“You look terrible!” I said. “Worry is painted all over your face.”
“I just sent out an SOS to donors for our ministry,” he explained.
I met Tim nine years ago at a startup seminar for ministries. The attendees were called by God to start a ministry, and they came to learn how to do it. After meeting Tim, I became his first donor.
Business Plan or Fundraising Plan
“Why are you having a problem after all these years? You’ve been growing slowly but with great effectiveness,” I said.
“I feel like I don’t have a business plan. All I have is a fundraising plan, which isn’t working.”
“Tell me how your ministry delivers services.”
“We have a small centralized office which serves area managers who serve coordinators who serve our clients.”
“How is it working?”
He began telling me stories of the difference they are making in people’s lives. Each story was better than the next.
“Seems to me your business model is working fine. Let’s talk about your fundraising plan,” I said.
When Best Practices Fail
He proceeded to tell me how he is following best practices in fundraising. “I have been to every seminar for nonprofit fundraising. I know what I am doing but can’t seem to raise the amount we need to operate for this year. The number is just too big. Like I said, my fundraising plan isn’t working.”
“You are doing all the fundraising, aren’t you?” I asked.
“That is not best practices. You are still operating like a startup ministry, and you are nine years old with a much bigger budget. It is time to move to the next stage in organization development. You need to delegate the majority of the fundraising to the people in the field. This means the area managers must have a number, and that number should be split among the coordinators who are on the ground serving the community.”
“I’ve talked to them about this, and they don’t think they can do it.”
“You need to give them the opportunity to fail or succeed. If they can’t raise the funding for their area, that piece of the ministry dies. Can you handle the ministry shrinking?”
“I am ready. I can’t go on like this,” he said.
Willing to Lose
“I promise you they will not let you down. You have great people doing great work with great networks. They will raise the money when they know the future of their ministry is in their hands,” I said.
We talked for a while about why this happened at this time in the life of the organization. The answer is founder control.
Founders start a ministry or company with a clear vision and passionate heart. They do it all, serve all and raise all the money. Slowly they release control, function by function. The last area of control they hold on to is always revenue.
Without revenue there is no ministry, no business. Revenue is the lifeblood of any organization. The founder is the best fundraiser, and everyone in the organization is more than happy to allow him to keep that responsibility. Until one day the founder can’t make the number.
Trusting God’s Promises
Starting and building a business is a spiritual journey for the founder. He knows he was called by God to start the business. Then he quickly assumes control. He works all kinds of hours. Sacrifices everything. Worries endlessly. Finally, when on the brink of failure, he cries out to God.
We all get there. When the founder finally begins talking to God, God will be there to help. He never left the founder. The founder left Him.
God tells us:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.
A spiritual journey always brings you closer to God. Growing a business to the next stage has a way of being really good at this.
Also published on Medium.