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Archive for the ‘administration’ Category

arm wresting competition

Soggydan

When most businesses think about their competition, they often identify businesses that offer similar products and services.

For example: HP thinks about Dell. American Airlines thinks about United Airlines. In essence, their competition is defined as those other businesses that compete for the same market share.

In a recent blog post, Shaun King highlighted that while this trend is true in business, it is not true for churches and nonprofits. In his post, “The MAJOR Disadvantage (& ugliness) of Non-Profits & Churches Misunderstanding Who Their Competition Is,” Shaun highlights that other nonprofits and churches are not in competition with each other.  He argues, instead, that the real competition is the factors that cause the problems.

For example:

  • If you are trying to fight hunger, the competition is poverty and access to food.
  • If you are trying to fight slavery, the competition is slave traders
  • If you are trying to fight drug crime, the competition is drug dealers

Unlike businesses, churches or nonprofits don’t compete against each other. Instead, they offer each other a partner for mission and work.

I really appreciated Shaun’s post and I would encourage other leaders to give it a read and to share it with their leaders in their organization. After all, operating a church is about changing lives, not fighting with other people who have the same goal.

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five

svenwerk

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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Programmable Wifi Thermostats

The Nest

When most of us think about a HV/AC system, we usually picture an older furnace- rarely would we picture a sleek thermostat that connects to a wifI system. However, this seems to be the future of energy controls for commercial and residential buildings.

Since 2008, manufacturers have offered thermostats that can connect to a wifi system, thus allowing control and access to the system via the internet. This has been a great upgrade, but until now many of the programmable thermostats have been confusing to use. In fact, the US Dept of Energy realized that most people who purchased programmable thermostats, actually used more energy than before, because they were too complicated to use.

So in an effort to make programmable thermostats more user friendly, several companies have begun to create systems that can be controlled by a computer using a program like Microsoft Outlook set set room temperatures.  Other companies, have also begun to make intuitive thermostats that create a pattern of use based on how you adjust the temperature over a period of a few weeks.

With heating and cooling systems accounting for 16% of the electricity in the USA, and more than half of the energy consumed in a house, HV/AC systems will continue to be a focus for utility companies as they try to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the United States. This trend will likely also become a focus of more and more churches, facility managers, and home owners as the cost of energy continues to rise.

After all, the less money that people and organizations are forced to pay for utilities, operations, and energy, the more money they have to support the mission and programs that they value. For more information about changing HV/AC systems, please read the following articles:

Blog notes: Several of the stats given in this blog were pulled from these  two articles. The picture above comes from several sources and is provided by the company and can be found on their website- http://www.nest.com

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group of people

laubarnes

If you follow trends in fundraising (most people don’t), then you may remember that America saw a shift in how organizations approach small donors during the 2008 election campaign.

Prior to 2008, most organizations had mainly focused on reaching major donors- and many still do. However, in 2008, there was a major shift in how organizations began to reach out to donors who made many small and medium sized gifts.  The two reasons being:

  1. Most potential major donors have already been targeted
  2. Technology has allowed better access and communication via email, internet, and mobile communciation

Together these two shifts have allowed more and more organizations to expand their base, and thus, improve the stability and size of their fundraising work. But when we look at this trend, however, we see that it has largely been adopted by larger nonprofit organizations, and not small nonprofits or churches.

So beyond the shift, what is the big deal as it relates to fundraising for churches?

Well the main reason is that churches have often been the envy of other nonprofit organizations, for the following reasons:

  • Churches usually have a loyal base that donates weekly, monthly, etc
  • Churches make a regular ask each week, most nonprofits only get 3-5 a year
  • Religious people tend donate 3 times more than non-religious people
  • Religion accounts for the largest segment of fundraising each year
  • People who attend church are usually versed in donating habits and believe in serving other

So with the shift of other nonprofits into expanding their base of small and middle donors… churches, and other small nonprofits, will now be competing more and more for the same donors and money. This competition will not really matter for donors who are over the age of 60 and who physically give in the offering plate each week. But it will matter for donors under the age of 60, who now want more and more access to online giving and better transparency of how their gifts are used.

Thus, if you are a church leader, I would strongly encourage you to work with your financial leadership team to start reviewing how members and participates are currently donating to your church, and how you can make donating more accessible via electronic transfers and online giving. By being aware of people’s financial habits, churches can better offer ways for members to support the mission, ministry, and operations of the church.

For more information about this trend, check out a recent article in the WSJ entitled, “Strength in Numbers

 

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If you have read the book Freakonomics, or listened to Marketplace on NPR, then you probably are familiar with Stephen J. Dubner’s use of statistics to explain common behaviors in economics and society.

As a stats junkie myself, I love their work, and on Tuesday’s Marketplace radio program- Dubner reported on some truths and myths about fundraising (to listen to the program, click the NPR link above). Dubner’s report included an interview with John List, who is a professor at the Univ of Chicago. Professor List studies the economics of charities

So here is a taste from the interview:

  • Seed Money helps– The more seed money that you have induces more people to give, and those people tend to give more money.
  • Matching Gifts– only work up to a 1-1 match.  People will not usually give more than the original match amount (this is contrary to most expert advice)
  • Raffles are a Big Deal– Research shows that by offering someone a prize will increase their gift by almost 100%
  • One & Done- This is new, but it gives control to the donor. Donors who are offered the “give us one gift and you can tell use never to contact you again” option, tend to give more money and more often. Few actually choose to not be contacted again.
  • Guilt Pleas Don’t Work– You may get a 1 time gift from guilt or shame tactics, but in the long run you are only burning bridges.

As you think about how to raise money for your organization and its operations, I would encourage you to consider this information. Take a moment to think about how you raise money for your annual fundraising, and take a second to listen to the full interview.

Blog Notes- the above bullets are paraphrases from the interview found in the Freakonomics & Marketplace Report for Nov. 29, 2011.

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Picture of Twitter Bird

some_communication

Last week I was interviewed by MSNBC for an article about how churches are using social media (read it here). As I prepped for the article, I created a list of reasons why churches should consider using Social Media (SM).

5 Reasons to Consider Using Social Media for Your Church:

  1. Local Context– Unlike most communication mediums, SM is grassroots based- meaning it provides a powerful way to reach out to people in your specific community.
  2. Be Present in the Conversation about You– People discuss all kinds of issues on SM- including their church. In order to be part of conversation, you need to be present. This is especially key when communicating about brand, major events, or in times of a crisis.
  3. Reach Gen X and Millenials– Younger generations are skeptical about institutional church- SM offers a way to engage with them, whereas they would be hesitant walk into a church building.
  4. Connect with People not Present– SM offers tools to connect with people who are unable to be physically present- traveling, hospital, shut-ins, etc. With SM they can participate live or by watching/engaging with an event later.
  5. Facilitate Conversation– more than just telling people about your church and its ministry, SM provides a place for a larger conversation where everyone has a voice- providing more transparency and accountability for organizations.

If you want to consider how Social Media can improve the operations and ministry of your church, I would also encourage you to follow Rev. Courtney Richards on facebook or twitter (@c_rev) – links are for her pages.

Courtney is a minister at Geist Christian Church in Indianapolis (facebook link), and when I asked her about SM, she said, “I use SM all the time to keep us with members and with what is going on in the community. It has been great way to reach out to people and to offer either a word of support or to give someone a shout out for their hard work.”

If you are considering using Social Media, feel free to read a number of blogs that I have posted here, and to also find someone in your local community who can assist you. You can begin by just listening and observing first, and then jump in as you feel ready.

Blog Notes: Special thanks to Courtney Richards for the quote and letting me share her online twitter profile.

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White Chapel

photo: edgeplot

Unlike most commercial businesses, which have a common standard by which to rate their financial operations and health, churches struggle to identify healthy financial norms.

Part of the reason for this struggle has to do with the following reasons:

  • Churches are faith based organizations
  • Church are contextual
  • Churches are organized by mixed polity (denomination or independent)
  • Churches are exempt from many IRS and government reporting requirements
  • Churches vary in size, financial support, and ministry
  • Churches don’t usually follow GAAP (General Accepted Accounting Principles)
  • Churches are run by volunteers

However, while all of these factors cause incongruity, there are a number of common ratios and principles that many churches share related to income, expense, debt, membership and worship attendance. I have highlighted a few of these in some of my earlier posts (please see: Financial Rules: Ministry Distribution), but another resource is a new financial database that was created by Capin and Crouse, CPA. (more…)

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