Posted by: ritagone | June 3, 2015

What Next? We Choose Change!



Sea change         The definition of the term “sea change” (which for decades I thought was “seed change” until I saw it in print and realized my mistake!) is this: “a profound or notable transformation.”

In last week’s post I mentioned that I and many others who have interests and positions in the non-profit world are witnessing a sea change of fairly subtle proportions right now but which promises to be a deluge of transformation in the near future: the way these organizations and ministries are funded. In decades past, the model was simple: I or someone else in my organization talks to you – the donor – about our work, our mission, our purpose, with a view to helping you catch the vision for what we’re doing. If you like what you see and hear, you commit to making a regular donation, monthly, for the most part, either for the work in general or designated to a specific worker in the organization, a regular donation that we hope and pray will last for your lifetime.

This has been the pattern, as I said, for many, many decades. While attending the CLA leadership conference in Dallas a few months ago that I mentioned in last week’s blog and going to a workshop on the changing face of donors and donations for non-profits, one of the speakers quoted what was for me the most significant take-away of the entire conference. Last year, 2014, one of the largest donor-based non-profit ministries in the U.S. reported that 50,000 of their donors had passed away! Died. And along with their deaths, so went their donations. And the scary part of these stats is that there are not 50,000 new donors to take their place. So while this ministry has thousands upon thousands of donors in their database, any organization – I don’t care how big it is – cannot tolerate for long the loss of such a large number of contributors every successive year.

And therein lies the problem: the younger generation gives very differently than the older. They – commonly known as Millenials and Gen X’s — are not content to send in a check for $50 to their favorite charity for years and years and decades without interruption. They want more involvement, more insertion into what their favorite charities or causes are doing. That’s not a bad thing. But it certainly is different.

The organization which I serve as Board Chair (Christian Associates International) decided a few years ago that we needed to change the paradigm for how we are funded. Of course we still accept and value regular donations from our donor base, and we are always willing and able to share with anyone who wants to hear what we believe God is doing in and through us and our staff! There will always be room and blessings for those who continue to write checks or donate online, whether it’s to the general fund or to specific staff serving in various parts of the world.

But more and more we are looking at what we call “sustainable business enterprises,” some of which are also missional in nature and some which are not, but we’re emphasizing the former as much as we can. We have prayerfully researched and done our due diligence to try to find opportunities that will enable us to bring an income stream to our general fund without constantly asking donations from our amazingly generous donor base.

This is not an easy accomplishment. It takes manpower and energy and a focus partially away from the mission of the organization to set something in motion that will enable us to be more self-sustaining in the future. But we’re confident that the end result will more than compensate for the hard work that has gone into the ideas that we’re trying to germinate.

Let me share a few of them with you, just in case you’re contemplating such an endeavor or sea change in your own ministry, or just because these are interesting projects:

We have a brokerage account funded by donations in which one person in leadership who is adept in this arena buys/sells stocks and ETFs which provide a dividend stream to the general fund. Since its inception in July of last year, over $7,000 in dividends have benefited our general fund, which we call Kingdom Advancement. We’re hoping that as this fund grows, more people in our donor base will understand that whatever donation they make to this account will act as an endowment to CA, paying dividends for months and years to come out of that single gift. It’s not a missional endeavor, for sure, as it involves one person sitting in front of his/her computer, but, on the other hand, it requires very little attention or energy to maintain.

A big project that we’re investigating is co-working space, a phenomenon that is rapidly becoming popular both in the U.S. and Europe, where people can rent office space within space that we as CA have rented first. In other words, we sub-let various sizes and manifestations of office space to people or organizations, also forming a community and enabling us to be missional at the same time as we’re collecting rents.

We have other ideas for generating income, and we’re excited about where God is taking us in this venture. We talked and prayed together and decided many months ago that we didn’t want to be the frog in the pan of water which isn’t aware of the boiling liquid until it’s too late. I find this a thrilling way to do ministry while at the same time being able to flex our entrepreneurial muscles.

Seth Godin, writer, blogger and business consultant, wrote: “First principles. The quest for growth, or for change, or for justice. The ability, perhaps the desire, to seek out things that feel risky. All of us are part of organizations that were started by outliers, by radicals, by people who cared more about making a difference than fitting in.” That’s certainly true of CA, and I feel we are honoring that history by being bold and adventuresome about seeking new ways to generate income.

I will share with you readers further developments in these projects and others as they form and take better shape. In the meantime, keep praying and asking God for guidance in these matters for your own life and ministry.

You might be surprised and excited by His answers.



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