths that may harm others or myself again.

Coming to terms with my failures will not be easy, but I’m already beginning to experience the peace that comes with admitting limitations.

Enjoying success should be simpler now.

 

 

[1] Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 2000), 41–42.