OVERCOMING OBSCURITY

Below is another excellent guest post from Pastor Chris. If you haven’t read his previous posts you can find them herehere, and here. Thanks for contributing Pastor Chris and letting us glean from your insight! – JF

OBSCURITYThe state of being unknown, inconspicuous, or unimportant.

When you are starting out on the path of fundraising your number one problem is OBSCURITY.  People do not know who you are.  More and more our culture is becoming relational.  People and churches want to know YOU before they know what you are called to do.  For this reason you must make it a priority to become known among the people and churches that you hope will fund your calling.

This problem is not unique to fundraising.  50% of all business start-ups fail in the first 5 years.  One author says 80% of all new business owners know they are failing in the first 18 months!  Some will have bad business plans, too much debt, the wrong location… but the majority simply cannot overcome obscurity.  Their potential clients do not even know they exist.

“Obscurity is the single biggest killer to a business or entrepreneur.” – Grant Cardone

Grant Cardone asks young business leaders two questions in relation to obscurity:

#1. How far will you go to get attention?

#2. How frequent will you be in your attempts? 

The ONLY correct answer is = “WHATEVER IT TAKES”

When it comes to fundraising we need this same attitude.  Please do not take this too far and manipulate “whatever” to mean being immoral or unethical.  I don’t believe Grant intended that and I certainly am not taking an extreme view of that word.  But we have to get the desperation that is in that phrase into our hearts and lives.  What will you do?  Whatever it takes!!!!  Will you face your fears?  Will you be uncomfortable?  Will you accept rejection?  Will you remain prayerful and positive?  Will you work 40 hours a week?  Will you work 60 hours a week?  Will you work 80 hours a week?  Your answer to all these questions and a thousand more must be “Yes – I will do whatever it takes!”

The reality of your situation is that there are lots of people with lots of money that want to give it to a worthy cause.  Trust me – there is NO shortage of money.  So how do you break out of the obscurity you are in, find these people, and get them to join your team?

#1 – You Must Renew Your Mind

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. -Romans 12:2 NASB

To break obscurity you must first stop seeing yourself as obscure. (Remember obscurity is the state of being unknown, inconspicuous, or unimportant.) The only way to do this is to constantly meditate on God’s word… then you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success (Joshua 1:8).

You are NOT obscure… You are a child of the Most High God!  He has made you the head and not the tail… He has set you above and not beneath… He has called you and given you a divine purpose and destiny.  He has made you an overcomer and more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus!

If you see yourself as obscure then you are obscure.  You cannot expect to break out of obscurity until you first break the obscure mindset that is holding you back.

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#2 – You Gotta Get Social

Personally, I hate Facebook and I don’t Twit or Tweet or whatever! Whether you love it or hate it: You Gotta Get Social!!  The people you are seeking to join you in your mission need to know you on a personal level. Do not wait to meet people.  When you call a church, ask for the pastor’s email.  Search for his name on Facebook and send a friend request.  If he gets to know you, his church is more likely to support you.

#3 – You Need to Dig Your Well

Harvey Mackay wrote the best book on networking long before Facebook and even before email, it’s entitled Dig Your Well Before You Get Thirsty.  If you should read his book you may be put-off as he describes how to set up your rolodex (some of you may need to Google “rolodex”).  Look beyond that technical part (or lack thereof) for the true heart of how to network.

Mackay opens his book with a story about getting a call from an old friend at 2am who was semi-hysterical and said he needed $20,000 that day or he would be at risk of going to jail.  He writes, “The strange thing is, I hadn’t talked to him in over ten years. I offered him a few thousand dollars, but I didn’t give him what he needed even though I could have.

Then Mackay asks a revealing question:

How many people could I realistically count on to bust a gut to help me out if I’d called them at 2am?

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#4 – You Have to Learn to Write

I am still learning this skill myself but if you say, “I’m just not a good writer” – you are most likely copping out.  Remember? – You said you would do whatever it takes!  A good amount of your support will come from writing letters, emails, and newsletters.  So learning how to do it correctly is important.  Write a lot!  If you write an appeal letter, ask a pastor you are friends with to give you an honest opinion. Did it sound needy?  Was it a crisis appeal?  Was it too long?  Was it boring?  Did it communicate the vision?  Did it make you feel connected?  By honestly assessing your writing you will get better.

#5 – You have to Learn to Speak

One Sunday morning after the church service the pastor was feeling quite proud about the message he had just delivered.  On the way home he asked his wife – “How many genuinely good preachers do you think there are in the world?  She muttered under her breath, “One less than you do.

If you think you are a good speaker you are in the most danger because you are probably not as good as you think you are! So regardless if you think you are a poor speaker or the best thing since Paul the Apostle, there is room for improvement.

Anyone can get up and say things in front of a church, but can you make your appeal with passion?  A pastor friend once said to me, “I cannot remember the last time I had a missionary in the pulpit who had a passion in his voice and a tear in his eye for the people of his calling.  Remember it is not what you say but how you say it.  You are not trying to convince people or sell them a product, you are endeavoring to share your calling from God and invite others to sacrificially join you in changing lives.

#6 – You have to Learn to Ask

You may be bold in the pulpit, but if you are obscure when it comes to “the ask” you may find your support raising going slowly.  Be convinced of who you are and of your calling.  Be confident that you are not asking for “yourself” (you are not begging). You are simply saying – Has God touched your heart with this vision and will you use your resources to work with me?

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#7 – You Should Make a Schedule

You are going to get busy with many things that will keep you obscure. Thus, create a calendar to guide you daily in overcoming obscurity.  If you are raising support for the first time I would recommend:

  • Tweeting as often as you like, but no less than once per day
  • Posting on Facebook no less than once per day
  • Sending one E-Newsletter per month
  • Mailing one paper snail-mail newsletter per month

If you are using other networking platforms like LinkedIn, make sure you add them to the schedule.   You should also add in how many personal phone calls you will make per day, and how many personal emails you will write (and send) per day. 

#8 – Lastly, You Ought to Go to EVERY Event That You Can… and STAND OUT!

If your district or denomination hosts events, go!  If your home church has events, go!  If friends invite you to the park, go!  Don’t make every event just about your financial needs, but work to build life long relationships.  If you do that the funds will come naturally (see my previous post on how to grow a long tail).

Look for ways to stand out, both personally and with your mail and media.  Get creative!  Use your own photos when sending post cards.  Hand address envelopes and if you know the person write a one-line sentence on the back of the envelope.  When you go to an event, if you can, wear something that makes you stand out – especially if you can get something from the country of your calling.  This season of fundraising should become the most hectic and crazy and social and fun period of your life.  If done correctly fundraising is FUN-raising!   

Obscurity is your #1 hindrance to raising your budget.  Make Overcoming Obscurity your #1 goal, and you will be well on your way to reaching your budget in a timely manner.

– Pastor Chris

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The Big Head & Long Tail of Fund-Raising

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).

imgresThe 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 imgres-1we 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.

imagesIn 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.

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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.

giphyWHAT 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!

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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!

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GUEST POST – Let’s Be Real: Why Ministry and Fund Raising Follow Up is So Important

Before we get into this amazing post, I (Jenn Fortner), just want to say how thankful I am for another Pastor Chris guest post. In this post Pastor Chris continues to challenge us with his wisdom in a huge area of ministry partnership development: follow-up. If you didn’t get to read his first guest post you can find it here.You can also read Chris’s full bio below. Enjoy! – JF

Are You Doing Proper Follow-Up?  This is a critical question regarding your success as a christian worker.  As a christian worker or missionary you are going to find many people interested in speaking to you about Jesus, but they may not always be ready to make a commitment.  They may not be prepared to forsake Islam or their family’s religion of many generations because you told them a nice story.  Successful ministry work requires faithful and patient follow-up with that person who has shown some interest.  The man who pumps my gas gave his life to Jesus, but only after I spoke with him many times.  He had to know more than my “story” about Jesus… he had to know ME. Was I a worthy person to carry such a story to him?  Could I be trusted?  Did I really believe the message I was sharing with him?

The first place you learn and practice how to do follow-up is while raising your financial support.  You may think raising money and sharing the gospel are vastly different but they are not.  If you are unable to look a pastor square in the eyes and say, “I need your support to fulfill God’s call on my life” – then you will find it difficult to look another man, with another religion, square in the eyes and say to him, “I need you to abandon everything you have been taught and follow Jesus!

Before you get to meet that man and share the gospel with him – you must meet many pastors and individuals who will help send you to the field of your calling.  You will face a lot of rejection along the way.  Your success will depend on how YOU HEAR rejection.  Yes, you read that correctly… it is up to YOU how YOU hear rejection.  When a pastor says to you, “I’ve just taken on several other families and our budget cannot support another one right now” – What do you hear?  Do you hear “NO”?  Or do you hear “NOT NOW”?

I have been serving on the field for many years.  I have raised a lot of funds.  I have done a lot of asking. I do not remember in all of those times of asking that I have ever heard a “NO”. If you hear “NO” when you ask (or if you are hearing “I DO NOT WANT TO SUPPORT YOU”), then I believe you are hearing incorrectly.  Most people you share your vision with likely believe in you, and admire what you are doing.  However, everyone is not going to be willing, AT THE MOMENT YOU ASK, to support you.  This is where follow up becomes a key to your success.

Successful sales people will tell you the one difference between them (the successful ones) and the others (the unsuccessful ones) is performing proper follow up.  Salesmen are pushed by their organizations to close the deal on the first meeting.  When they are not able to do that (close the deal) they allow the potential client to drift off to a competitor, while they go looking for a new potential client.  This is a HUGE mistake.  Recent studies have shown that most sales come much later than originally thought and after multiple contacts.

In an article entitled – Shocking Sales Statistics as it Relates to Follow Up – the author shares these statistics:

48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect
25% of sales people make a second contact and stop
12% of sales people make more than three contacts

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

2% of sales are made on the first contact
3% of sales are made on the second contact
5% of sales are made on the third contact
10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

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Look at that last line.  80% of all sales come between 5 and 12 contacts. Amazing!!! I do not know how those statistics compare to fund raising, but I believe they would be very similar.

How can you apply this information to your fundraising campaign? Here are some ideas:

1.Change the way you HEAR rejection

Unless a “NO” is a very emphatic “NO” – you must learn to hear it as “not now.

2.Develop a Contact & Follow-up Strategy

Every contact with a potential supporter does not need to be an “ask”.  In fact if it is, you may become obnoxious and pastors will run when they see you.  This is true when presenting the gospel on the field also… every time you meet that guy or gal you are sharing with – you cannot ask them to accept Jesus; however, there will be the right time when you can.  Every time you meet a pastor you cannot ask for money, but there will be the right setting when you can.

3.Set a Goal to Work your Strategy

If you are raising your support for the first time set a goal to contact every pastor in your district multiple times (of course always follow the protocol within your organization / your role on this one).  Contacts can be any kind of contact: a newsletter, a Facebook post, a postcard, a formal letter, an invite to coffee or lunch, greeting him/her at a district function, etc. Create a spreadsheet and track how many times you have contacted each pastor.  Look for the ones you have had little contact with and try to increase your connection with them.

Doing these things will help keep you moving towards your goal of reaching the field and sharing the gospel with the people God is calling you to.

Ye have not… because ye follow up not!

Begin today putting together a Follow-Up & Contact Plan that works for you!

-Pastor Chris

Want more on these subjects? Here are some suggestions:

Dealing with the Monster of Rejection

6 Tips for Connecting with Pastors

Effectively Communicate with Your Financial Partners

Grab the Elephant: 3 Critical Components of Successful Support Raising

SPECIAL GUEST BLOG!

Before we get into this really amazing post, I (Jenn Fortner), just want to say how thankful I am to Pastor Chris for agreeing to challenge us with his wisdom in the area of ministry partnership development. You guys!! This post is full of practical wisdom straight from a guy that truly knows the ins and outs of raising funds biblically. Unfortunately, we have to do a little bit to hide his identity for security reasons, so I can’t say much about who Pastor Chris is. However I can tell you what an honor it is to have our friend writing a guest post with hopefully more to come! Enjoy! – JF

*Once upon a time there were 3 blind men in India.  Each man was asked to go up to an elephant and then give a description of the elephant.

The first blind man puts his arms around the leg and realized the elephant was sturdy and strong.  He came back and reported – “An elephant is like a tree.”

The second blind man found himself behind the elephant and grabbed the tail.  He returned and said, “An elephant is very much like a rope.”

The third blind man approached the front of the animal and reached up and felt the flapping large ear.   He turned and exclaimed, “An elephant is like a large fan!”

The morale of the story is that each man is correct.  But he is only partially correct which makes him dangerously wrong.  Each man was feeling only a part of the animal and therefore missed the BIG picture of what an elephant really is.  In fund raising when I listen to missionaries I hear that many have only a part of what it means to raise financial support in the Kingdom of God.  Over many years I have discovered that there are 3 critical components to be a good fundraiser and to maintain good partnerships over the long haul.  If you have one or two of these principles in operation you may succeed but it will likely be a struggle.  When you have all three in operation in your life and ministry you will find fund raising to be enjoyable and meaningful.

#1 – Your Spiritual Relationship to money

Do you fully understand what the Word teaches about finances and are you practicing those principles in your life?  If we are asking others to give are we being givers ourselves?  If we are asking others to partner with us have we personally picked up a few missionaries for monthly support?  Do you see in the Word that God is a Good Father and wants to provide for you?  That His calling on your life is not a call to poverty but a call to generosity?  Are you praying and exercising your faith for your financial support?  Is your increase of faith resulting in an increase of actions?  Are you managing your finances in a way that honors God – in others words – do you live by a budget?

As you can see by my many questions above that there is much to understand about your spiritual relationship to money.  So do not just give a quick check that says, “yeh – I’m good.”  But take an inventory of your life and your relationship to the resources God has already brought into your life.

#2 – Your Philosophical Understanding of fundraising

Do you know that God has called you?  Do you know that by the nature of your calling you are “worthy” of financial support?  If you are “worthy” can you boldly proclaim your vision and ask others to join in the work to which God has called you?  Once you have supporters it is critical to treat them as partners.  We cannot do the work we do alone and without their support we would utterly fail.  So what do you “owe” them?  Yes – you do “owe” them dearly.  You owe it to your partners to be faithful and work hard… But you also owe to them sharing the information of what is happening in your ministry.  Regular communication is critical to keeping partners working with you. 

Once you have a correct philosophical understanding of fundraising, you will never again feel like you are begging.  You will never feel like you are asking them to pay you personally.  You will never be embarrassed to ask someone to partner with you.  You will never be uncomfortable in sharing your vision and inviting others to join you in your calling.   

#3 –Your Practical Application of Good Financial & Fund Raising Principles

Are you an accountant?  Probably not… But guess what?  You are now expected to be one and you better be a good one!  Learn to track your partners giving.  Learn to do all your reporting accurately and timely.  Learn to pray over all your partners and contact them regularly.  Find unique ways to communicate and share the good things God is doing through your ministry and through their partnership.

Once you are good at the practical side of things, create systems so that everything naturally repeats itself.  Using your monthly statement as means to review, pray, and communicate with supporters is an excellent way to keep these activities going on a monthly basis.

So the morale of This Story… Your Story… is get the big picture of what God is wanting to work into your life and through your life in the area of finances.  Do not make fundraising a “necessary evil”, but turn it into an encouraging and empowering ministry where you gather many people and churches together to accomplish something great for God.

*[Old Indian Folktale – Author unknown]

 – Pastor Chris