One of the greatest challenges for any donor is being a good steward over the funds that have been entrusted to them. At the Stoller Foundation, we receive numerous requests for funding and many are for praiseworthy projects. How do we narrow them down? How do we choose? I think the answer to that question is very similar for any donor — whether it is an individual giving $100, a church donating $10,000, or a foundation granting $100,000.
- Do I identify with the cause?
- Do I understand the purpose of the project and the desired outcomes?
- Do I believe this donation will make a difference to the ministry and those they are serving?
If donors do not have clarity on how their funding will be used and the outcomes it will produce, they are less likely to contribute. Ministries must be able to measure their impact on the community and communicate that impact to donors.
When we ask ministries how they will measure their impact on the community, they usually respond with answers such as, “More people will get off the streets, communities will be transformed by the youth that complete our program, or entire families will be touched with the gospel.” I am astounded by the selflessness of God’s servants who spend their days loving these people in his name. These are great goals, but from our experience, most people don’t have the tools in place to measure them.
I believe there are times when God asks us to step out in faith, and there are times when he asks us to be strategic. In Luke 14:28-30, Jesus tells us of the importance of appropriate planning:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”
Developing tangible measures of transformation will benefit not only the donors but also the individual ministries. This isn’t as easy as measuring salvations or volunteer hours. Community transformation isn’t that simple. Each ministry has a unique mission and method for achieving that mission. Having ministries establish measures that adequately represent their unique mission can bring clarity to both the organization and the donors. Measures give evidence of the effectiveness of the ministry.
How can ministries start to measure their impact?
1. Clearly articulate what you do as a ministry. This is more than a mission statement. How are you carrying out your mission statement? What is the purpose of your ministry? What makes you unique?
2. What are the desired outcomes of your ministry? Be specific. When using a word like “transformation,” define what it means to you, leaving no ambiguity. What is truly important to you?
3. How can you tangibly measure those outcomes? It is easy to get overwhelmed here. Make sure you break down your large-scale transformational outcomes into smaller bite-size pieces. What can you measure to know you are on your way to achieving your mission? Are one-time decisions or actions important to you or would you rather see a lasting impact?
4. How can you communicate your impact to donors? How can you show them where you are spending your money and what you are measuring to illustrate progress towards your ministry mission? The answers to these questions communicate to the donors what is most important to your ministry.
These are not easy questions to answer. I recommend answering them prayerfully and collaboratively with your staff and your board. If your ministry is able to articulate its mission and demonstrate evidence that it is achieving that mission, you will be astounded at the positive response and increase in funding from individual donors and foundations alike. People want to be able to feel like they are making a difference when they donate. They want to feel as though they are a part of your ministry’s mission. In order to do that, they must be able to clearly understand your mission, how you achieve it, and the measurements of your success.
Ashley Hurley is the executive director of the Stoller Foundation, which funds and supports Christ-centered ministries that mobilize volunteers to serve others and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. This post is an excerpt from the 2014 Summer edition of Outcomes Magazine.
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