Below is another excellent guest post from Pastor Chris. If you haven’t read his previous posts you can find them here and here. Thanks for contributing Pastor Chris and letting us glean from your insight! – JF
The Big Head (or sometimes “Tall Head”) and Long Tail is a popular concept in business and marketing that I first read about it in a Seth Godin book. (I would recommend Seth’s blog and books as good resources for inspiration in creative fund-raising).
The idea behind Big Head and Long Tail is in most markets there is a “Big Head” and a “Long Tail”. The Big Head is one or a few companies that dominate a sector of the market. The Long Tail is everyone else.
Consider the soda industry. Coca-Cola is by far the Big Head in the soda industry, making up more than 40% of the entire soft drink market. If we want to make our soda-beast a two headed monster we could add Pepsi, which controls another 30% of the soda market. Together their soft drinks dominate the soda market, thus making Coca-Cola and Pepsi the Big Head(s). Yet, in the soda market there are hundreds of other companies producing a large variety of soft drinks in the world today.
In this graph Coke & Pepsi would be represented the red area, as they dominate the market. The yellow line would then represent all the other companies in the world producing soft-drinks.
If you have read this far you may be asking, “What does this have to do with fund-raising?”
The answer? Everything!
The Big Head Long Tail is an exact mirror into what most of us raising support are trying to accomplish. We are trying to raise a budget to get to the field and fulfill God’s call on our lives, and often as we do, we focus solely on the Big Head.
Look at the graph above again and think of your fund-raising. For most reading this the Big Head (the red area) is probably the churches, pastors, and individuals already within your denomination / organization.
So what is the Long Tail? The Long Tail represents everyone else in the world!
As we look at the graph and think on the Long Tail, I am not proposing an either / or approach but a both / and approach. In other words, as you begin raising your support you most often focus on acquiring a Big Head. However, long-term success is going require you to also grow a long tail.
HOW TO ACQUIRE A BIG HEAD
The best way to acquire a Big Head is to follow the instructions of your organization for raising up your support team. For my organization this means calling all the pastors of my denomination’s district and asking to meet with the pastor and/or missions board, and requesting of them a service to present my vision to the church body. Whatever your organization trains you to do, follow the system and do good follow-up (for tips on follow-up see a previous post I wrote). If you work hard and remain diligent you will acquire a Big Head over time. Once acquired, never quit and keep sharing. For me that means I share with pastors in my denomination’s district and I keep reaching out to them – inviting them to join in my mission. Keep your Big Head BIG!
“as you begin raising your support you most often focus on acquiring a Big Head. However, long-term success is going require you to also grow a long tail.”
However, the Big Head may not be enough to get you to 100% funded and on the field. This is where the Long Tail comes into play.
WHAT IS THE LONG TAIL?
As I mentioned above, the Long Tail is everyone else in the world! It is every church not in your denomination, every business, every non-profit (they are givers too!), every individual, every family member, co-worker, friend, stranger. EVERYONE! This is what is so great about the Long Tail – there is no end to how long it can grow.
In the Big Head there are limits, constraints, and competition. These are almost non-existent in the Long Tail.
Let me tell you a Long Tail story of a friend named Steve. Steve was raising his budget and was invited to a mission’s convention. The church invited several missionaries and put them up in homes of various families within the church. Steve was given a room in the pastor’s mother’s house. Steve hit it off with the pastor’s mother so well that she went to her son at the end of the convention and said, “Are you picking Steve up for support?” The pastor replied, “No mom, we just do not have it in the budget.” (ahem, the constraint of the Big Head). However, the mom said, “but he is a good man and has a good vision… you have to pick him up!” The pastor replied, “The only way I can pick him up is if someone commits to pay that additional support.” Remarkably, the mom responded, “Yes, I will give the additional amount of his support each month.”
This story illustrates the secret of the Long Tail. Anyone could approach this pastor or church and ask for support (Big Head), but none of us could ever connect with the pastor’s mother (Long Tail) like missionary Steve did. By the way, this mom got an 8X10 photo of missionary Steve and hung it in her living room – right between her son the pastor and his brother. So essentially Steve is now part of the family! Who knows, he may even be in the family will! Talk about growing a Long Tail!
HOW TO GROW A LONG TAIL
Growing a Long Tail takes time but is quite easy. Here’s how to do it: always, everywhere, at all times, and in every circumstance – share your vision!
It is that simple.
Share your vision with passion. Share it with conviction. Tell everyone what you are going to do and why you are going to do it. Then ANYTIME anyone shows interest or asks how they could help – tell them how to do so. You don’t have be a salesman, and you don’t pressure your friends or family to support you; but you should let it be known what you need and how they can join you in your mission.
“…always, everywhere, at all times, and in every circumstance share your vision!”
Not too long ago I was visiting my father who was in a nursing home. The wife of the owner of that nursing home came out to the pavilion where we were sitting. She casually asked what I did and I began to share about my ministry. As I shared she was intrigued and asked many questions. So many that we spoke for about an hour. When we finished she then said, “I know my husband will want to talk to you. He will only have about five minutes because he is busy today but I want him to meet you.” She left and returned in a few minutes with her husband, introduced me to him, and we began talking. His five minutes turned into an hour. Before I left that day he went to his office and wrote me a check for my ministry and has given several times since to our work.
The work of acquiring a Big Head can be scheduled, but growing a Long Tail can happen anytime and anywhere. Don’t let your passion for your mission become just a “job.” Instead, let it be your lifestyle and your tail will grow extremely long!
3 thoughts on “The Big Head & Long Tail of Fund-Raising”
A big part of raising money for our family to serve in Africa is the insurance. Being U.S. citizens we are still required to have health insurance. Our policy should include international health insurance and emergency evacuation. The Omega Plan (for families) by Talent Trust Consultants covers this and is U.S. approved. The cost on average is $750 a month for a family of four. Can you help me “brainstorm” and “think outside the box”? Has anyone had Blue Cross, Cigna, or another company be willing to sponsor them by providing insurance? Do you know someone who has done something like this? What are some ideas on how to do that?