Creating a Healthy Fundraising Culture (Part 1)

February 4, 2016

 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”                                                                                                I Corinthians 3:6-9

Just last month, we set out as a team to achieve an audacious, God-sized goal. We want to raise $8.5 million in commitments this year to fund the next three years of expansion. In the first month, we received the three largest pledges in our organization’s history. These extraordinary acts of generosity came from donors who have been giving for more than 5 years. Conventional wisdom says that people begin to experience donor fatigue and lose interest at that 5-year mark, but we have seen the opposite. We give all credit to God’s provision and the obedience of these faithful stewards, but I also believe that we have created a culture that cultivates this type of generosity.

Our team is currently reading a book called The Sower. One of the core ideas in the book can be summarized in the verse above. It asserts that our job in fundraising is to help encourage and challenge people along the journey of stewardship and generosity. It is expressed in the book that typically, development staff are expected to plant, water, and make things grow. This is the wrong way of thinking about development, though- if we do our role of planting and watering seeds, we must trust God to bring the harvest.

My team gets tired of hearing me talk about tensions... tensions are one of the truths that I observe in all aspects of my life and leadership, and the tensions that exist in fundraising are very evident- they will not be resolved and they require constant management. In light of these tensions, this book has caused me to take hard look at what kind of culture we want to create at CARE for AIDS. We need to measure and celebrate the right activities, so they will be repeated. Thinking through these principles, there are three specific tensions that come to mind: 

Activities vs. Outcomes – If we believe what it says in Corinthians, then we find that measuring people’s fundraising activities is more beneficial than measuring people’s fundraising results. It produces the right actions that will ultimately bear fruit. However, most stakeholders, internally and externally, care about the outcome of dollars raised. If we are not careful, pushing too hard on dollars raised creates incentives to compete internally, ask donors for too much too soon, and give undue attention to people with the greatest capacity. All of this erodes the organization’s culture, donors’ trust, and ultimately, the nonprofit’s reputation.

Compete vs. Co-Labor: Our organization strives for excellence in everything we do. We want to cast a compelling vision, host excellent events, invest intentionally in our donors, and be efficient and transparent in all matters. In doing so, I believe we are competing against other organizations that are also trying to accomplish worthy missions. However, we also have a core value that says we want to “help others win.” We have a deeply held abundance mentality, while many organizations operate from a scarcity mindset. We know God can and will provide the resource we need to accomplish the mission He has given us. This allows us to be very open handed with our donors and resources. If we can connect a donor with another ministry that better aligns with his or her passions, we always try to do so. If we can help people find a ministry that will unlock more generosity, we feel that we have created a net benefit for the Kingdom.

Capacity vs. Generosity vs. Affinity: These are just a few words to describe ways one can qualify prospects and assign priority to donors. There is so much that can be said on this topic, but it creates enormous tension trying to decide where to spend your limited time and resources. Do you focus only on people who have high capacity? How do you show appropriate honor to those small donors giving sacrificially? What if someone has a high affinity for your work but no capacity? If given the chance, could they offer something of value beyond a monetary gift?

So, all of these tensions lead to the question, “How do you create a culture that produces the right kinds of behavior that ultimately produce results?” Many have said, “What gets measured gets done.” So, one of my challenges is to determine what to measure that will provide the proper incentives to our team. Next week I will outline the four specific and measurable activities that we focus on at CARE for AIDS in an effort to cultivate a healthy culture...stay tuned! 




Orphan Prevention

February 1, 2016

There’s been an increase of orphans in the recent years compared to the earlier days when a child was a society’s responsibility, but I thank God for various interventions that have come up to ensure these children's basic needs are met. It is not the wish of any child to be an orphan and thus it’s the duty of a parent to be there for the child. It is my opinion that a parent should by all means utilize any potential resources at their disposal to fulfill the parental responsibilities to their child.

As a parent, the best way to ensure you can be there for your kids is to watch your health. A healthy parent is more confident in providing and securing a child’s future. Thus, engaging in unhealthy activities should be avoided by a responsible parent. By so doing, a parent with a good health will have a higher chance of living - preventing the child from becoming an orphan.

 Poverty eradication is also a solution to prevention of orphan increase. Many parents, due to lack of employment, get involved in risky and dangerous activities such as crimes to provide for their families.  This dangerous “employment” has led to many parents losing their lives and leaving behind their children as orphans. With creation of job opportunities, many parents’ lives could be saved.

As a new parent, a father of two and of a new other addition soon, I can confidently say that the best person to take care of children is the parents. Regardless of what happens in life, I want to be there for them at all times with all the means. I will fight for them, feed them, educate them and above all teach and train them the ways of God.

As much as it’s the duty of a parent to care for their children, we still have a role to play as a society to support families in whatever way so that children enjoy their rights. A committed and responsible parent should dedicate their lives to their children and be there for them in every step of their lives because these children are blessings.  CARE for AIDS is in this business of helping solve the orphan crisis in the world. Join us in the fight and thanks to many of us who have already accepted this calling thus far.

The Pursuit of Hard Things

January 28, 2016

Last Tuesday at our weekly CARE for AIDS staff meeting, we had the pleasure of learning more about HIV and AIDS from Evonne Woodson, who is on the forefront of HIV/AIDS vaccine research at Emory here in Atlanta. I’m embarrassed to confess that even though I talk about the effects of AIDS on our clients and their families daily, I don’t know nearly enough about how HIV and AIDS from a medical perspective. Because of her work, Evonne has an incredible grasp of the HIV/AIDS attacks and disables the body. I on the other hand, am a Public Relations major who took a grand total of one science class in college. When she passed out a packet entitled “HIV For A Non-Science Audience”, I knew I was in over my head. Listening to Evonne explain how HIV morphs over time, how there are dozens of sub-types and variations of the virus, how each sub-type is just different enough to prevent scientists from creating a cure, CD4 counts, seroconversion, clinical latency, ARV drug resistance…it was fascinating, but overwhelming. As much as I learned in our two hour meeting, it’s clear I’m in no danger of becoming an expert on the subject. 

Hearing the complexities of HIV/AIDS reminded me that dealing with the actual disease is just one of the many challenges that our clients deal with on a daily basis. They also face the challenges of social stigma, low self esteem and isolation from friends and family. They face unemployment, hungry children and feeling hopeless that their situation can improve. To be sure, AIDS is a not just a disease of the body, it affects the whole person.

This is exactly why I love how our Kenyan staff cares for clients. They recognize that complex challenges demand comprehensive solutions. There is no silver bullet when dealing with HIV/AIDS or the issues surrounding it, it just takes a lot of hard work. Our model of care depends not only on medical best practices and using resources efficiently, but also on relationships and community buy in to empower clients. Staff members spend a lot of time with each client, making sure they understand how their medicine works, praying with them, teaching them job skills. They visit client homes and get to know their children and spouses. They build a welcoming community in the church and turn clients into friends. In short, they help bring hope to our clients.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Martha Berry, the founder of my alma mater, Berry College.

“The pursuit of easy things makes us weak, the pursuit of hard things, difficult things, makes us strong”.

Finding a cure for AIDS is no easy task, neither is successfully living with it. I’m thankful for smart people like Evonne who are in labs finding a cure for this disease. I’m also thankful for our staff’s commitment to care for our client’s needs, both body and soul. Both are pursuing the hard things to make our client’s lives better, and make their neighborhoods, their country and our world a stronger, better place to live.

Rekindling My Passion

January 25, 2016

You must have heard the three of us talk about our background and what led us to caring for men and women living with HIV/AIDS.  It was passion and a call from God to do what we are doing.  Unfortunately, as the organization grows, it is easy to find yourself as a leader loosing that touch and a feel of what is happening on the ground on a daily basis.  What happens on a daily basis keeps us connected to the original call and the passion.  Administration is good, for it keeps things going, but too much of it without getting your hands dirty can be a distraction.  It can distract the original vision and eventually kill the passion.  I realized that last year because all I was concerned with was how to manage people and systems.  This was good, but not enough.

This year I intentionally plan to create enough time to go to the centers and do exactly what we did when we had our first center.  Duncan and I were the physical counselor and spiritual councilor respectively.  This week I went to Full Gospel Church, one of our centers in the slums of Kangemi- Nairobi region.  I asked Gitonga, the spiritual counselor, to allow me to replace him for a few hours as he attended other duties. I had a blast if not a paradigm shift.  Once more I had the opportunity to listen to the clients’ story straight from the client.  Throughout the time I counseled eleven clients and the whole time I was fighting to retain my tears inside

The story of Jacqueline Mnayo stood out for me.  She had been through a lot.  She came to me breastfeeding her one year old son, but I could tell there was no milk coming out.  The child kept on crying for lack of this precious commodity.  Jacqueline was married to a man who made her go through hell.  She told me that a week could not pass without her husband beating her.  Sometimes she was beaten close to death. She could collapse and spend hours before gaining conscious.  She stuck with this brutal man for years because she had nowhere to go.  Both of her parents are not alive and that forced her to be married young to this man. She is divorced now, but the man left her with three kids. 

The worst of all, these problems has given her some mental confusion.  I could tell something was wrong.  Because of her depression, some friends took her to a witchdoctor for treatment.  Unfortunately, the witchdoctor forces himself on her and now she is HIV+.  Now she is in our hands with all these wounds, but I am hopeful for her future. 

LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED FROM THIS EXPERIENCE: 

1.  Top management needs to familiarize themselves with what is happening at the bottom.  It enables us to continue with the passion.  I am reminded of Revelation 2:4.  I do not want to forget why we started CFA.

2.  Our canter staff (people on the ground) needs a lot of encouragement from us who work in the office.

3.  We should create time to listen to people’s stories.  It may change our perspective.

4.  Considering what I have and the privileges God has given, I am highly accountable. 

5.  I will always create time to spend with these people.  If Jesus lived today, I am sure He will spend most of His time in the slums with people like Jacqueline... not in the office.

Courage

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr's life and leadership, we want to share this inspiring TED talk from Freeman Hrabowski this morning. Take a few moments to watch it at the link below. 

Freeman Hrabowski marched with Martin Luther King Jr. when he was just 12 years old. He told his parents, “I’ve got to go. I want to go. I have to be a part of this.” Says Hrabowski, “Sometimes when people do things that are courageous, it doesn’t really mean that they’re that courageous. It simply means that they believe its important to do.”

In this talk, Hrabowski share the four pillars of success that he learned from his current work at the University of Maryland.