By Dan Mirgon, CFRE
“Well, I think we’re pretty good at . . . “
“That’s not my area. I’ll have the right person call you.”
Over the last twenty years of working with Christian Ministries, I’ve worked hard to help ministry leaders recognize the benefits of great planning – executed well and promoted with style.
Unfortunately, far too many times, I hear statements like the ones above. Why is that?
This month, I’d like to focus on the “three-p’s” of ministry promotion.
We all remember that Planning should breed Preparation which should generate Practice.
In fact, more and more ministries are realizing the benefits of Strategic Planning as a method of evaluating and displaying what God is doing through their ministry.
You often read in this newsletter references to Luke 14:28-30 as encouragement and direction to plan for excellence in how your ministry is lead, managed and funded. You might get the idea that I think Planning is important, and you’d be right.
But planning then implementing – just doesn’t work for most ministries.
This plays itself out as an approved Strategic Plan and Budget being the end of where planning stops and immediate implementation begins.
For some aspects of ministry this is okay. Directly implementing an approved line item into the operations budget or ministry program can most often be done without much forethought.
Not so in the area of Fundraising – particularly when the plan calls for implementing a consistent “Case for Support.” With this critical ministry tool, you’ll need both Preparation and Practice.
As a reminder, the Case for Support is your approved internal document that everyone references when speaking or writing about your ministry. It’s what should be said above everything else.
In fact, if you don’t have the ability to consistently tell your audiences a message that is approved by the organization – your audience immediately experiences a “credibility gap” and begins to wonder whether your ministry is the “excellent model of Christ” you claim it is.
No, we have to do better than that.
What are we preparing for specifically? Several things come to mind.
- What if the economy comes back and your donors return in droves? Are you ready to do new and exciting things or will you go back to business as usual? (Hint: Strategic Plan Update with various scenarios)
- What if the opposite happens and the financial plague continues. How are you preparing to keep your ministry vibrant and exciting? (Same as above)
- What would happen if Bill and Melinda Gates moved into your neighborhood and dropped by for a visit – unannounced? How much panic do you think they would tolerate before politely excusing themselves?
- What do you do if there is a fire or flood, or death of a staff member – how do you handle those things in a way that shows forethought and planning?
Let me suggest some simple methods to get you started.
First, God gave us fertile imaginations. He gave us the ability to “pretend” as a tool in planning ahead. He also gave us the ability to imagine scenarios in our mind and think through the implications of one choice over another.
Go find a tree to sit under with a yellow pad and ask yourself what you would like to see happen in the scenarios listed above, and any others that come to mind. Then go back and start drafting your “Emergency Response Plan” and “Emergency Opportunity Plan” so that you at least know what to work on.
Second, listen to how your staff and co-leaders are explaining what your ministry does. If you are like most ministries – you’ll be surprised to hear many versions. There will be accurate information and outdated information – and sometimes even fantasy. This needs to be fixed immediately.
To do that, you’ll need to pull your Case for Support out and begin outlining what your official language should be. Focus on who you are, what you do, and who benefits from it. Then get your team to practice saying it – in their own words, until each person that speaks for the ministry can deliver the main points from the heart and with conviction.
Being prepared in this way is the only way to deal with surprises and emergencies.
Knowing what you will say if the local news crew shows up and puts a microphone in your face has to be thought out – in advance.