Archives For HOPE International

While in college, I was invited by our alumni office to represent our school at a college fair for high school students. After a day of meeting with prospective students, another college rep asked me to go to dinner.

I agreed, eager for a conversation about something other than financial aid packages.

Halfway through dinner, the conversation abruptly became awkward.“Would you like to be a millionaire by the time you’re 30?” he asked suddenly.

You may have encountered this form of subtle multi-level marketing pitch. The meeting purpose is vague. Without fully disclosing their identity, the other person promises the moon and then unveils a massive pyramid scheme to get you there.

Call it bait-and-switch. I call it the wrong approach.

Yet too often when it comes to fundraising, we pursue a similar path. We cloud our titles and purposes, attempting to disguise our motives for meeting.

When we do this, we undermine the most important aspect of any relationship: trust.

Why not simply be honest about the need to raise funds for an organization that we believe is having a significant impact? Why not boldly ask for an opportunity to share why we are so passionate about the work that’s being done?

If the goal of a meeting is to present funding opportunities, we should be honest about our intentions, giving donors the chance to opt out before even beginning the conversation. Some people will decline our invitation—and we can’t be offended by that. From a Kingdom-fundraising perspective, honesty is indispensable.

A recent report supports this. The 2016 Generosity Project revealed that, “nearly half of older givers and 56 percent of Millennials say honesty is the most important quality in a ministry.”

Trust is an organization’s most crucial asset, and it can never be built on a foundation of dishonesty.

A commitment to truth begins with clarity about the purposes of meetings but continues in being honest with progress. This is easier said than done, especially when progress involves setbacks and failures.

On several occasions throughout the history of HOPE, I’ve experienced this first-hand. With a pit in my stomach, I’ve shared candidly about our mess-ups, not only with staff and partners but also with supporters.

Although it’s never easy, I’ve found that, almost without exception, most stakeholders react to us sharing our failures with incredible graciousness. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, supporters have wanted to know more about our response—what we learned as a result of the experience and what we’re doing differently to ensure that the same mistake isn’t made again. And then, to my utter astonishment, they have often offered words of encouragement about how God has used even the failures in their own lives to bring new growth and understanding.

As hard as it is to share our shortcomings, I believe humble transparency about our failures is simply the right approach. Ultimately, it points the glory back to God for any good things that are accomplished. I like how Paul phrases it in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Let’s be people who aren’t afraid of transparency—being open about our intentions and about sharing both our successes and failures. For charities, churches, and nonprofits, trust is indispensable.

                                                                                                                                                                      

giver gift cover

This post is based on an excerpt from The Giver and the Gift. Learn more about how fundraising can be a transparent, life-giving, and generous partnership between both the giver and the recipient:

The Giver and the Gift:
Principles of Kingdom Fundraising

by Peter Greer and David Weekley

Order now: Givington’s | Amazon

Getting loaded into the ambulance after my injury on the soccer field

Not a fun moment…

A collision on the soccer field didn’t just shatter my ankle—it shattered the myth of my own importance.

As paramedics hastily carried me off of the field on a stretcher last month, my frantic mind was racing. It seemed like my accident couldn’t have come at a worse time. In only 12 hours, I was scheduled to be on a plane to Dallas, then Houston, then Raleigh. A few days later, I was slated to deliver a talk in Santa Barbara, and then Orange County. With my ankle precariously bent at an angle that the human ankle was never designed to bend, it was instantaneously clear that I was going to miss our largest events of the year.

“Will we have to cancel the events?” I wondered.

Before I had even been discharged from the hospital, my colleagues and friends began responding with thoughtful action. Within a matter of hours, my flights had been canceled, and plans had been set in motion for team members to step in and take my place at each event. With grace and incredible speed, these friends deftly agreed to cover all of my responsibilities.

As the following weeks of events unfolded, while I kept my ankle elevated on the couch, the results exceeded previous years’. Both HOPE International and the rest of the world kept on spinning.

After one event, I received a text that read, “Of course you were missed by those of us who have a personal love for you and your family, but it was evident this morning that others can equally do the job.” In other words, We missed you. But everything went beautifully without you.

Listening to the response from those in attendance at each event, it’s clear that my colleagues didn’t simply do the job; they knocked it out of the park.

My injury turned into one of the most freeing moments of my time at HOPE. I know that our mission would undoubtedly carry on with excellence when the time comes for my transition.

I believe it’s a high compliment a leader could ever receive in the midst of a transition would be if everyone—employees, outgoing CEO, incoming CEO, management, and clients—all thought, This isn’t such a big deal.

Healthy organizations refuse to become dependent on any one person. They build teams with multiple people who are each ready to step up at any moment.

My guess is that, due to a perilous cocktail of pride and lack of planning, few organizations are well-prepared for a leader’s transition. In fact, a 2011 study by CompassPoint reports that “just 17% of organizations have a documented succession plan.” It takes courage and humility for leaders to prepare for the moment when they transition, to ensure that, in a way, their absence is not felt.

Perhaps part of the reason that we don’t plan for what comes next is that we like to be needed. The idea that we are somehow indispensable to the mission feels good. Yet it is critical that we grapple with the fact that placing our egos over the mission inevitably sabotages long-term organizational impact.

If we deeply care about the mission of our organization, we will care deeply about what will happen when we’re suddenly out of the game. Perhaps one of the healthiest things we could do as leaders would be to shatter the illusion of our own importance.

(And to my coworkers, I hope to continue serving with you for years to come . . . but when it’s time to transition, there is no question in my mind that HOPE’s mission will continue! What an honor it is to serve with you.)

The Gift of a Day

February 17, 2016 — Leave a comment

Busyness is a hallmark of our modern lives. It’s proudly paraded in our culture as though a busy life is equivalent to a meaningful one. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the boast beneath people’s busyness. A calendar full of commitments is our adult version of a Girl Scout’s sash full of merit badges. It makes us feel important. If I weren’t so necessary, I wouldn’t be stretched so thin.

Most of us don’t need to be convinced that we’re addicted to busyness. We know it. We feel it. We’re exhausted from running frantically from moment to moment, while never being fully present in the moment.

So we rise long before the sun, log in, caffeinate, and multitask all day long. Sometime near the end of the endless cycle, we feel exhausted, but our restless minds refuse to rest. Maddeningly, no matter how busy we make ourselves, there will never be enough time.

But 2016 is a Leap Year, which means that you and I are about to receive a cosmic gift.

We are about to receive the gift of an entire day.

February 29th is fast approaching. Happy Leap Year to each of us. The question is, How are we going to use it?

Without attention, my guess is that the day will pass in a blur just like every other. But don’t let that happen! This is an extra-special day that deserves to be spent in an extra-special way.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Road trip!

Fill up your tank, buy that giant Slushy, crank up your favorite 80s band, and drive like you’re in college again. Gas prices are as low as they were then, so seize the day and go visit that friend or family member you haven’t seen in far too long. For a bonus, make it surprise and show up on their doorstep unannounced.

2. Rest.

If you’ve been running so hard that you know you’re on empty, give yourself the gift of deleting everything on your calendar. It’s an extra day, after all. Sleep in. Fry a heaping plate of bacon. Spend extra time in Scripture. Go for the extra-long run. [Maybe do that before the bacon.] Read. Use this day to recharge.

3. Play.

If the only quality time you’ve had with family has been chauffeuring your kids to and from soccer practice, use this day to reconnect with the people closest to you.

4. Give a day’s wages.

HOPE International is inviting our friends to offer one day’s wages and invest in families around the world, so that they can leap forward on the path out of poverty. If you’re interested in helping, watch this video, calculate the value of your day on the Leap Forward website, and donate your Leap Forward gift.

In 2016, we’re gifted an extra day—let’s make February 29 a gift and take a leap!

Portions of this post were adapted from 40/40 Vision.

Watch Your Language

December 5, 2014 — 10 Comments

Increasingly, when I’ve been asked to share HOPE’s mission statement, it catches in my throat. Somehow, it has become harder and harder to choke out two small but incredibly significant words: “the poor.”

Poverty Photo

Our mission statement is, “To invest in the dreams of the poor in the world’s underserved communities as we proclaim and live the gospel.” So many of the things that I am deeply passionate about are encapsulated in that simple sentence. I love that we are investors in dreams. I love that we work in the underserved regions of the world. I love how unapologetic we are about our bold commitment to the Gospel.

My discomfort stems from labeling the people we serve as “the poor.” Here’s why.

1. It further entraps people in poverty.

By referring to people as “the poor” we are defining them by their current situation, and not by their potential. We dismiss their value. We reinforce their financial poverty, and miss the many things that they do have. Language matters, and defining people by their financial poverty traps them in their current condition and crushes the hope that life could get better. It kills dreams.

I never want to insinuate that someone’s identity is tied to their financial situation.

2. It reinforces a strictly financial definition of poverty.

When we ask North Americans “What is poverty?” they respond by talking about the material ramifications of poverty. Not enough food. No clean water. Living on less than $1 per day. These answers wildly differ from the results from a World Bank study of 60,000 people living in financial poverty around the world. When asked about poverty, instead of talking primarily about physical issues, individuals in financial poverty responded by highlighting the social and psychological effects of living on less than $1.25 a day. They talked about feeling an overwhelming sense of shame. They spoke of powerless, voiceless, and hopeless. They talked about fear and isolation.

“The poor” is a term that reduces poverty to a financial number, and yet people living under its crushing weight understand that poverty is about so much more than finances.

3. It makes us feel that we are not poor.

By calling other people “the poor”, we automatically imply that we are rich. Financially, this may be true. However, when using a broader [and I humbly submit, more accurate!] definition of poverty, we realize that it’s possible to be financially poor, but relationally rich. It’s also possible to be financially rich, but spiritually poor.

The more that I’ve listened to myself label the families we serve as “the poor,” the more I’ve begun to feel that we are actually part of the problem by defining the people we serve by what they lack. In so doing, we have been unwittingly reinforcing the very problem we are furiously working to solve. To label people as “the poor” dismisses precious men and women that bear the Imago Dei. It strips them of their dignity and makes them a statistic.

Similarly, I feel uncomfortable with words like “slaves” and “prostitutes.” I’d rather talk about “people who are enslaved” and “individuals who are caught in prostitution.” If you define yourself as a slave or a prostitute, you’ll start believing that is your identity. It will only become more difficult to break free. And as I define you as a slave or a prostitute, it will become difficult to see you as anything else. God forbid that any of us be defined by our problems.

The difference may sound subtle, but it signifies something incredibly significant. I don’t want to identify people by their current position. I want to identify them as who they really are, individuals with inherent worth, capacity, and dignity. Individuals deeply loved by their Creator and full of explosive potential. Individuals with a bright hope and a future.

I am determined to stop labeling people by their current reality. I certainly don’t want to be known for my present failures or struggles, but as one treasured and adopted into God’s family as a beloved son.

Last week, our Board unanimously voted to change our mission statement, and replace “the poor” with “families.” It’s a small step, and yet an important recognition that we do not want to define the people we serve by their problems.

So if we are having a future conversation and you hear me talk about “the poor,” please remind me of my own poverty and together, let’s watch our language.