Archive for the ‘action plan’ Category



Each year IBM makes 5 major predictions about what new 5 technological innovations will impact our lives in the next 5 years. They call it their 5 for 5 list.

Here are the top 5:

  1. Energy: People power will come to life– normal activities will soon be converted into energy to power our houses, work, and lives.
  2. Security: You will never need a password again– think biometrics and unique identification based your physical attributes
  3. Mind reading: no longer science fiction– linking of phones, computers, and the web to your personal preferences and body actions
  4. Mobile: The digital divide will cease to exist– mobile devices are making access to information and technology universal
  5. Analytics: Junk mail will become priority mail– via analytics, technology will begin to filter the information you prefer to your inbox

Obviously these shifts will impact our lives, how we communicate, and our culture…aka every aspect of our lives. As you consider how to position your nonprofit to serve others, these advances will also impact the mission work of our world.

I encourage you to read the full story on the IBM Website

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Yesterday, I talked about how technology can bridge the accountability gap that separates donors from beneficiaries, and in the post I shared that I would write 3 blogs showing how such examples can be used. This is the first of three posts.

Have you ever experienced listening to a member of  a church, or nonprofit organization, who can’t clearly articulate the mission or the impact of the organization?

Maybe the experience came as a friend asked you to donate money to support a charity. Or maybe, it happened when someone invited you to church, or as a friend described why they volunteers their time.

In many cases, these experiences are awkward attempts to tell the story of an organization. However, because most of these stories are told by volunteers or members, they often miss the true power of sharing the core mission and impact of an organization.

Given this experience, many organizations are now turning to technology to help them to:

  1. Tell the Story- Using their own words and images (pictures, blogs, videos, etc) (more…)

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balance beam of resources

Balancing Resources

Every organization has two types of resources- Financial and Human Capital.

Now most of us could define that financial capital refers to money and other tangible assets (buildings, furniture, or automobiles), and that human capital refers to people. However, as simple as these two definitions are, most nonprofit organizations and churches suffer from not balancing both of these resources.

In most cases, this diagram would be tilted up or down, meaning that an organization would be overusing (or underusing) one of these two sources.

For example, and organization that lives in fear of having enough money to cover its expenses, most likely is overusing its financial capital to measure its ability to perform a task.  Forgetting that there may be multiple resources that it could draw upon from it human capital to provide that same service or task.

Similarly, an organization that focuses purely on analyzing it volunteer or stakeholder base, often will forget to really evaluate how to best leverage its financial resources to support its human capital.

In order to strike a balance, organizations need to take time to analyze the full potential of all of its resources by taking the following steps: (more…)

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Football Coach


It is funny how most of us grow up being coached in sports (soccer, tennis, football, basketball, etc.), but never think about how personal coaches can improve our work performance.

For the past five years, I have observed how coaches have made an impact in (more…)

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When you listen to the national news the biggest stories have been the economy and the lack of jobs for Americans. Some headlines list that the national unemployment rate is 8.2%, while others talk about the stock market and sales numbers.

Rev. George MacLeod

As I was listening to a similar report this past weekend, I stopped to reflect about how local churches can offer assistance or help to people who are struggling to find work. In my thoughts, I remembered reading a story about a pastor in Scotland who was named George MacLeod.

Rev. MacLeod was best known for founding the Iona Community in Scotland, but before this time, he was  a pastor at the Old Govan Parish Church in Glasgow.  He served there during the 1930’s (Great Depression), as the Glasgow ship building industry started to decline, and he was struck by the amount of poverty around him.

As a pastor, he decided that it was time for his church to make a difference in his community, and with other church and civic leaders,   Rev. MacLeod developed several work programs. (more…)

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In the past 5 years, I have heard hundreds of church leaders talk about “the need to change,” but rarely do they offer a process or method to institute change.  Rather, to be serious about shifting an organization, leaders need to help their church take action by creating solutions and steps to achieve change.

Poster of the word Change


Last year I attended a social organizing meeting here in Indianapolis, that was sponsored by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.  The goal of the meeting was to encourage local neighborhood leaders to enact change in their community, and specifically to help plant more trees in neighborhoods.

In the presentation, I was struck as the leader talked about leading an organization, or a community, to enact change through a 3 step process.

The first step, she said, was that you had to Challenge the status quo, by identifying the problem and showing stats or information that leads people to share the same perspective. In a church, this may be the need to update the worship style, renovate the nursery, or create new programing or small groups.

Second, leaders then need to address the Culture of the organization, which creates the problem and/or prevents change from occurring. In a church, this may be the need to change the leadership structure, identify other leaders, or create ways to develop future church leaders and how decisions are made.

Third, leaders need to build consensus and achieve Commitment from the organization to support the change that is taking place.  In a church, this may be the commitment of members to support a new ministry, even though it may take months or a year to fully develop.


Change is certainly hard in any situation, but I think the speaker was right to identify the need to also address the culture of an organization and receive a commitment from members. Otherwise, it is easy to find prevent change, lay blame, or revert back to former practices.

Change happens everyday, and it is great that more and more churches are beginning to identify the need to adapt.  I hope this frame of reference is helpful, and if you are a church leader, I encourage you to step back from the single issue you are trying to change, in order to see the larger steps that you need to take.  By Challenging, addressing Culture, and creating Commitment, you will help your church to really move beyond talking about change.

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For the past two  months, my colleagues and I have been discussing the issue of personal finance as it relates to philanthropy and giving in churches.


The main topic of our conversation has centered on this premise, “If Americans have little financial education, how can churches expect to run effective stewardship campaigns to fund their ministries.

Modern trends have shown that American’s have little understanding of personal finance, and even less knowledge about basic economic principles.

Recently, this evidence was highlighted by the Freakonomic’s Blog, which shared:

  • The majority of Americans do not plan for predictable events such as retirement or children’s college education. Most importantly, people do not make provisions for unexpected events and emergencies, leaving themselves and the economy exposed to shocks.
  • Moreover, more than one in five Americans has used alternative (and often costly) borrowing methods (payday loans, advances on tax refunds, pawn shops, etc.) in the past five years. (more…)

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On Sunday I read an article in the NYT that struck me, because it connected the two issues of ‘Climate Change‘ and ‘Food Productivity.’

The article is entitled, “Extreme Weather Helps Drive Up Food Prices,” by Elisabeth Rosenthal, and it highlights how extreme weather conditions over the past year have lead to higher food and grain prices.

The article begins by sharing that the Food Price Index has hit a record high, 214, compared to its history since it was established by the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization in 1990.

For example, here are a list of major events that have hurt food production:

  • Russian wheat crops destroyed by drought and high summer temperatures
  • Pakistan’s flooding wiping out crop production
  • Laos and Cambodia- low crop yields due to a lack of rain
  • Australian drought, lack of rain, and then flooding
  • United States early flooding in 2011- lack of early planting and spring harvest

Beyond just the statistics and science of this conversation, this article highlights the compounding issues of food security, global development, food production, and environmental stewardship.  Each one of these issues is a problem in itself, but combined these issues multiply the effect and impact.

As faith communities, and local churches in the USA, we often do not consider these issues, unless we live or work in a community that is directly impacted by something like the current floods in the midwest (more…)

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Finding financial measures for church finance is never easy.  In many ways, churches are the poster child for the difficulty of measuring and evaluating the fiscal health and performance of nonprofit organizations.


Churches vary in a multitude of factors including size, theology, membership, ministry context, economic wealth, and financial management.

Like many nonprofits, churches operate via the generosity and work of volunteers, who donate goods and services…which creates a huge variance in outputs and results.

For example, how do you compare the financial work and impact of a small congregation, made up youth, who serves as a faith community to teach inner-city children in Memphis to a mega church congregation whose focus is to serve as church in suburban California.

However, one statistic that many financial institutions use to evaluate churches is called a “Giving Unit.”

Now unless you have tried to finance a commercial loan as a church leader, this probably is a new term. So what is a “Giving Unit?”

A Giving Unit is defined as a person or family that contributes (more…)

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Photo: Brook Raymond

Over the past 6 months I have met with several congregations that are really struggling to determine, “What should we do with our building?”

Often these churches are facing a number of issues related to:

  • Differed maintenance
  • In-accessible space
  • Aging facilities (unusable space)
  • Building that is too large for the current size of the congregation
  • Rising maintenance costs
  • Health and safety issues

In every case my first question is, “Well, what is your ministry?” because, just like a business that designs it facility to serve its customers, church facilities should reflect the ministry of a church (After all, a Fedex distribution center is designed differently than a local McDonald’s. So why should a church that serves youth, have a facility designed to serve senior citizens?)

Thus, in order to make any decision about what to do with their facility, churches need to first analyze the following:

  • What is our current and future ministry?
  • How does our facility assist or prevent this ministry? (more…)

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