Today I attended a workshop sponsored by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. ?It was entitled "Nonprofit Sustainability: Understanding and Changing Your Business Strategy" with speaker/leader/consultant Jan Masaoka. I was there on behalf of MACC Charities and the workshop could not have been more helpful, timely or challenging for us at MACC. ?It was filled with actionable next steps and helpful tools for all non-profits.
Mixed in were a number gems speaking to leadership issues in non-profits. ?As I was listening and taking notes, I kept thinking how much many of these principals apply to churches and church leaders.
Here are a few the gems… more to come in future posts.
1. STOP GROWING, START PREVAILING.
Inevitably, when people ask how your organization is doing, we say things like "great… we're growing!" ?Growth has become the only metric people care about. ?This is true in the church world to. But growth is only one metric and it is not necessarily the best. ?Instead of having goals to grow, we should focus on our organizations (or churches) prevailing. ?What does this mean? ?It can mean different things in different organizations — in fact, it is important for each organization to define what it means to prevail, to win. ?It main mean growth, but sometimes it could actually mean becoming leaner and meaner. ?Or focusing on depth. Or reducing staff to increase volunteers. We need to get beyond the tyranny of growth — bigger budgets, bigger staffs, bigger buildings are not inherently good things.
2. YOU'VE GOT TO KNOW WHETHER YOU ARE TARGET OR WILLIAMS & SONOMA.
Every organization needs to know its brand, its focus, its strategy. ?Target and Williams & Sonoma are both very successful businesses. ?But also very different. ?Target is located in easy to find locations with lots of easy parking, focuses on the upscale-value market, and advertises through newspaper circulars. ?At Target, you can by a stylish?colander?for $2.87. Williams & Sonoma, on the other hand, is often located in upscale shopping centers or main streets (where parking is tough), is focused on the upscale-luxury market, and advertises by sending high-end 4-color catalogs to affluent zip codes. ?At Williams & Sonoma, you can buy a stylish colander for $87.00. ?There is nothing wrong with either strategy — but if Target tried to sell a colander for $87, people would laugh at them; and no one would want a Williams & Sonoma colander for $3 bucks. ?Know your brand. Know your audience. Know your strategy. And stick to it.
3. STARS, STOPS, HEARTS & MONEY TREES.
Every program (or ministry) has both a mission impact and a financial impact. ?Mission impact can range from low impact to high impact and financial impact runs from huge losses to break even to brings in money/resources. ?You can think of this in four categories (or quadrants): High Impact, High Profit (STARS); High Impact, Low Profit (HEARTS); Low Impact, Low Profit (STOPS); Low Impact, High Profit (MONEY TREES). ?You need to STOP the STOPS and have a sustainable and balanced portfolio of HEARTS, STARS & TREES.
At our next board meeting for MACC, we are going to do an?exercise?that looks at every one of our programs and where it falls in the Mission/Finance Matrix. ?We are going to do the same with our staff. ?It will be interesting to see if there is?alignment?or not.
It seems to me that churches would benefit from this kind of analysis of programs and ministries. ?It can really help in budgeting, strategy and decision-making.
Ideally, here is what you want to do:
- Give Away or Stop Doing the STOPS.
- Invest in your MONEY TREES while also trying to increase the impact of them.
- Continue your HEARTS, but contain the costs.
- Nurture and grow your STARS.
Here are some examples from my last church of each category and how we might have strategized given this paradigm:
- Campus Ministry & Outreach. ?Our campus ministry to the local college was a HEART. ?Core to our mission, very expensive, and would never be profitable. ?Some people said we should drop it because it cost too much (without any return); others made it such a "sacred cow" that if you even raised the question, you were labeled "anti-college student". the reality is that campus ministry was a significant reason why the church started and it was core to our heart/passion/mission. ?It would never pay for itself. ?But as a HEART, we needed to continue the ministry, while containing costs.
- Great Weekend Services. ?We were known for having some of the best, most dynamic, most creative and interesting Weekend Services of any church around. This had little to do with me and everything to do with an unbelievably great creative team, teaching team and worship team. ?Our teaching/preaching, worship, creative arts, liturgy, etc, were a real draw to people. ?Weekend Services were high impact (conversions, life change, next steps) and high profit (new people came, giving went up, etc.) ?This was a STAR for us. ?The smart thing to do was to nurture and grow that ministry. ?Often the mistake made it to let these types of programs and ministries to just continue doing what they are doing while we focus on some weak spots; we need to invest in and build upon strength. ?Don't ignore your strengths.
- Midweek Service. ?When we started, we had a great mid-week service. ?It also included a weekly dinner. ?It was expensive, time-consuming and labor-intensive. ?In the beginning it was also high impact. ?But as we grew and started small groups and more support ministries, a smaller and smaller percentage of people came to the midweek service. ?Eventually the midweek service became low impact, low profitability (actually, it cost a lot!). ?It became a STOP. ?In some organizations, the temptation would be to try and reinvent the program or ministry, try to?resuscitate?it. ?But we actually needed to STOP it. (and we did!)
- A MONEY TREE from a previous ministry (not the church) was an annual Art Auction & Wine Tasting. ?We raised a fair amount of money at the event, but it wasn't very effective at sharing the vision of the organization, etc. ?High profit, low impact. ?Over the years, we tried to increase the impact while maintaining the profit. ?Fundraising events often fall into this category.
4. RESOURCE SCARCITY.
The scarcest and most valuable resource in any organization is the time and energy of the senior executives or staff. In a church, this is true about the lead pastor and senior staff. ?Figuring out where these folks should invest their time and energy is key to organizational success. ?All we can control as an organization is where we spend money, where we invest our time, and where we focus our attention. ?How we do these things is critical since all three (money, time, focus) are scarce resources.
5. COMMUNITY SUPPORT.
We can only do what our community supports us to do. ?Almost by definition, those of us in the non-profit world (and ministry world) are optimistic?visionaries. We dream of changing people's lives, transforming communities, launching movements and reforming systems. But the truth is that we can only do that which the community we serve empowers us to do through their support (time and money).?
Here is a very practical example: I was involved with a great community-based non-denominational youth ministry for many years. (I was the local executive director). ?We were successful and fruitful. ?We were reaching 100's of teenagers in ways that no other organizations or churches were. ?It was fruitful, impactful, and for many life-changing. ?I am still in contact with (and friends with) many people whose lives were touched and transformed by this ministry. ?Many are in full t
ime ministry themselves today and/or are following Jesus in significant ways. ?But at the end of the day, the community simply wasn't willing to fund this ministry and program. ?And after 6 years, the ministry closed. ?During that time we had very talented staff, some of the most passionate and committed volunteer leaders you would find anywhere, and a great core group of parents committed to making it happen. ?But there was never broad community support for the program and therefore it was never going to be sustainable. ?This was a hard lesson to learn — but a really important one to learn as well. ?
6. FOCUS ON CONSTITUENCY.
Related to the above… we need to change the questions we ask. ?Instead of asking "what kind of leader do I want to be?", we should ask "what kind of leader do our constituents need me to be?" ?This is radical shift… and an essential one. ?The same is true of board members. ?Not, "what kind of board member do I want to be?" but rather "what kind of board member does this organization need me to be?"
Those are some of the gems I walked away with… any THOUGHTS or INSIGHTS?