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Archive for the ‘research’ Category

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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Pew Research Quiz Logo

Pew Research Quiz Logo

There is a lot of conversation in the business world about how to connect with Generation Y, aka the ‘Millennial Generation,’ as they grow and transition from youth into adulthood.

If you are not familiar with the Highlights of this group, here are a few:

  1. Currently largest generation in the USA (yes bigger than Boomers)
  2. More ethnically and racial diverse than most of USA population
  3. Less religious than most of USA population
  4. More educated than most of USA population
  5. Highly technology integrated and multi-taskers (more…)

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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

jeffweese

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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Did you know a tree can add 10% of value to a property?  Or, that trees can help to lower heating and cooling costs to a facility?

trees

Ben.Millet

The answer to both of these questions is “yes, both are true.”

In 2005, Susan Wachter, from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a study entitled, The Determinants of Neighborhood Transformations in Philadelphia.” The study was designed to analyze the economic impact of how planting trees and creating site improvements impacts the value of property values.

Some of the highlights of the study include:

  • The study finds that vacant land improvements result in surrounding housing values increasing by as much as 30%. (more…)

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two kids protesting fracking

Cecily Anderson

Last year when I attended a retreat with National Council of Churches, several of the leaders stayed up one evening to discuss the issues of ‘Fracking.”

The term “Fracking” is shorthand for- Hydraulic Fracturing, and it is a new method used to extract natural gas that is embedded in stone.  Scientist and energy companies discovered, that by drilling into the earth and releasing a mixture of chemicals, acids, and water (a solution that they try to keep hidden) they are able to mine natural gas. (more…)

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A recent study entitled, “Making Money Sacred: How Two Church Cultures Translate Mundane Money into Distinct Sacralized Frames of Giving,  shares two stories about how the act of giving was transformed into a sacred practice.

Church Offering

bsabarnowl

In the study, the researches tracked how members in two different churches participated in the act of giving, as it related to a sacred and spiritual act.  One church was an evangelical Protestant church and the other was a mainline Protestant church.  In both cases, researches found that the act of giving was sacred, however, they also found that they were vastly different in their approaches, motivations and understanding of self- sacrificial giving.

Researches found:

  • In the Evangelical congregation- “the act of giving itself – the giving of God’s money – was sacred; the focus was on the individual and a personal spiritual life”
  • In the Mainline congregation- “what the money did – the difference it made in accomplishing God’s work – was sacred , reflecting a more utilitarian focus on the outcome of giving.

This study and research may not be new for religious leaders to hear, but as I read about this research, I realized that it does have larger implications for the expectations of donors.  As church leaders talk about giving as a spiritual act, they help to define the paradigm of giving.

In the case of the Evangelical congregation, the act of giving is an act of spiritual discipline that comes out of a response of grace and call of duty. In contrast, the act of giving in the Mainline congregation is more about impacting the world, and less about duty.  It follows the more conventional wisdom about giving in America and it sets up a larger expectation about accountability and outcomes.

This is a great study to reflect common practices in American’ congregations, but I would also say that giving is not so segregated into two positions. In most cases, the act of giving, and its motivation, tend to be multi-layered and unique to each person and organization.

For more information about this report, please read the report (use the link above) or visit the Lake Institute’s website, for other reviews and information about giving.

Blog Notes: This study was published by the Oxford Journal: Sociology of Religion and the quotes were take from the Lake Institute’s June newsletter, which is linked above.

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Everyone jokes that churches take a long time to make a decision.  One pastor even called it ‘Glacial.’

But, the real reason that churches often take so much time is because they use a ‘consensus model’ of decision making.

Unlike a business, which takes a quick vote or follows the boss’s lead, churches like to give everyone the chance to speak, discuss, and then work towards a common solution.  This deliberative method is great for helping a group come to a common decision, but it can be slow.

So how should churches consider a project that needs to be timely, like say a building project?

Well, the best option is to have a two-fold approach:

  1. An Input and Sharing Session (more…)

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