Wisdom Wednesdays: A Mentor? Who, me?

by Bethany Krepela

Johannes von Staupitz.  Elijah Mays.  Robert Friedland.  Mrs. Duncan.

These names might not mean much to you.  How about Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey?

The first list of names is of those who mentored the second.

Bethany KrepelaALDE currently has 50 matched mentor pairs, with six members having applied for mentorships but still awaiting mentors.  Could YOU be the match they are waiting for?  It’s not just the mentee who grows from the mentoring partnership.  When you mentor someone, you learn more about yourself, your profession and why you do what you do.  It really helps you consider and discover what works and what doesn’t.

When you hear about being a mentor, this may be what you think of yourself:

  • I am not experienced enough.
  • I’ve made a lot of mistakes.  Who would want to learn from me?
  • I don’t have enough time. I hardly can get through my own to-do list.
  • I’ve never mentored anyone before. I don’t know if I would have anything of value to offer.
  • Insert your own excuse here.

Let’s consider the original list.

Johannes von Staupitz was the head of the monastery where Martin Luther was enrolled. He encouraged the young monk to pursue a doctorate in theology rather than becoming a priest after he fumbled through his first mass.  He told Luther to not rely on his own efforts or works, but to trust in the goodness and mercy of God.

Benjamin Elijah Mays was the child of former slaves who, despite having a father who didn’t believe in education, eventually became president of Morehouse College, where he met the 15-year old freshman King. Under his influence, King’s pursuit of a career in law or medicine changed to ministry, and Mays became his spiritual advisor.

Our next mentor, Robert Friedland was a drug dealer turned billionaire mining mogul.  Steve Jobs met the young parolee at Reed College.  They became fast friends, and Friedland is described as teaching Jobs “a lot about selling, about coming out of his shell, of opening up and taking charge of a situation.”

Finally, Mrs. Duncan was Oprah Winfrey’s fourth grade teacher who took time with Oprah outside of school, instilling confidence in her and teaching her a foundational truth for her life — to not be afraid to be smart.

Anyone can be a mentor.  Even you.  If von Staupitz, Mays, Friedland or Duncan waited until they were experienced enough, had met all their own goals or had enough time, who knows if their protégés would have become the icons and influencers they did?

The ALDE Mentoring Program was formed to advance newcomers in our profession.  At the same time, ALDE mentoring relationships are mutually beneficial.  Be prepared to be blessed by the experience.

Read more about the benefits of mentoring and ALDE’s guidelines, and apply to be a mentor on this page.  If you’re on the other side, and are interested in being mentored, we always encourage you to apply.  Who, me? Yes, YOU!

Bethany Krepela is a Leadership Giving Officer for Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and is based in Minneapolis, Minn.


Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.

“Johann von Staupitz.” March 4, 2012. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 27, 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Johann_von_Staupitz&oldid=480231064>.

“Martin Luther King Jr..” 2012. The History Channel website. Retrieved May 27, 2012. <ttp://www.history.com/topics/martin-luther-king-jr>.

“Who Mentored Oprah Winfrey.” 2012. Harvard School of Public Health website. Retrieved May 27, 2012. <http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/chc/wmy/Celebrities/oprah_winfrey.html>.


Wisdom Wednesdays: Are You Asking Your Biggest Supporters?

by Fran Troxler

You work very hard to secure support for your organization.  But are you forgetting to ask some of your biggest supporters for gifts?  If your organization doesn’t encourage employee giving, you’re missing a major opportunity.  But how do you make the most of that opportunity?

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday.  My good friend and colleague Brenda Meier Kimaro and I were roommates at an ALDE conference several years ago. Troxler-Fran We love to brainstorm ideas that lift up Lutheran World Relief’s ministry and encourage people to support us.  During that informal session (sitting in our hotel room) Brenda asked me point blank: “So, when do we ask LWR employees to give to LWR?”

Brenda takes her personal philanthropy very seriously.  She was eager to give.  Immediately, I asked her to be on my committee to launch the first formal LWR Employee Giving Campaign.  That was in 2002.  We wanted to make it fun, fast and easy.  That first campaign was titled, “TnT” (Talents and Treasures).  The committee was exploding with excitement.  We felt there were so many talented people who already contributed greatly to LWR with their talents, but we wanted to encourage financial gifts (treasures) as well.

Our staff responded to that first campaign with a 100 percent-plus participation rate (we also encouraged some of our consultants at the time to give … hence the 100 percent-plus).


Snapshot of some of the LWR U.S.-based staff that have been part of the 100 percent-plus giving program. Third row, fifth person from the right is Fran Troxler. Brenda Meier Kimaro is third row, last person on the left . Both LWR donors since 2001.

There are four key elements that help make our annual campaign a success:

  1. Create a campaign committee to encourage cross-institutional participation.
  2. Just like any campaign, have a beginning and end date so that people are encouraged to give during a specific timeframe.  We usually kick off the campaign at the beginning of our fiscal year (October 1) and the campaign runs through November.
  3. Make it fun and have a theme, along with incentives to give.  We have drawings for “fabulous prizes” donated by staff.  One of the most coveted prizes has been my famous wine basket, filled with wine purchased during trips to Napa or Sonoma.  The drawings (along with games) take place at our annual thank you luncheon.
  4. Last, but not least … thank, thank, thank your donors (and your campaign committee members.)

Since those early days of LWR’s Employee Giving Campaigns, we have raised more than $350,000, received pledges for the Lutheran Malaria Initiative and had a whole lot of fun doing it.  Oh, did I mention 100 percent participation every year?!

Fran Troxler is Director, Donor Services with Lutheran World Relief in Baltimore, Md.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Marketing and Dragons – What’s Inside?

by Blake Tilley

My wife and I recently decided that our 700-square-foot house was just too small for our two boys and us.  I think my wife got tired of waiting in line for the bathroom.  The good thing about putting our tiny bungalow up for sale was de-cluttering meant the removal of a single lamp.

So now that the for-sale sign is in the front yard, we sit and wait … or do we?  Selling anything is tricky business.  There’s cost, value, quality, location (or convenience) and timing.  Will we sell our house because enough people move through it (law of average), or will time eventually, and hopefully, bring in the right buyer?  But what about impulsiveness?

Tilley-DragonMy son had a great idea to attract prospective buyers.  He’s into dinosaurs, sharks, cheetahs and dragons.  What if Dad and he put a big dragon on the driveway to convince prospects that this was obviously the coolest, and therefore best, house they could possibly ever want?  Sounded like good logic to me, so we did it.

Each year thousands of pieces of direct mail are sent across the nation in hopes that someone will support the mission.  While it’s not exactly selling, someone making a gift has the expectation of service to the mission.

Loyal donors recognize direct mail sent from their favorite ministry, they know the mission and support its service, nothing impulsive there.  Prospects, on the other hand, may need a little help opening that envelope.  Give them a reason to look inside!

Tilley-BlakeThe next time you conduct a direct mail campaign with prospect segments, experiment with a different envelope for just the prospects.  See if they are the ones who grab candy bars and batteries at the check out (or buy a house because of the cool dragon out front).

Don’t forget about the story!  That’s what compels people to give, and that’s what will convert your prospects to regular donors.  Start building that relationship.

My wife says that despite the dragon, the house still needs regular cleaning, grass cutting and aroma candles burning. Like the story in the envelope, it’s what is inside that truly counts!

Blake M. Tilley is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications with the LCMS Foundation.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Inheritance – A Biblical Perspective – A Gift Planning Opportunity

by Phil Meinzen

An estate plan, when fully matured, displays to the public or to beneficiaries a composite view that illuminates the culmination of a lifetime of values, manifested in a person’s financial stewardship.  More than this, it symbolizes what’s important in the heart of the deceased to the generations that follow.  Such a plan gives an inheritance or a “Transfer of the Blessings” that God gives during earthly life, symbolized in material possession or wealth that we leave behind.

The Bible, God’s living Word to the world, gives insight to help us see what God ordained and how God wants us to understand the real meaning of “inheritance.”  It’s clear that the “inheritance” God intends for the generations is Christ.  Martin Luther said that Christ is literally in every Word of Scripture.  In the Biblical teaching on “inheritance,” we see how God’s people can “give Christ.”

Christians should be encouraged to consider how their own succession planning is an opportunity to “Transfer the Blessings” we’ve received for the eternal benefit of others.  In this sense, a Christian’s lifetime plan for giving flows from the waters of baptism to reflect the impact of God’s Word on the hearts and lives of His “called out” people.

In the Old Testament the concept of Inheritance was tied to the Land.  Numbers 34:1-2 stated, “The LORD said to Moses, Give the Israelites these instructions.  When you enter Canaan, the land that will be given to you as your inheritance has these borders”.

The Levites didn’t get any distribution of land.  Here we see the real essence of “inheritance.” Deuteronomy 18:2 records, “So the Levites will have no land of their own like the other Israelites.  The LORD will be their inheritance, as he promised them.”  God’s Word is clear that the Lord is Himself our Inheritance.  “I call out to you, O LORD.  I say, you are my refuge, my own inheritance in this world of the living,” (Psalms 142:5).

In reality, we are God’s heirs.  God’s riches are ours.  Proverbs 8:21 gives us the desire of Wisdom “to give an inheritance to those who love me and to fill their treasuries.”

After Christ appeared the inheritance of land immediately changed.  The evangelist Luke documents in Acts 4: 34-37, “None of them needed anything.  From time to time, people sold land or houses and brought the money to the apostles.  Then the money was distributed to anyone who needed it.”  Note the community of love that was in place in the early Church.

Indeed, our faith is a proclamation of a shared inheritance.  Acts 20:32 tells us, “I am now entrusting you to God and to his message that tells how kind he is.  That message can help you grow and can give you the inheritance that is shared by all of God’s holy people.”

Have you discussed with your constituents the benefit to them in seeking spiritual, expert and trustworthy counsel of charitable resources?  What would this encouragement do for people who want to honor God with the heritage of faith and the stewardship of earthy possessions to “Transfer the Blessings” for loved ones and favorite ministries to the third and fourth generations and beyond?

This planning that extends to the third and fourth generation is not possible when it is undertaken only with a transactional viewpoint, as if the material possessions were the only aspect of the blessing.  The rules against perpetuity prohibit such transactions beyond the third generation.  However, the most prized possession a Christian has is the gift of faith to believe.  This gift, given by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit of God, is transferrable by the miracle of God’s eternal love within His people.

Taking hold of the “life that is really life” and utilizing the charitable resources that the church and other Christian ministries provide, will help us proclaim faith through our financial leadership in the church, in the home and will witness to real faith in our communities and throughout the world.

One result will advance the Gospel’s impact on others today, tomorrow and forever – from ages to ages.

Phil Meinzen is Director of Training, Consulting & Mentoring with the LCMS Foundation.  Contact him at Philip.Meinzen@lfnd.org.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Keep it Short, But With Presence

by Jon Nelson

Are your subject lines short?  Make them shorter.

We all know that in this age of content overload it’s important to keep messages, articles and posts concise.  But what about your email blast subject lines?

Nelson-Jon-webI always knew that subject lines shouldn’t be novels, and that they should include good, strong verbs.  But some of the latest data shows even that may not be enough.

An aside: If you aren’t using mass email as a tool to connect with your constituents, I highly suggest it.  It’s a cost-effective way to reach current and potential supporters, and keep them up on latest developments.  Contact me if you have any questions about getting started with email marketing or improving what you’re doing.  Just make sure to follow the CAN-SPAM Act, or you could be dealing with fines up to $16,000 per offense.  It’s worth reading over this compliance guide.

Open rates are drastically affected by the length of subject lines, as is illustrated in, “Subject Lines Matter: 4 Rules of Thumb that Work,” a white paper by Dennis Litchfield, a statistical analyst, and Geoff Linton, Vice-President and Co-Founder of Inbox Marketer Inc.

Litchfield and Linton’s research shows that, “Subject lines that are 25-29 characters long receive the highest open rate (24%),” and, “The most popular subject line length (35 characters) falls short with an open rate of 22%.”

I have often tried to pack subject lines with all sorts of information about what is to be found inside the email.  But this clearly can be more than just wordy.  It can be detrimental when trying to reach people with important information.

We need to get away from thinking everything has to be in a subject line to get recipients to open a message.  We don’t need to include the whole message in the subject line.  That’s why we’re sending the message.

However, subject lines shouldn’t be too short.  Much of the reason for the effect of subject line length on open rates is attributed to what Litchfield and Linton call “message presence.”  They explain:

The longer the subject line, the more likely it is that keywords will be cut off.  This is a significant factor for why open rates tend to decline as subject line length increases.  Users may not grasp the potential benefits of opening the email because specific keywords have been truncated.
… But, subject lines that are too short may omit key words and may be less clear.  Inbox Marketer’s usability team examined inboxes in various email clients to examine the truncation and visibility impact.  The team observed that subject lines that are too long often become “buried” in the inbox, meaning they do not stand out among the vast amount of messages above and below them in the inbox.
Shorter subject lines have more white space after them, which provides contrast in the inbox, improves eye flow and makes the words appear more prominent.  However, subject lines that are too short lack both content and visibility due to their size and, therefore, have very low open rates.  Maximum presence seems to occur when subject lines are around the 25-29 character mark.

It’s important to include the right words – especially when subject lines are short.  Hence what Litchfield and Linton call “power words.”  “The sooner the power word appears in the subject line, the better.  The first word is the most important spot to place the power word.  It is also important to front-end load subject line copy,” they write.  Read their article for more on just what kind of words they mean, and the impact such words can produce.

Litchfield and Linton find that personalizing messages, and including your organization’s name in the subject, help open rates, too.  I tend to stay away from using people’s names in the greeting line.  Yes, technology makes it possible to do personalized greeting lines, but I avoid that due to potential difficulties.  No greeting line is better than the wrong first name or “Dear (Contact First Name).”

It definitely isn’t easy, but the graphs and numbers show the best way to get your message read is to use short, but powerful, subject lines.  Spend a few extra minutes on your lines, and the work will pay off!

Jon Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., works in Communication Services for ALDE. He is also Principal of Nelson Business Communications, LLC.