Last week I attended a grant-writing meeting with some colleagues of mine that was specifically geared towards Christian Non-Profits. Those in attendance varied from hospital chaplains, to homeless organizations, to children’s ministry and leaders in special needs. As we walked through the program, the presenter’s emphasis was on getting the attendees to “think like a funder”. In other words, when completing work on a grant, put yourself in the shoes of the donor, thinking about how you would want your charitable dollars managed and spent.
The four hours we were together proved sadly enlightening. To my astonishment, the majority of the organizations in the room kept no statistics on their programs. Oh, yes, they can tell you how many people they served or how many decisions for Christ their were, but nothing beyond that. For instance, one organization who helped people with substance abuse problems could not tell how many stayed clean after participating in their programs. The homeless organizations couldn’t tell you how many people actually stayed off the street or found a job. And a variety of organizations made no assessment of spiritual impact.
Feeling like a neophyte, I was shocked to find that at least three separate executive directors had an interest in meeting with me to see what we are doing in the area of tracking the spiritual growth of our participants. I find that especially embarrassing because we have been keeping our statistics just like the other ministries up to this point. However, as we develop a new parent mentor program, I know that we will have to have hard numbers to show potential grantors the progress this program provides.
These metrics and our programming that they are attached to have become more well-defined after a summer of extremely hard work and years of frustration. Knowing in my mind what God wanted us to accomplish, I could never seem to get Board Members or volunteers to move from point A to point B. My colleague in ministry, Dr. Steve Grcevich humbled and awakened me this past spring when he asked me, “What’s in your business plan?” I was ashamed to admit to him that after nine years of working with this population, and receiving a couple of grants, our organization still had none. While it had always been on my radar, it kept taking back seat to the service that seemed so urgent.
Having greatly improved my Board of Directors through things I had learned attending the Willow Creek Leadership Summit over the years, it was an easy step to get them to buy-in to spending hours together this summer on vision casting followed by a firm plan and action. We now have a plan that helps us carry out what already was a wonderful mission statement. And we have teams working on projects that can be measured. And subsequently, we have now secured two terrific grants with another not far behind.
I am transparent in this story with you because I feel it is essential for us to act as responsibly as the secular world if we want to be taken seriously. And if we are to reflect the glory of our God to the world around us, we must operate our ministries with integrity that is above reproach. Putting plans and measurements of progress in place are a few of the competent ways we can achieve that.