14 Apr Hope Academy Discovers 4 Key Relationship Principles During Virtual Visits ~ Guest Post By Jim Stigman
“Face-to-Face Virtual Visits: An Opportunity to Love Donors”
Hope Academy is a unique school. This year, 550 children are receiving a remarkable, God-centered education. Most are from low-income families in Minneapolis, a state that leads the nation in the size of the achievement gap between white and non-white students. We are 90% privately funded, but all families have some financial “skin-in-the-game.”
Our development model is also somewhat unique. In a typical non-profit, .7% of the donors may give 70% or more of the donations*. At Hope, we cultivate relationships with financial “partners” who each sponsor one or more students at $3,000 or more per year, and whose generous support make up over 85% of our total annual contributions. We currently have nearly 400 partners, over 95% recommitting year-over-year, and many who have been with us five or more years.
While the support of our faithful partners is certainly a strength, the current national lockdown provides a challenge for our advancement team, primarily as we seek to love our partners. Face-to-face visits are an obvious no-no. And like the rest of the world, our partners are being impacted in some big ways. Our number one priority is to connect with them, listen well, and pray with them. It is critical that we maintain this contact. Enter virtual visits!
In late February, we started pivoting to virtual visits (Microsoft TEAMS or Zoom, whichever works best for them) and the response has been very well received. During these visits, four key principles guide our development team:
Ministry vs. Manipulation: The calls aren’t designed to “get” something from our partners, but as a way to “give” them something.
Steady vs. Staggering: Hope Academy continues to provide our students and families with frontline support and a remarkable education, albeit remotely.
Hope vs. Harried: We are trying to plan for the coming school year, but we are not ringing our hands. We have hope that He will provide.
Christ vs. Crisis: What an opportunity to point to Jesus!
As we listen, God reveals an opportunity to minister through prayer:
“Please pray for our unsaved children.”
“My husband is dying.”
“I am a surgeon and quarantined from my family after work.”
“There is a 50/50 chance my business won’t survive this.”
“Our daughter’s wedding is cancelled.”
“We can’t visit my 93-year old mother in the nursing home.”
And the list goes on. We purpose to focus on them, often for the entire call. When appropriate, we give a Hope Academy update. We stress that the need for a remarkable, God-centered education for low-income, urban children is greater now than ever; by God’s grace, Hope is positioned for such a time as this; and we are all in this together moving by faith. We close by asking them to keep in touch, to keep us updated on prayer requests, and to let us know about their support when they are able. Many let us know on the spot that they are committed to Hope for the coming year.
As we increase our requests for remote video calls, some prefer a good old-fashioned phone, or to wait until this all blows over to meet for coffee. We pivot accordingly. But most take us up on the virtual visit offer. For now, a new normal. And a wonderful opportunity to support and encourage those who support and encourage us!
A final thought: I have enjoyed a strong working relationship with The Timothy Group over the years. The team was a great help as we launched and completed a $9 million capital campaign. I’m grateful for their wisdom, strategic guidance, personal attention, faith ignition, and good humor. ?