“God how can I do this?!”
When leaders look at the numbers, we are tempted to ask, “God, how can I do this?!” God’s answer: “You can’t, but I will!”
God is far more than our intelligence, skill, and experience. When we place our faith and resources at the service of God’s will, all things are truly possible . . . in God’s own time and according to His own plan!
Jason Upton gives powerful testimony to how God’s blessings outstrip our imagination and fulfill our hopes in ways that are far beyond the decisions we make “by the numbers.”
Watch Jason’s testimony on Heartbeat’s FaceBook page, July 7, Jason Upton's Testimony (at The Ramp)By Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., Heartbeat International President
From On the LeaderBoard Volume 1, Issue 2
As Christians, we are all stewards of what truly belongs to the Master. As faithful stewards, we invest the Master’s “goods.” With the time, treasure, and talents that He has entrusted to us, we produce abundant goods for Him. Good stewards rely on skill, as in the effective use of accounting knowledge and management expertise.
As faithful stewards in pregnancy help ministries, we use caution in administering God’s goods. Even more so do we rely on grace. The blessing factor is God pouring His grace into our hearts when we respond to His will. Our response allows this grace to spill into our works.
Yes, caution is necessary. Yet, it’s easy to get carried away with statistics, numbers, and outcomes, losing sight of the heart and passion associated with the work of the organization. Board members (and staff) can get bogged down in this responsibility. Board meetings can become dry and heartless! Try to ensure that this isn’t the case, perhaps by assigning detailed evaluation work to a Board task force or committee.
Also, numbers don’t take into account the blessing factor. If you are part of the leadership team of a Christian ministry, one way you know if you are on the right track is by counting the blessings that the Lord is bestowing on your work. While this is most often not a category of the official reports, Boards and executive directors frequently talk about the blessings that have taken place recently, even miracles. We know that the small, often bungling efforts we make could never, in and of themselves, result in the effects which we see taking place in the ministry.
A client walks out of a peer-counseling session, seemingly bound for abortion, but calls back later to thank the center and share that she has decided to parent her baby. . .
An ultrasound machine picks up nothing but a pulsating dot on the screen (the heartbeat), but when the ultrasonographer reluctantly turns the screen toward the very abortion-minded client, she murmurs, “My baby. . .”
The staff and Board pray for office space and someone calls to ask if the organization would accept a donated building in the perfect location.
Your Board no doubt has such stories of blessings that let you know that you are doing something right. That something you are doing right is constantly turning to the Lord in prayer and relying on the Lord, the real Owner for whom we work as stewards, as our source of strength and wisdom.
Don’t let the world’s way of evaluating completely overshadow the blessing factor as a measure of what you are doing right!
by Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., President of Heartbeat International
by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International Vice President, Ministry Services
Will you watch the competition on the field or the competition among the commercials?
That’s right. The Super Bowl will be upon us soon and millions upon millions will tune in. It seems that more emphasis is on the commercials than on the teams (unless the team is one of your favorites).
A mere 30 seconds of time costs advertisers somewhere north of $3,000,000 in 2010. But how many opportunities does an advertiser have to get in front of so many people and score with such a high sales impact? Is it worth it? Only those who are close to the numbers – who know the cost of the ad as well as the number of people who say, “Yes” and adopt the product – can answer that question. And answer they will!
Can we ask similar questions about the “numbers” impact in pregnancy help ministries? I mean the number of people we see who are facing a true life-and-death decision. And then the number of people among that group who say, “Yes” and embrace the Gift of Life and the Giver of Life.
So what does it cost to have the type of conversations that lead to the result we desire? How much do we spend on marketing our ministry to those who need us the most? What percentage of our budget are we spending now? How much should we spend? Where are we advertising? Are we still in the old, familiar places? Or are we looking for new and more cost-effective avenues like web search and social media?
As you gather with friends and family for America’s annual event, the Super Bowl, enjoy the commercials. The folks from Madison Avenue have worked hard to get our attention and capture us as consumers. They work almost as hard as we do to gain the hearts of our “customers.” When you’re tempted to think about how deep are the Madison Avenue advertisers pockets compared to our pinched budgets, remember the value of the widow’s mite – priceless. And the treasury of Our Provider – infinite. And the importance of our customers – eternal. Also remember that it’s up to us to be good stewards whether He entrusts us with one talent or five (Matthew 25:14-30).
Take heart! What’s most important, money can’t buy.
by Ellen Foell, Legal Counsel
Financial services company Standard & Poor’s rates corporations and nations on the ability and willingness of an issuer—such as a corporation or government entity, to meet its financial obligations in full and on time.
Many Americans became familiar with Standard and Poor’s when the United States fell from AAA to AA-plus in 2011, reflecting the instability caused by Congress’ inability to meet budget deadlines during that timeframe.
Americans are also familiar with standards for corporations such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which guides our fanatical tracking of current stock prices as they roller-coaster up and down at breakneck speed. Meanwhile, medical providers are subject to a variety of standards, both specific and general, in addition to standards determined by The Joint Commission.
Standards exist on the homefront as well, where my children are judged (in a sense) on their learning capacity over the previous nine weeks by the ever-dreaded report card… which, as we know, goes on their permanent record. It seems impossible to go through life for very long without a set of standards measuring and accounting for performance, efficiency, and profitability being applied in various areas of our lives.
In the nonprofit sector, keeping an organization’s administrative overhead at somewhere between 0 and 20% has been the Holy Grail for a number of years. In other words, the “standard” has been to report to donors that less than 20 percent of all funds donated is being spent on administrative overhead, including salaries, advertising and marketing, staff training and education, costs of operation, and other less-than-exciting—albeit necessary—items.
This year, the three major evaluators and nonprofit trackers, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and Guide Star joined together in a first-ever united effort: an open letter to donors asking donors to rethink the “overhead myth.”
Without negating the value of the overhead factor altogether, this letter asked donors to reevaluate the importance and significance of overhead expenditure in rating a given nonprofit’s value.
These organizations’ desire to put the overhead figure into a more realistic and holistic perspective is a welcome reaction to the over-estimated value many donors place on overhead, which also drives nonprofits to sacrifice mission for the sake of meeting a somewhat arbitrary standard.
According to the organizers of The Overhead Myth, the myth itself is problematic in at least the following ways:
This discourse, of course, is not entirely new. As early as 2009, the Stanford Social Innovation Review published a critique of the unbalanced weight overhead tends to play in the measure of a nonprofit’s performance in its article, “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.” The article’s authors cited a few of the effects of starving a nonprofit in an attempt to keep overhead costs low.
Among their many dismaying findings: nonfunctioning computers, staff members who lacked the training needed for their positions, and, in one instance, furniture so old and beaten down that the movers refused to move it. The effects of such limited overhead investment are felt far beyond the office: nonfunctioning computers cannot track program outcomes and show what is working and what is not; poorly trained staff cannot deliver quality services to beneficiaries.
Even with the discussion brewing over the past few years, the fact that BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and Guide Star have chosen to tackle this issue together is rather significant.
Another key factor in the rise of this invaluable conversation was a now-famous TED Talk by Dan Palotta, entitled, “The Way We Think About Charities is Dead Wrong,” delivered in early 2013. Although I wouldn’t by any means endorse everything Palotta has to say in the talk, he does make a strong overall argument to expose the, frankly, ridiculous inconsistency in the behavior or practices we consider acceptable in the for-profit world, yet totally unacceptable within the nonprofit world.
The very same advances, innovations, and ad campaigns which reap huge profits, accolades, and awards in the for-profit world, Palotta argues, render accusation, criticism, and—at times—character assassination in the nonprofit world.
Our apparent disconnect between the for-profit and nonprofit worlds, as well as the relevant measures of success and performance, has sparked the following challenge from the editors of Nonprofit Quarterly:
Imagine that you went traveling and refused to take a room until you were informed about how much the inn spent on administration. Even if you were given that information, would you then compare that ratio to that of, say, your local airline?
When I started the organization, I was young, idealistic, and naive. Not experienced enough to know better, I bought the hype: that to be truly altruistic and efficient, we needed to operate at the highest possible levels of self-sacrifice. We needed to direct almost all money raised to buying pencils rather than building infrastructure, we needed to expect our staff to work for the lowest possible wages (or ideally none at all), and we needed to do it all with an eager, grateful smile.
Erickson writes bluntly about her failures as the 20-year-old founder and CEO of FORGE, a nonprofit founded in 2003 to assist refugees in Zambia and Botswana, “We under-invested in systems infrastructure, we under-invested in fund development, and we under-invested in human resources.” The rest of Erickson’s article essentially analyzes reasons for the demise of her once-successful nonprofit organization, and her lament for the “could have been.”
If not Overhead… Then what?
The rising chorus of these voices raises the legitimate question: If not overhead, then what metric? What measure? What standard by which to judge efficiency and performance? Surely, it would be unwise to give to an organization spending 50 percent of its funds on overhead. How can a donor choose wisely?
Surely overhead has a place as a factor to consider… Right?
The three major organizations recommend consideration of factors such as “transparency, governance, leadership, and results.” While, a thorough discussion of each of these factors is impossible in this forum, they do serve as a prompt to a full-bodied discussion at your pregnancy help organization’s board table.
Indeed, Heartbeat International seeks to steward every dollar donated with utmost wisdom and care. We recognize we are but servants, and are accountable to our donors, to our Board, and—more importantly—the Lord for our overhead costs. And, as we state specifically in GOVERN Well: Your Personal Board Member Manual™, and elsewhere, we expect the same from our affiliates.
Nonetheless, as boards and executive directors go forward into a new fiscal year, it is perhaps worth considering and discussing how to balance the dream, vision, and mission to which God calls each affiliate with the inevitable, less-than-pleasant, yet no less necessary, discussion of how to fund the dream and mission by which we expect God to work His Kingdom values on earth as it is in heaven.
Let the discussion begin!
For more views on this topic, see:
by Mary Peterson, Housing Consultant
It seems like a simple enough question, but it can make even a seasoned leader stumble… "What is success for your program?" Gulp.
As Christians, the question might make us especially squirmy. From a Christian viewpoint, success is modeling a life of love, planting seeds of insight, and observing tiny gestures of conversion of heart. We do our part in the work, and trust Christ to bring about the fruit by His Spirit.
But here’s the rub: Funders or major donors asking about success want to know more. They want concrete, measurable outcomes.
So, how do we go about establishing measurables and metrics? What can—at the very least—point to a pattern that just may be success?
With that goal in mind, leaders in the National Maternity Housing Coalition have begun working on a document to capture common strategies toward achieving various outcomes in practical skills, attitudes, and healthy behaviors.
The simple framework of NMHC’s work-in-progress resonates deeply with common sense, but is also rooted in up-to-date research from the Centers for Disease Control, addressing and preventing "adverse childhood experiences" while building resiliency skills. This framework articulates the work homes have been doing for years, while inviting leaders like you to share the "best of" what you’ve been doing, and considering new methods for serving moms in your ministry.
NMHC’s document is currently a working draft, and we would greatly benefit from your perspective! We are having a working session to collectively fill in the framework of this document on September 12 at 1 pm (CST). You can find details for the session here.
Please consider joining us to add your input to the document!
Our work, so dear to the heart of God, plays out on the stages of both the natural and supernatural. On a supernatural stage, we know God's vision for success is not easily quantified and measured.
But the natural stage is where we are called to articulate a vision for success that advances the excellent, transformative work of maternity homes.
And in doing so, we give God the glory!
by Jor-El Godsey, Vice President
Probably the most common question asked when center leaders get together is, “How many unique clients do you see?”
Presumably, the higher the client number, the better the outreach. And it seems to follow, the better the outreach, the better the outcomes. But does this really reveal the whole picture? The answer in a word... hardly.
Yes, more client numbers generally suggests there are actually more “outcomes.” But does it naturally follow that those outcomes are “better”?
The answer to this question requires a deeper look, beyond focusing on total client numbers, and more closely evaluating the outcomes they represent. We have to ask, “What outcomes are we representing?”
Do we count a last known intention after one visit the same as that of a client we’ve seen several times throughout her pregnancy?
How do we qualify discussions relative to spiritual interactions? As faith-motivated ministries, we recognize the context of a life-and-death decision is every bit as spiritual as specifically choosing to follow Christ. Do we count both as equal in light of our mission?
Forty-plus years into the pregnancy help ministry, we all stand on the backs of entrepreneurs who blazed the trail before us. Those courageous folks—some of whom are still very active in our ministry today—tackled challenges like getting real-time pregnancy test results (before the easy tests were available) and getting listed in the Yellow Pages.
These pioneers learned to successfully draw someone who was not looking for their services (even though they desperately needed it), and that entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in our movement, as we push into the new electronic marketing frontiers and mobile device client intake.
With that, we must continually make room for the intrapreneurs among us—those who may not push the envelope per se, but who work to maximize their ministry’s effectiveness. Intrapreneurs spend time on process, protocol and efficiency (not to be confused with effectiveness).
These in turn help serve better outcomes as well as more outcomes. Pushing into new territory is important, but not to the exclusion of developing the territory we are already in. Thankfully, God provides those with temperaments fit for the task.
Take up the task of becoming a pregnancy help movement Intrapreneur today. You can begin by taking one more look at how you evaluate your outcomes.
by Jor-El Godsey, Vice President
Before you break out the mission statement, ministry tag-line or branded sound-bite, let’s look past today’s pundits’ and consultants’ definition of success.
Let’s see what the “Owner’s Manual” has to say about success. After all, if we are a Christian ministry, or simply Christians ministering, we should understand what the Bible has to say about success.
The New International Version has only a couple dozen occurrences of the word “success” (a few dozen more if we add “successor,” “successive,” etc.), and all of them are in the Old Testament.
When success is the subject of the verse, we see two distinct patterns. First, success is something that comes from the Lord, like Nehemiah 2:20: “I answered them by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success...’” Second, success is a reward for partnering/cooperating with the Lord, like we find in 2 Chronicles 26:5b: “As long as [King Uzziah] sought the LORD, God gave him success.”
Notice also that success noted in the examples above can be both corporate (“give us”) and individual (“gave him”). And again, success is noted as a gift from the Lord. Although the New Testament has no direct references to “success,” there are two themes that seem to indicate success among believers. These two, like the Old Testament references, are indicative of working and receiving from God.
1. Faithfulness. In 1 Corinthians 4:2, the Apostle Paul explains, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Our Lord asks us to be full of faith, particularly faith He will accomplish what He desires, both in and through us.
2. Fruitfulness. In the Gospel of John (15:8), Jesus states, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Fruit, ostensibly good fruit, is also an indicator of our relationship to God and our faith in Him. We were created for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10) that bring glory to Him and advance His kingdom (in our hearts and elsewhere).
So, in our work today, success is more than any “outcome” (that word only shows up once... in The Message) related to our mission. Positive outcomes are excellent and to be celebrated as one measure of success. But as both ministers and ministries, our success must include faithfulness to the mission—even in the face of opposition—and fruitfulness where we count the victories of those who embrace life, and life everlasting.
As you take stock of the year just past, look back a little further. Rick Warren says we “overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, and yet underestimate what we can do in a decade.”
Look back over the last decade (or more) as a minister and a ministry, and celebrate the success of faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Jor-El Godsey, Vice President
When you take into account all those who have been wounded by this “choice”, it becomes even harder to find something positive—let alone to allow ourselves to think we’re winning.
But, before we throw our hands up and walk away, let’s consider two things that can give us at least a hint that, yes, we are winning.
First, the nearly 1,400 Heartbeat affiliates worldwide directly serve 1,000,000 moms, dads and babies every year. That’s direct service, not estimated impact. Think about it: If the pregnancy help community threw in the towel, countless additional lives would be added to the toll of dead and wounded on account of abortion.
Second, and more importantly, such discussions draw us to envision a time when no abortions are happening. We long for that day. We pray for that eventuality to come about. We hope to see the realization of that dream.
Many pro-lifers give their time and attention to achieve that BIG victory over abortion, by utilizing the political and legislative resources available to us. This is a necessary and worthy goal. But, until that happens, we can—and must—win ONE victory.
That ONE victory involves the mom and baby we will see today, in our centers, in our maternity homes. That’s what we do: We win one victory, one heart, one life at a time.
So take heart. We win every day we step into someone’s life and prevent the tragedy, the loss, and the violence of abortion they are otherwise headed for.
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