Show your Impact, Demonstrate your Footprint

The impact of your church’s ministries can inspire generosity, but only if you help people see the lives that are changed.

Kevin Lee of Vanco Payments recently encouraged churches to communicate the impact of their ministries: Use the 80/20 Rule to Be a More Effective Church Steward
Kevin promotes online giving for churches. First of all, as the CEO of a payment processor, it’s his job! What’s great about Kevin, though, is that he offers sound advice about communicating the impact of your church’s mission and vision while doing his main job.
“Non-religious nonprofits are able to put a message with a value proposition to the donor very succinctly: For every $10 donated, three children will get books and school supplies. That’s easy to understand.”

But how do churches demonstrate their impact?

Fundraising guru Jerold Panas reminds us that people will support a cause if it has a “mission that changes lives.” To that I would add: the mission must be one that aligns with a particular donor’s values.
Kevin agrees, and has this suggestion:

You just take for granted all the good you’re doing! For example:
* Last year 150 children went to Vacation Bible School
* 50 couples went through pre-marriage counseling
* More than 100 families in our community used our food pantry
* 200 teens are using our youth program
* Together we helped support three mission trips

Yes! Right on track. Articulating the impact and footprint of your church’s ministry will help inspire generosity and giving of time, talent, and treasure.

Compassion or Anger?

I’m challenged also by the thoughts of Ken Burnett. In a recent blog, Ken asks: Which works better? Compassion or anger?
Ken describes an animal welfare organization that sent an appeal to its regular donors. Instead of a warm appeal featuring animals, they featured anger and injustice regarding animal treatment. What was the result?

Income doubled immediately. It has stayed at the higher level ever since.

We should take Ken Burnett’s insights seriously. In 1992 (25 years ago!) he wrote Relationship Fundraising. All of today’s best fundraising is based on Ken’s book. In addition, he founded three of the most influential fundraising consulting firms in the world, and has helped thousands of non-profit organizations raise billions of dollars.
When Ken says “the difference between anger and compassion is huge,” we should listen.
But, in the church, can we utilize anger to inspire generosity in our churches? More conservative and fundamentalist strains of Christianity have no problem using anger: the world is evil, even some people are evil, the devil is certainly evil, and we are in spiritual warfare. This can be very motivating.

But is the mainline church angry?

Maybe not. And the key might not be anger anyway. As Ken writes,
“… the [animal welfare] organisation should communicate as an ‘anti-human-cruelty’ organisation rather than a ‘save-the-cute-animal’ organisation. A fundamentally different way of saying the same thing.”
So let’s take Kevin’s advice (remember “150 children went to Vacation Bible School”) and say the same thing in a different way. Is there a flip-side to Vacation Bible School? What would it mean if those kids couldn’t attend? What would they miss out on? Biblical literacy? The support and nurture of a loving church?
Conveniently for us, every positive statement (“50 couples went through pre-marriage counseling”) has its own corresponding negative fact (“more than half of all marriages end in divorce”). So Jerold Panas urges this: “a mission that changes lives.” The question is from what, to what?

  • From hunger, to being fed.
  • From despair, to hope.
  • From loneliness, to community.
  • From greed, to generosity.
  • From addiction, to health.
  • From debt, to financial freedom.
  • From apathy, to passion.

To sum up, speak to your impact. Demonstrate the footprint of your ministry. In this way, answer the most important question: if we weren’t here, what would our members and our community be lacking?