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The Beatles tune written in the 1960’s by Paul McCartney is catchy and profound! In the 3rd stanza it goes, “And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.” Please allow me to shine a bit of light on your Advancement/Stewardship planning with this song as a backdrop.

Of the $335 Billion dollars given last year in America, around ten cents (10) of each dollar given by check or wire transfer was written by a Foundation. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article on Monday 14 April, 2014. The Article titled “Family Foundations Adopt New Mantra: Let’s Spend It All” by Veronica Dagher. A narrative about Family Foundations in America. 24% of those family foundations intend to give all of their assets away during the lifetime of the existing directors.

  If you are involved in non-profit ministry and/or fund-raising for long, you will probably hear the term “elevator pitch.” Are you familiar with it? From Wikipedia, ”an elevator pitch, elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.” (Pincus, Aileen. "The Perfect (Elevator) Pitch".)

So how many leaders in your organization does it take to change a light bulb?  Answer: Change - what do you mean, change?! Change does not come easily for many.  That’s true with individuals and it’s true in the leadership of many nonprofits.  While too much change certainly can do major harm, not enough change can be equally damaging.  We all learn from successes and failures.  Over the years, I’ve encountered both and have learned some lessons.  Allow me to share a few.

When employees arrive for their first day at Apple they are greeted with this inspirational note: "There’s work and there’s your life’s work. The kind of work that has your fingerprints all over it. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end. They want their work to add up to something. Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else. Welcome to Apple."

Have you ever watched a “tag team” event, like a relay race, where teammates take turns engaging in whatever activity is required? Here is another example. As a kid, I remember watching wrestling matches on TV, where two wrestlers would compete against two others. When one member of the “tag team” needed a break, or another “tactic” (or wrestling move) needed to be applied, wrestler 1 would run to the corner of the ring, slap hands with wrestler 2 (his teammate) and the match would continue. Don’t ask me what determined the winner in these tag matches – I am too old to recall that - but it was fun to watch teamwork in action.

If you've been involved in development work for long, you've probably had a situation where you made the “ask” of a donor before he/she was ready. How did you know they weren’t ready? A couple ways, probably – either he/she was offended, said “no” or gave a significantly smaller amount than you hoped for. No worries, we have all been there a time or two. Maybe a better question is - how would you know (for next time)? The relationship between a donor, the development staff person or volunteer assigned to him/her and the institution in need of support is a tricky one. There are guidelines of when a donor is ultimately “ready” for solicitation, but no hard, fast rules. Every donor, every organization and every campaign is different.

I recently read an article written by Jim Mathis and produced by the Christian Businessmen’s Committee. In his introduction, he stated:  When I was about 12 years old, my father took me to a hardware store to buy my first set of real tools. Among the first items I acquired were needle-nose pliers. They came with a lecture from my dad that he had already given me many times about the importance of having good tools, knowing how to use them, and taking care of them. He always concluded with the admonition, “Take care of your tools and they will take care of you."

I have never once caused it to rain in my nearly 34 years in our Stewardship Practice here at TTG. I know who sends the rain and it is not me. However I do know what to do with the rain once God sends it. I have been in the irrigation business all these years. I also admit to an occasional attempt at “Cloud Seeding - yes, trying to help God out a bit! Nice segue to my BHAQ-(Big Harry Audacious Question) “BHAQ QUESTION”-DOES GOD REALLY NEED US TO ACCOMPLISH HIS TASKS HERE ON EARTH?

Frustrated with not hitting your stride in your advancement work? Wondering how to kick-start an action plan that leads to increased productivity and results? Asking some candid questions may be very helpful. But rather than ask the standard assessment tool questions that often appear on evaluations, consider asking some more penetrating questions. While working with a client recently, I was asked to do a performance evaluation of each person on the advancement team. I pulled up each person’s position description and asked them to answer five key questions. Their responses were submitted in brief written form prior to our meeting and they became a great springboard for discussion and action plans.