Wisdom Wednesdays: When Introspection is Good

by John Hoh

Previously I discussed how congregations and organizations can fall prey to the “omphalos syndrome.”  Omphalos is a fancy Greek word derived from the word used for navel, or the belly button.  It’s about being ever inward-looking.

But introspection isn’t always a bad thing.  Sometimes we need to look into the mirror at who we are, what we are, what we can do better and areas where maybe we haven’t done all that well.

Of course part of introspection is to know why a congregation or organization exists.  Sounds easy, right?  But once you begin to gather minds to craft or revise a Mission and Vision Statement, a whole host of ideas will flood out.  None of them really are wrong.  The trick is to craft a succinct statement that covers your mission and provides direction.

Hoh-John_2011Once you have your Mission and Vision statements, the next step is to match actions to words.  If a key take-away in the Mission/Vision statement is an emphasis on outreach, is that reflected in the budget?  Will decisions made by leaders reflect the desire to be inclusive and welcoming?  Or will there be the “business as usual” approach after the fancy words are written, typeset and posted on frames around the building?

Introspection also helps us focus on what we perceive the world around us to be and possibly how our perceptions may need some adjustment.  Do you have older leaders who remember the “good old days” and can’t wait for them to return so you can flourish again?  Well, times have obviously changed.  If your organization hasn’t, maybe it is time for some soul searching to find a way for you to make changes to meet the needs and challenges of a changing world and society.

Also, introspection leads each one of us to find it in ourselves to grow in grace and wisdom to see others’ needs ahead of our own.  Yes, I attend church for what I need; but others are also in need of a saving message or in need of assistance through Christian charity.

From an inner change comes the ability to forge relationships with the people around us –  people that God loves, has created and redeemed, and whom God wants to know are loved and saved.  Often that opening to share God with them is to meet the needs they have in their lives.  When we listen to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and the teacher of the law wanted to know who his “neighbor” was, wasn’t Jesus’s answer revealing?  That an enemy is my neighbor, is my brother or sister?  If the strangers in need around you aren’t brothers or sisters, why aren’t they?  It can be easy to just hand someone material things and bid them on their way, but why not make some coffee and have them rest awhile and visit with them to get to know them?  In other words, build a relationship with people.  That’s the essence of Jesus’ ministry, and it will change your organization.

John L. Hoh, Jr., is a former seminary student active in the volunteer ministry of his east side Milwaukee congregation.  He lives in Milwaukee with his son, Matthew, and is a published author with many books on Lutheran history, theology and practice.  Contact him at hohjohn@yahoo.com.


ALDE has Adopted the NEW Facebook Timeline. Have you?

Have you seen the new-look ALDE Facebook Page?  If not, check it out hereWe’ve already adopted the new timeline view.  You can still view the page even if you don’t have a Facebook account.

Have you adopted the new timeline for your Facebook page?  Are you unsure what the timeline is, or haven’t yet made the leap?  Here’s a handy article that will help guide you.  One quick tip: the optimal size for your timeline cover photo is 850×315 (850 pixels wide and 315 pixels high).  Also, be sure to read up on what you’re cover photo CAN’T include.

Keep in mind, ALL nonprofit and business Facebook pages will change over to the timeline view this Friday, March 30, whether you’re ready for it or not.  So get ready now, and you’ll look your best.

Wisdom Wednesdays: What is Your Kryptonite?

by Jim Galvin

Kryptonite was the green ore from Superman’s home planet of Krypton.  It could make him lose his super powers, become weak and even kill him.  Superman could do many things well but he became powerless around Kryptonite.

So what is your Kryptonite?  What drains you?  What situations and tasks suck the life right out of you, and how can you deal with it?

We all have unique strengths and weaknesses.  When we are operating in our strengths we are energized.  When we are operating in areas of weakness we tend to feel drained.

During a recent planning time, I made a list of things that drained me.  My list included:

  •  Entering transactions on QuickBooks
  • Going on back-to-back trips with no recovery day in between
  • Traveling with people who talk incessantly
  • Recruiting new board members
  • Playing phone tag with voicemail messages
  • Driving in unfamiliar cities
  • Dealing with issues related to software, hardware or website

What drains you?  Find a piece of paper or open a favorite software program for capturing ideas.  Make a mind map with a stick figure of you or the image of a low battery in the middle of the page.  Around that image list everything you can think of that drains you.  These can be situations, specific tasks or certain individuals.  Take enough time to make a long list.  Then you will be able to deal with each of them one at a time. You have at least five options.

Drop it.  Is this something you can simply stop doing without any negative repercussions?  Maybe someone else will feel strongly enough about it to take it on.
Delegate it.  Can you assign this responsibility to somebody else?  Most people would probably do it better than you anyway.
Alter it.  Can you change the conditions or your thinking about it?  With back-to-back trips, I know think of it as one long trip and pack accordingly.  I also bought a GPS for driving in unfamiliar cities.
Team it.  Who can you get to help you?  You can ask a friend to meet with you, ask your team to do it together, or hire a coach.
Reward it.  How can you bribe yourself to get it done?  Pair the draining activity with another activity immediately afterward that is fun, rewarding and energizing.

What’s your Kryptonite?  Take some time to figure it out and, like Superman, try to stay away from it!

Jim Galvin, Ed.D., founded Galvin & Associates, Inc., in 1999.  Based in Elgin, Ill., he is an organizational consultant specializing in strategy, effectiveness and change.  Jim has been a speaker at several ALDE events.  http://www.galvinandassociates.com

Wisdom Wednesdays: Community Involvement

by John Hoh

Often, our congregations and organizations meet internally.  We discuss internal affairs, such as staffing and budget.  There might be other concerns addressed.  A congregation may have to vote on membership issues raised by the pastor.  An organization may need to study matters such as the effects new legislation, local or federal, may have on the organization.

In short, we can all too often suffer from what is called the “omphalos syndrome.”  Omphalos is a fancy Greek word derived from the word used for navel, or our belly button.  Yes, we can be so focused on our “belly buttons” we forget what our mission is, and here I’ll just comment that if your congregation or organization has no Mission and Statement of Vision, now would be a good time to develop these.

If we look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28 we see a simple verb, “Go.”  Somehow, we have turned that into, “Come to our church, come to our meetings, come, come, come … ” But the Great Commission is outward-looking in order to be inclusive.  There have been debates in my Bible classes as to the extent we “go” — do we travel to the ends of the earth like Paul?

Hoh-John_2011Or do we go out into our communities and interact with the people we meet next door who might have an interest in our message and our mission?   My pastor has often told the story that he lamented to a seminary professor that he never seems to meet anyone in the neighborhood.  The professor’s advice?  Sit on the front steps reading the newspaper.  When pastor did that, he did start meeting neighbors.

In our east side neighborhood we have many opportunities to mingle with the community — walk a dog, visit the farmer’s market, interact at a street festival.  This is passive, and it’s OK, but consider an active mingle.  At my church every year we have a “Meet Your Neighbor Street Picnic.”  We grill bratwurst and hot dogs, have salads and desserts, and invite our neighbors to join us.  We have booked mascots from the local sports teams (many do so for free), had Christian bands and puppeteers perform and award a “Neighbor of the Year Award.”  In recent years I have invited local authors to come and meet our neighbors and let them get exposure for their works.

This annual event has become popular in the neighborhood.  To be sure, we have had to re-evaluate how we do things and change process the next year, but the community always looks forward to it and embraces it.  A number of our award winners have even taken a liking to some of our ministries and our mission and have helped whenever and wherever they can.  It has been a win-win for everyone.

Another Salem community event, which will be held again this coming weekend, is our St. Patrick’s Day open house.  We open our doors, offer free corned beef and cabbage and have videos and literature on the life and mission of St. Patrick.  The Sunday following we have our Mission Sunday because St. Patrick was a missionary!  The Irish hymns sung that Sunday are a real treat and welcomed by all.  On our carillon on St. Patrick’s Day we also play CDs of Irish hymns.  It connects us to our community, and it is amazing how many people do not know who St. Patrick really was!

Getting your organization visible in the community is important, and it doesn’t even have to be that hard.  It’s not just for churches, either — if you’re active in the community and people see what you do, that can increase volunteers, donations and simple awareness.  This awareness may sound obvious, but if you don’t get out and talk with the people, then you don’t know what they don’t know about you.

If you would like more details, I will be glad to provide them.  In future installments I will visit this topic more, as well as the topic of Process/Procedure.

John L. Hoh, Jr., is a former seminary student active in the volunteer ministry of his east side Milwaukee congregation.  He lives in Milwaukee with his son, Matthew, and is a published author with many books on Lutheran history, theology and practice.  Contact him at hohjohn@yahoo.com.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Ask, Don’t Tell: Three Types of Power Questions That Build Donors for Life

by Jerry Panas, co-author of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others

Giving is a deeply personal experience. When you ask people to invest in your organization, you have to reach their hearts and souls.  That’s especially true these days. Even in spite of a sluggish economy, donors are giving generously, but only to those organizations they really care about.  And whether you’re a professional fundraiser or a volunteer, it’s your job to forge that kind of “heart and soul” relationship.

Right now you may be wondering: What should I say to a potential donor to create a deep personal connection with him?  Actually, there’s very little you should say — but there is plenty you should ask.

Strategic questions are powerful and help expose the heart and spirit of the person you’re talking with. Penetrating questions breathe life into a person’s deepest dreams. When you arm yourself with the right questions, you develop a totally engaged and productive relationship with the other person.

Sure, you need to talk about your organization and the people it serves.  (How else will the donor know if your mission resonates with her?) But what truly motivates her to give is asking a few thoughtfully chosen and crafted questions … and truly listening to her answers.

Listening is the single most important skill in our field.  Yet you can’t listen if you aren’t asking the right questions.  Buying a product or service may be a cerebral process.  Giving is most often a visceral one.  But in the case of both, it’s the relationships that make people pull the trigger.

There are three types of power questions that everyone in philanthropy must master.  Most people in the field have already mastered the first type.  They’re often far less familiar with the other two.

1. Giving questions.  These are informational questions to help you understand someone’s giving habits and history.  For example:

Before making a gift, what do you want to know about the organization?

What are the elements and factors that go into your decision about making a gift?

Has there been any gift that has disappointed you — in what way?

When did you start your philanthropy?

If you ask these questions, you’re well on your way to getting the gift.  But you can’t stop there.

With these questions, you’re laying the foundation for the rest of your conversation.  If you listen closely and ask the right follow-up questions, you’ll be able to advance the relationship.  If you don’t, you won’t.  It’s that simple.

2. Passion questions.  These questions get at what people are truly passionate about in their lives.  For example:

What has been the happiest day of your life?  

What in your life has given you the greatest fulfillment?

What is the greatest achievement in your life?

These are the kinds of questions that unearth the truth about what makes someone tick.  When you’re able to access the person’s passion, energy and excitement, it creates a powerful connection between the two of you.  It’s very intimate.  You’re inspiring her to want to take action, while simultaneously making her feel comfortable enough to want to invest in the organization.

I tell a story in Power Questions about approaching a donor on behalf of his alma mater.  Because he had graduated from the school’s engineering program, I assumed he would want to make a gift to it — but I was wrong.  My assumption, and the abrupt way I had presented it, alienated the donor and almost cost the university a gift.

Only after I asked for permission to start over, approached the conversation the right way, and asked the proper question did I discover that he actually wanted to give to the theater program.  That was where his true passion lay, but I had to ask the right questions to find out.

3. Legacy questions.  These questions help you expose the recognition the person might want and the legacy she wants to leave behind. For instance:

What are your dreams?  What else would you like to accomplish?

How would you like to be remembered?  What would you like people to say about you and your life?

If you knew you had only three years to live, what would you hope to achieve personally and professionally?

These kinds of questions have a way of forcing people to cut right to the heart of what matters most.  Nothing motivates us to act so much as being confronted with the reality that we are mortal.  This reminder, coupled with the fact that the donor has the power to make a consequential difference, puts her in a giving frame of mind.

Giving is at times, and with some people, fraught with psychological and emotional undertones.  Often, you function as a philanthropic therapist.  You must ask the probing questions that help the donor reach into his own deeply held feelings and channel them into action.

You have heard the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”  Well, you don’t “lead” a donor.  You can’t and shouldn’t make donors do anything they don’t want to do.  Your job is not to make the donor “drink.”  Your job is to make the donor thirsty.  You do that by asking power questions.

Jerry Panas is executive partner of Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, one of the world’s most highly regarded firms in the field of fundraising services and financial resource development.  His firm has served over 2,500 client-institutions since its founding in 1968.  Jerry’s clients comprise many of the foremost nonprofit institutions in the world.  They include every major university, museum and healthcare center in the United States.  Internationally, Jerry has advised organizations as diverse as the University of Oxford, The American Hospital in Paris and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos in Mexico, the largest orphanage in the world.

Andrew Sobel, co-author of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others, is the most widely published author in the world on client loyalty and the capabilities required to build trusted business relationships.  His first book, the bestselling, Clients for Life, defined an entire genre of business literature about client loyalty.  His other books include Making Rain and the award-winning All for One: 10 Strategies for Building Trusted Client Partnerships.  Andrew is an acclaimed keynote speaker who delivers idea-rich, high-energy speeches and seminars at major conferences and events.  His topics include Developing Clients for Life; Creating a Rainmaking Organization; Collaborating to Grow Revenue; The Beatles Principles and Power Questions That Win New Business.