EMAF (Every Man A Fundraiser)

More than twenty-one years ago I married a Kansas State Wildcat, which has made for some fun in-home rivalry, especially before my beloved Texas Aggies joined the SEC. One of the things that I love about the Kansas State Wildcats (they were originally the Kansas State Aggies) is something you’ll see virtually everywhere in & around the college town of Manhattan (AKA, the “little apple”), the expression “EMAW,” which stands for “Every Man a Wildcat.”

It’s a mindset that the university has driven to help galvanize the Wildcat community as a “family,” which is punctuated by a football stadium that honors both the coach that transformed their school into a highly rated and respected football program, and this core value, the Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Many of the most successful ministry organizations have a similar core value that relates to fundraising, because for them, raising funds is never about money, but the heart.

No matter a person’s role, these organizations understand the fundamental principal that everyone is involved in developing ministry partners, which is inexorably linked to fundraising.

I have found that ministries struggling most in the area of fundraising are those that limit the development process to executive, or designated development staff. When organizational boundaries like these are established, overtly or not, there’s little pushback since people are naturally afraid of fundraising

Notably, I have found that many executive directors, executive leaders, and even boards embrace the perspective that they do not need to get involved in fundraising. These are usually the organizations that are continually looking for the fundraising rainmaker who can come in to save the day.

However, without the support of your rank-and-file staff and board, no development effort can reach its full potential.

Partners at every level need to be able to connect with what is actually happening at an organization. Key partners need to be able to meet the senior leadership and talk with the staff running programs. Senior leadership needs to have an understanding of how money comes into their organization and what matters to the key supporters and community members.

While every staff member doesn’t necessarily need be engaged in the process of asking partners for a financial contribution everyone should be prepared to talk about how they contribute the fulfilling the ministry’s mission with any partner that walks through the doors.

So when you expect a visit from a partner, make sure that the staff knows they are coming. Instead of making introductions as they do a walk around in your offices, think about the impression that your partner leaves-with after your staff knows their name and introduces themselves and what they do! Think about how valued they feel when every staff member, from the front desk to your program directors, says something specific about the impact of their partnership to the ministry.

“Your name comes up often when we are working on….”

“It’s great to finally match a face with a name…”

“You’ve been such a faithful partner all of these years…”

“I remember praying for you about…”

“I know that you love [FILL IN THE BLANK] about our ministry…”

“When I heard you were coming in I wanted to be sure you saw…”

Remember, developing partners isn’t about money, but the heart. Don’t overlook your ministry’s most valuable development asset, your staff and board.

Perhaps it’s time to cultivate a new ministry mindset; EMAF (Every Man A Fundraiser)!

The Deafening Silence of Ministry Boards

The Federal government requires all 501(c)[3] organizations be established by at least three directors.  The reason behind the law is to prevent a not-for-profit organization from being controlled by a single individual.

Governance is synonymous with accountability.  It reflects biblical community, where we build up one another by holding one another to a higher standard.  Accountability protects us from ourselves and keeps us from being led astray.

He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom. A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.   –Proverbs 18:1& 2

However, while the government encourages the directors (or the organization’s board) to govern, it is not required.  Ironically, most not-for-profit organizations, especially ministries, end up being controlled by one person.

Most ministry board members serve because they genuinely love the mission, vision, and application of the ministry, not to mention the Kingdom impact.  Additionally, members are often identified and recruited by the ministry’s leader so many join a board to help support, but not govern, the organization.  They can see their primary duty as supporting the leader, rather than governing the organization.

Most ministry boards go through the motions of governance, but in practice they look to the ministry’s leader (often the founder) to both lead and “govern” the organization.  These boards depend on the organization’s leader to set the agenda for board meetings and board chair’s often look to the leader to help inform and direct the discussion at meetings.

Despite their member’s best intentions, when boards abdicate governance to the ministry leader they leave both the leader and the organization vulnerable.  Left unaccountable, leaders make mistakes and are more apt to fall prey to temptation.  Unaccountable leaders exacerbate the perception that ministries are often mismanaged, because they often are.

Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17

Board members should consider that the best way to support the ministry leader, and the organization for which they serve, is to take governance seriously.  It will make you sharper and more effective!

It’s Not Your Mission That’s Holding You Back!

Older ministries that are not meeting their funding goals, or those that experience an outright decline in donor funding, can begin to panic.  They can make desperate decisions, like changing a long-held mission.

The reality is that many ministry organizations would rather change their mission than identify, accept, and then address those internal issues that are the most likely sources of their funding problems.  So they place the blame on their mission and throw away years of mission investment to focus on areas that may seem to have greater funding potential, but in the end become their undoing.

Your mission is worthy because God validates it, not because man funds it.  Your history proves your mission’s value, even if you haven’t had much success in demonstrating that to donors.

Ministry leaders and boards that are currently looking into the abyss of mounting debt and decreased funding and that desire a way back to their golden days of funding, must start by asking the hard questions and be willing to hear the unvarnished answers.  There’s an old saying that goes, “you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge,” and for ministries in decline, that couldn’t be more true.

A great first step is to open opportunities for those who are, or were, closest to the organization to safely communicate their attitudes and perceptions.  Donor’s who have never returned should also be included in this so that the truth about the things that are holding you back can begin to truly set you free!!!