The title of the session is Insights for Deeper Impact & Sustainability. With that, I know we’re on a tight schedule, so let me jump in. So like every one of the speakers, there’s an agenda. Here are some of the things that we’ll be going through today that’s off the screen. Bear with me. We’re going to talk about focus and clarity and simplicity and one of my favorite topics, empathy. Empathy is something that I truly believe can be a secret weapon for you if you understand it; if you truly embrace it. And so I’m going to dig into that for a bit today. I want to demystify failure. I think that in our culture, we do ourselves, our children, a huge disservice by teaching and when at all costs, mentality. We’re talking about some of the basic building blocks of your mission, how to scale your mission and some of the basic or fundamental components of an action plan.
I want to leave you with something that you can take and really begin to implement today. I want to set some expectations as we get started here. You’re going to see quotes throughout. I like quotes and anyone that knows me knows that about me. I like quotes from other people because when I hear what other people say about various topics, it gives me a different perspective, a different lens through which to view things. I think that this first one should set the tone for an expectation stay or environment. The world in which we live and work is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations. So these are some of the expectations that I’ve set for us today to embrace some new perspectives, to be open to learning about some new concepts and methodologies or reviewing some that maybe you are aware of or are knowledgeable about, but maybe you haven’t thought of perhaps in this framework before.
I’m going to challenge the status quo. Part of my personality style is I challenge everything and everyone, and I don’t do that to be mean. It’s just part of who I am. I like to challenge things because I want the best. We’re not going to solve all your funding needs today, even with this amazing panel that I’m so blessed to be a part of today. We’re not going to solve all of your funding needs. That’s a journey, but we do, I know all of us hope to deliver you something that you can take and apply in service to your ministry. I want to offer some insights that may make your journey a little smoother. It won’t ever be perfectly smooth. That’s not real life. But maybe it’ll smooth out a few of the rough edges. And I really want to teach you to think differently about your ministry.
When people ask what it is that I really do, I could say I coach or do strategic planning and/or blah, blah, blah. But what I really seek to do is to deliver a message of hope and to get people to think a little differently. That’s really what my mission is. So we’re going to start out by talking about “eating the elephant.” And it may seem an odd place to start. So let me dig in a little bit more.
There’s a typical nonprofit story that I hear all the time and see if any of this sounds familiar to you. See if you may have heard a story like this for someone and they have an idea or in this case, God has called them to do something. They feel it in their heart and their soul and they feel that they have to get up and go do something because there’s an injustice in the world of some sort and they have to obey God’s Word and go do something about it. They want to change the world and you can fill in the blank. It could be of clean water or income equality or sex trafficking or whatever, fill in the blank. It doesn’t matter. But in their efforts to go change the world, they’ve identified these 30 different problems within that world and they want to deliver 30 different solutions. They’ve got this huge, amazing heart, just like all of you do, and a willing spirit. They’re willing to be obedient and go forth and do, but they’re completely under-resourced to try to tackle 30 problems and provide 30 solutions. So really, a better way is to learn how to eat the elephant, which is any of these large problems that we may be called to take on and learn to take a bite of that problem instead. And so this is really a theme for today.
Learn to take a bite – because what happens too often is as we’re talking about our various ministries, the things for which we’re called, we just dump on people. We just dump out all this information. We completely overwhelm folks. And it is the proverbial drinking from a fire hose as we try and talk about all the myriad things that we hope to accomplish. And you know, as it says here in this quote, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. People and you may have seen this, I know I’ve seen it, I’ve been guilty of this and my own work where I’ve tried to do too many things at one time. And as I’m trying to explain to people what it is that I do, I see them tune out. I can see the eyes glaze over and they’re just done and it’s my fault.
Think about Chick-fil-A for a minute. So Chick-fil-A, one of the things that they say about their company is they didn’t create the chicken, they only created the chicken sandwich. So they started out with a really, really simple business. They sold chicken sandwiches and they did pretty well at it. I think you would probably agree. Surely they’ve expanded, they’ve gone beyond just chicken sandwiches, but they’re still fairly simple in what it is that they do. And so this is an example of how to do amazing things and grow and be this big beautiful organization. But there’s a simple focus when you think about, as you’re trying to give your “elevator pitch,” and if you’re not familiar with that term, think about if you’re riding in an elevator and you have someone on the elevator that you wish to share with as far as what it is that you’re doing.
How long would it take you to share your mission and what impact you hope to make? Would you need one or two floors or would you need to be riding in an elevator in one hundred-floor skyscraper? How simple can you get with your mission? We are living in a time of, there’s great technology around us. We have all these wonderful gadgets and things, but because of this, we’ve created in ourselves, and this has been proven through science. We have a lesson, the attention span and it’s constantly decreasing. We have young people now, these are people that we call “digital natives” that have grown up. They don’t remember a time without iPhones and Androids and such. They have something that’s called “continuous partial attention,” where they do actually have the ability to pay attention to two or more things at once.
But just think about that. Their attention is divided among two or more things. You might be one of those two or more things in the center. They’re not really perhaps listening completely. There can be this amazing sense of general overwhelm or confusion when we’re trying to communicate far too much to people at any given time. And when someone is confused that equals fear. We fear the things that we don’t understand and I’ll revisit that thought here shortly. But if we don’t understand something, then that creates fear. And when we fear something, we’ve got really one of three options as far as how we react. We either fight, we run away, or we stop and do nothing. And none of those are really good options. If you’re considering you’re trying to engage someone, bring them into the fold, and get them to know more about you and your ministry and you’re hoping that they’ll come in and they’ll really like you and perhaps they’ll start giving to your organization, but yet you’ve overwhelmed them with information and now they are pushing back because they don’t understand they’re running away or they’re just putting their head in the sand and saying, “I’m not doing anything.”
So consider that as we move forward here instead. Let’s talk about the power of focus. Docus is a defined empowering to neutralize what God does not want you to notice. So consider how you might implement more focus on how it is that you communicate what you do every single day. And I’m going to use an analogy that I’ve used for years and it goes a little something like this. I call it the “bucket analogy.” Let’s say that you have a bucket of water and you take that bucket. There’s nothing special about the bucket. There’s nothing special about the water. It’s common water and you take that water and you splash it on a brick wall, it really doesn’t do anything. It makes the wall wet. You know, the sun will come out, the water will dry, and everything moves back to being just as it was before you splashed the water on the wall.
However, if instead, if you take that same chemical composition of water, that same amount of water, perhaps, and you focus it very tightly, then you can have a tremendous impact on that brick wall. You can cut a hole in that wall and create permanent change. So think about that wall as this great challenge that you’re taking on this calling that God has poured on your heart. Are you splashing a bucket of water or do you have a hydro jet and you’re cutting through that problem? How focused are you in your attempt to address what God has put you here to do? What are you focused upon? Because this greater focus, it amplifies your impact. You can have this deeper impact. You can cut through that wall if you have focus. Focus improves measurability. If you’re trying to solve 30 problems with 30 different solutions, then your dashboard for how you seek to measure your impact, it’s going to be messy.
However, if you’ve got one or two things that you’re doing, you’re super focused, then you’ve got a much greater ability to come up with measures to count how you’re making an impact. These metrics, when you have better metrics, you now have better reporting and if you have great reporting you’re going to have some happy donors and happy donors are more likely to continue funding you and perhaps they’ll even begin to fund you more in the future as you roll forward because they really like that you’re simple in your approach. You can absolutely count and measure what it is you do and you’re able to report that out very cleanly so that these donors, whether they represent foundations or it’s individual givers, they can very clearly understand how their dollars go towards making a difference in the world.
What you measure will improve simply by virtue, of whatever it is that you’re focused on. When you’re looking at something, when you’re paying attention to it, it’s founder-approved because it’s got your attention. So my messages try not to be a “Jack-of-all-trades.” You know, the old saying, “Jack-of-all-trades” and “master of none,” it’s another way of sharing this concept of the bucket analogy. But if you really find that you’re struggling to make an impact or struggling to measure impact, then it could very well be that you’re trying to do too much all at once. Because again, one of the things that you’re really hoping to do, one of the reasons why we’re putting on Fun Con 2020, is we want to share with you some methods and tools and tips, tactics, strategies by which you can better engage your giving population and generate more revenue, get more money to support your mission. There’s a reason why people give. And so understanding why people would give to any organization, let alone yours, I think is crucial. People give because you solve a need, not because you have a need, and it may sound like a subtle difference, but it’s really a crucial difference. And so I would ask you, what specific problem or what specific need are you addressing? Again, back to the focus piece, be clear, be focused. Keep it simple as far as what it is that you’re doing and how you’re communicating that out is what I see too often and maybe you’ve seen these as well.
Folks, they’re not focused on solving a need. They’re focused on the need that they have and this is what they’re communicating out and it’s, “Help! We’re running low on supplies. Please, please give now” with about a dozen exclamation points. All bold, all caps. Yes, people will give to causes like this, but this is not really a long-term strategy for deep donor engagement and for stewarding donors and really growing a deep donor base. You’re going to get a few people that will transactionally give, but this is not really a relationship tool or relationship tip right here. So focus again more on the need that you’re solving, the problem that you’re solving, and begin to communicate that out more clearly.
So every successful organization, whether it’s for-profit or nonprofit, is focused on relieving some form of human suffering, large or small. I would challenge you to think about this quote or this quote here. Think about this for a minute. Try to think of a business or try to think of a nonprofit that doesn’t solve some sort of a problem. One that’s successful. It could be a very large form of human suffering, hunger, or some sort of physical or emotional affliction or could be maybe a small bit of human suffering. Think about what if you were the person who had created the sticky note. It doesn’t really seem like a big problem it’s solving, but 3M has made lots of money over the years from the sticky notes. So some large problems, some small problems. There are these basic building blocks that they go into describing what it is that you do. You’ve got, and there’s a mathematical equation here I’m going to share for you, for you math lovers. I’ve got a problem that you solve. You’ve been a market or a group for whom you’re solving it. You’ve got a solution that you’re offering and then you’ve got to generate money. You’ve got to generate revenue somehow because the ministry has no money as a hobby. So again, ask yourself, what problem are you solving? How specifically can you nail down the problem that you’re solving or the need that you’re filling in society and for whom are you solving it? You could have. So I’m going to talk a little bit about entrepreneurship and I’ll pull it back in a minute. But you know, if, if I was talking to a traditional marketplace entrepreneur and we were having this conversation, we might talk about the difference between customers and users. So you may have met and maybe you do have an earned revenue strategy within your organization. You’re selling a product or a service. So you do have customers, you’re selling something to them. And then users are the customers who buy. Users are the ones who use whatever product or service you’re offering. And a great example of that is diapers. I’ve got a nine-month-old son and so we go through a lot of diapers. So that’s a practical example for me. My wife and I, we buy the diapers. My son uses them. So the thought of for whom is the diaper company solving the problem, for example, we’ve got to look at the difference with customers and users here. So as you’re considering your ministry and thinking about what it is that you do, perhaps you have customers, perhaps you have users, maybe your customers are your donors, the people that are giving of their monies to you to support this mission. So considering what’s in it for them and the users are the ones that you’re serving. So what is the solution that you’re offering as well? And again, how succinctly can you put this? Is it going to take you one or two floors on the elevator or do you need the entire structure? Do you need 10 minutes to share what it is that you’re doing? And again, thinking about how will you generate revenue so that you can stay viable so that you can continue to grow. And we’ll talk about scaling here in just a minute.
And a question to ask yourself is, are you making costly assumptions? Are you making costly assumptions about the problem that you’re solving or the population for whom you’re solving it? Or this, are you making assumptions about the solution that you’re offering? Is the solution really a solution or is it a Band-Aid? Does it even address what it is that you hoped it would address in the first place? Are you making assumptions about how it is that you’re seeking to generate revenue? When you make assumptions, these can be huge and very, very costly for you. So we’re going to talk about validating assumptions. Something, a guess that you’ve made about your organization will remain in assumption until you test to improve it. One of my favorite topics I’m going to weave in now is empathy. So we’re gonna get into that here in a minute.
“When we listen, we hear someone into existence,” a quote from Laura Buchanan. If you have it, read Toxic Charity, the book by Robert Lupton, I would highly encourage you to do so. And here’s how this ties in to the current discussion. What I gleaned from this book, what I can read many times is in this scenario, is that there’s a situation, a number of situations described where groups of people think that they’re solving a problem, but they’re not really solving the problem. They’re really doing something for themselves, not really solving the problem of this population that is seeking to serve, whether it’s the church wall that gets painted again and again, or if it’s the water filtration system that’s being created to serve to this population. One of the premises of this book is that the people seeking to serve aren’t really deeply connected with the people that they are hoping to serve. They don’t truly understand them. And what happens oftentimes with ministries and businesses is think about this, if you were ill, would you want someone to treat some of the outlines symptoms or would you want them to go and address the underlying costs? So when I’m talking about getting in and understanding the organism or the population, you’re seeking to serve and finding the true problem, “Oh, that needs addressed.” That’s what I’m talking about. Not serving surface-level symptoms, but going deeper and understand the problem at a very core level.
So when considering your mission, your ministry, are you treating problems or symptoms? And as I was explaining with the book and this is a situation that occurs all the time, is that as human beings, our egos get involved. We go forth and say, “We’re doing these amazing things.” And yet, the simple twist makes what we’re doing about us and not really about the person or the group of people that we’re trying to serve.
So I would ask you to consider this, are you solving this problem for yourself or are you solving it for them? Are you going and painting a wall that doesn’t really need to be painted, just that you can say that you’re doing good in the world, or are you really seeking to connect with this population to find out what it is they do need? And are you creating solutions to solve those problems? Have you ever been asked? I’ve been guilty of this. I’ve seen many other organizations that are guilty of this. They assume, and a friend of mine called this “assumicide,” where he said that we assume that we know something about someone else. We know what they need. And so we just go in and deliver without even asking. And so that assumptions can be deadly for your organization.
So have you even asked your people what it is that they need and how do you know that what you’re offering is truly helping? How are you measuring the impact these untested, what I call “critical assumptions,” could be really painful to your organization? Here’s what I’m talking about with a critical assumption – this is a guess that you’re making about your organization, that if you get it wrong, it can absolutely sink you. For example, the solution that you’re offering might not really be a solution. It might not really be something that the people you’re hoping to serve might not be something they really want or it may be great, but it’s too hard for them to implement or it’s too costly, whatever. So understanding that you’re making assumptions about your ministry and that you need to test these assumptions so that you can turn them from assumptions into known factors is one of the best ways that I know to validate assumptions, to really get in and learn about people is through empathy.
It’s to engage with people. When I purposely use that term, “engagement” because for example, if you go to a networking event and you’re meeting people, there’s this flurry of activity as people exchange business cards, that’s not really engagement to me. Engagement to me is something that’s more personal. It’s deeper. It’s when you very purposely and intentionally seek to connect with another human being at a really deep core level. So empathy as you see here, there’s a definition for it. Empathy is the ability to recognize emotions and to share perspectives with other people. And it helps to build trust and strengthen relationships. Empathy is a tool to really engage with people. Rather than notice the differences amongst ourselves, empathy is a way to see how much we’re like other people. There’s three stages. You’ve got the “cognitive stage” of empathy. It’s this first inkling and this beginning of awareness that someone else might have emotions. There’s the “emotional stage” where we’re beginning to engage with and say, “I have emotions, too. Let’s share.” And then you’ve got really what I call the “applied empathy,” which is this third stage, which is the most important for me is as far as engaging with and making an impact for the people you seek to serve. And this involves taking action based on what you’ve learned, what you’ve learned about their emotions and their needs and such. So this is the applied empathy piece. And when I’m talking about empathy, I don’t mean sympathy. Those are two completely different things, although they’re confused one for the other far too often. And so I’d encourage you to check out a Brene Brown video. This presentation will be made available to you afterward. Or you can do a search on YouTube for “Brene Brown sympathy video” or I’m sorry, “empathy video” and you’ll watch this three and a half minute, an animated video where Brene Brown discusses this difference between sympathy and empathy. And I think it’s marvelous. I would watch it often, the basis of what she’s talking about and the basis I introduced this earlier, is that we fear the things we don’t understand. If that thing that we don’t understand is ourselves, then that turns into very negative internal emotions, anxiety, and self-loathing, such if that thing that we don’t understand is another person or if it’s another organization, then again, we have that fight, flight, or freeze response. And none of those are good for growing your funder base and growing your revenue as a ministry. However, empathy, if you’re able to understand empathy and work through the three stages of empathy to get to the applied empathy piece that fuels connection and engagement, this is something much deeper.
This is very personal. When you are able to connect with someone or connect with an organization, then you can begin to understand who they are and what they’re about, why they exist, this understanding. If you were seeking to engage with and gain empathy for a certain population and you’ve identified what you think are some problems they’re exhibiting, then you gain this understanding and now you’ve learned something about these people, about this population, and you can do something with those insights. When you have these actionable insights, you can create some really innovative solutions to solve the problems or fill the needs that they have. When you have these innovative solutions where you’re not treating symptoms any longer, you’re really going deep and solving fundamental problems that equal value. And when you have value as a ministry, as a nonprofit, as a for-profit, that equals revenue people will give to organizations that solve problems. And if you have taken time to gain empathy for a population to truly understand what it is that that ails them, and you’ve gained these insights and create very innovative solutions that truly do solve core problems, you’ve created great value and people will see that and they’ll know you need to communicate that out, but that will equal revenue. Empathy then can equal revenue for you. If you understand this, this is not a manipulation tactic. It’s more about understanding. If we truly want to serve someone else, we have to understand them, we have to connect with them, we have to engage and we engage through empathy.
One of the tools that I’m going to introduce to you from the world of innovation and entrepreneurship is something called an “empathy map.” It’s simply a one-page tool that you use to try and get inside the head of the people that you’re trying to serve. You can use this for your donors, for volunteers, but it’s a way to very purposefully get out of your own head and try to get inside the head of somebody else. You can engage with them and understand. So for those that you seek to serve with this empathy map, and I’ve shared with Emily an example of an empathy map and I’m sure she can make this available to you; for those people that you’re seeking to serve, you try to consider what it is when they’re considering this problem that they’re having. When they’re experiencing this pain, what are they thinking about? What are they feeling? What do they see in the world around them? Or how do they see the world or what don’t they see? What are they hearing? Whether it’s hearing out in the world around them or hearing inside their own head and the inside their own heart, and what sorts of things are they saying or not saying and what sorts of things are they doing or not doing? So again, this is a very purposeful tool to allow you to get out of your own head and begin to get inside the head of those you seek to serve. You try to think about what are the pains that they’re experiencing and what are the gains or the positive outcomes they hope to achieve in life, and what tasks do they want to accomplish and what goals do they have in front of them? So again, very purposeful method by which to get out of your own head and begin to try and understand people around you.
For each one of these, these assumptions that you’re making, you’re assuming that you understand what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling and what they’re seeing and hearing and thinking and doing and the pains and gains they have. These are all assumptions that you’re making. And so you’ve got to test to validate these assumptions or else you’re just going off your own understanding. We can’t just lean on our own understanding, right? We want to engage and we want to have empathy and went on to understand. So here are some methods by which you can practice and gain empathy and test some of, these assumptions that you’re making about other people. So for your ideal customer, if you have customers or your client or your patient, your end-user, whomever it is that you’re serving, or it could be your various stakeholders, your donors conduct an empathy interview; an empathy interview is a very structured and purposeful conversation that you’re having with other people where you’re asking them to say things like, “Tell me about the last time that you had this problem,” and then you’d be quiet and listen, and you truly seek to understand what it is they’re saying. And you can, as they’re telling you things, you may say, “Hey, that’s really interesting. Tell me more about that. I want to learn more about that.” And you’re digging deeper. And then after they’ve told you something that you think is really interesting, you can pause and say, “Okay, so I want to make sure I understand this correctly. “What I think I heard you say was,” and you repeat back, perhaps paraphrase, it gives them an opportunity to hear what it is they’re saying maybe for the first time. And they can correct you if needed. And you can ask them, “So you’ve talked about this problem, how are you dealing with that now?” And they can tell you how they’re dealing with the said problem right now. Whatever that problem is, whether it’s how are you getting potable water now or how are you getting into the hospital or the doctor for service, for treatment now or whatever. Whatever it is about your ministry that you’re doing, you can begin to ask questions of the people that you’re seeking to serve. You can also, let’s say that you’ve got a physical space that people you serve operate within. They live there or they work there or they visit or you’ve got a product that you offer or a service that you offer. You can watch the people that you’re serving as they interact with the space or as they are paced through the service that you provide to see what you see, how are they acting, watch their body language, and begin to see for yourself what it is that they’re experiencing. You can use surveys as a means of gathering information.
At EPIC Mission, we do a lot of different. We didn’t do a lot of surveys as a means of engaging a broader population to get feedback and insights. You can do some independent research, perhaps, to see how other people are currently addressing the problem that you’re seeking to solve. And as you work with people, then you can go back to these people, these clients or customers or however you want to phrase and say, “I need to talk; how was this experience for you?” You can go back and measure how well you did working with them in the past and have some empathy interviews with historical, some of your historical customers and such. So these are five different methods that you can use right now. And they don’t take any money and they take a little bit of time. But you can use these methods to go test some of these assumptions that you’re making about the people that you’re trying to serve because you really need to get clear. We need to get exceedingly clear about what it is that we do. And that starts on the inside. We have to be really clear about what we do before we can hope to create clarity for others so that they can understand who we are and what we do and why we do it. And it’s this lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. And those things are not good for your ministry, for your mission.
When I was in fifth grade, I didn’t realize that I couldn’t see; my vision was terrible. I was legally blind from a distance, but I didn’t know it. I was trying to play baseball. I was trying just trying to live life and I didn’t realize I couldn’t see until I went to the eye doctor because I had an eye exam and realized how very poor my vision was. It wasn’t until that moment that I put on glasses for the first time that I could really see the world around me. That was the first time I’d ever really had clarity of the physical environment around me. So, how does this relate to your ministry? How clear is the mission to you? Do you really truly understand what it is that you’re seeking to do and for whom and why it matters? And how clear is your mission to your team, to your stakeholders, to those that you’re serving to your donors? How clear is it to them? Can they very clearly and cleanly and concisely repeat back to you what it is that you do? And do they understand it? Do they need glasses? Do you need glasses? Do you need to gain clarity first? Are you trying to serve an entire sector? Are you trying to solve, for example, world hunger? Are you trying to solve a facet of world hunger such as the logistics of transporting perishable goods in Subsaharan Africa? That’s an example of a very singular facet. So, ask yourself how clear and how concise, how targeted can you get with your mission? And again, are you in your lane or are you swerving all over the place trying to solve 30 problems with 30 solutions? Can you ask and answer the five W’s and the H about your mission? Who, what, when, where, why, and how. And can you answer that very, very clearly and most, more importantly, perhaps, can people around you within your organization and near the organization, can they answer those questions? Because if you can’t and they can’t, then you may want to question the messaging that’s being shared out about your ministry.
If you can get clear about what you do, how you do it, and why you do it, and for whom, asking those, the five W’s and the H, then and only then I believe can you really have an opportunity to grow, to scale, to ramp up what it is that you do. Many, many organizations that I encounter, they can’t wait to get big. They’re talking about these grandiose ideas and they can’t wait to do all these wonderful big things, but there’s really nothing wrong with being a mustard seed. Great things come in small packages and so I would encourage you to never confuse first, the beginning with the end, wherever you are. Now, don’t confuse that with where you may be at some future point. You may be small right now, you may be a fledgling organization, you may be one person with, with a very strong calling and a huge faith and that’s okay. Be hopeful and stay encouraged. Never confuse the beginning with the end.
Are you trying to go deeper with your mission? Are you trying to go wider, perhaps, and open up more services and provide more organized different products? Or are you trying to serve more locations? Are you trying to grow into a physical location? What board do you want? Understand what scale means to you and that way you can begin to form a plan around scaling up your ministry. If you’re going to scale, if you’re going to grow, if you’re going to expand, you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got a few things in place. However, you’ve got to create some efficiencies within what it is that you do. Some financial efficiencies. How well are you using the monies that you have already? Are you being great stewards? Can you account for every penny? Are you being wasteful? Where is the waste? Where are you leaking out and operationally, are you efficient? Are you making good use of that you have around you?
You need more money. And so I would encourage you to look at your funding model. Are you relying solely on contributed revenue where you’re hoping that people will give individuals and corporations and grants? Is that your funding or might you have an opportunity to weave in some earned revenue where you’re selling a product or service for a fee? Every organization is different. Not every organization is going to have the opportunity for earned revenue, but the answer is always “no” if you don’t ask. So I would hope that you would consider it, and you’re going to need some planning efficiencies. You’re gonna need a plan to scale. Do you have a strategic plan? Do you understand your business model? Have you crafted a funding plan? It’s going to get you from here to there. Operationally, do you know how many people you need and what positions you need filled and what skill sets do you know these things? Otherwise, you could find yourself drifting away from your mission where suddenly you wake up as if from a fog and you’re doing something that is wildly different than what you’re formed to do, where you might also be on another path.
That is the “grow, grow, gone path,” where you are so focused on growth that you don’t put in the systems and processes and operational structure to support a larger organization that’s going deeper, that’s providing more services. And you might be gone one day because you’re a house of cards and you collapse and we don’t want that.
In parentheses is a book called The E Myth and this is a book by a guy named Michael Gerber. E stands for “entrepreneur.” This book gets it. If you think that you’re not an entrepreneur, let me just pull back for a second.
I teach that partnership is not a business discipline. It’s a mindset. So if you’re seeking to solve problems using innovative solutions, then you’re an entrepreneur. You may be operating in ministry space, but you’re an entrepreneur. So, this book could help you understand some of the myths around entrepreneurship. One being just because you’re good at one facet of a business, that you’re in fact good at all facets of a business just because you’re good at delivering one aspect of your mission. You still got to look at the overall mission and make sure that you’ve got the different supports in place so that your ministry doesn’t go away. So be where the grow, grow, gone piece and seek to get simple. I like Albert because he had better hair than me and he’s really smart and he’s the definition of genius; taking something complex and making it simple. And the work that you’re doing is complex. Seek to make, to create some simplicity with focus rather than trying to do the 30 or 40 things you’re trying to do. Get focused on doing a couple. If what you were doing were easy, someone else would’ve done it already. So just know that. And just because we’re, I’m saying simple, that doesn’t mean less impactful. Again, with the bucket of water versus the tightly focused stream of water concept. Simplicity doesn’t mean that you’re not creating an impact. Do you understand the core elements of your organization? Ask yourself that. Do you know what it is that you’re doing and how simply can you explain what it is that you’re doing and how simply can you explain the impact that you seek to make? How simple can you get with what it is that you’re doing and how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it. For whom? One of the ways that you can begin to get simple and understand the core elements of your organization history planning by understanding your business model. And again, just because you’re in ministry doesn’t mean you don’t have a business model because you do. I do. I describe the business model as the organizational DNA. And every organization for-profit, nonprofit, has a business model. Whether you’ve designed it or not, the business model is simply looking at what is the problem that you’re solving? What’s the solution that you’re offering for whom? How are you generating money? Are you spending money? How do you deliver your solution? Those pieces. So the strategy, if you’re thinking strategic planning and how do you go about doing what it is that you do, you’ve got to understand your core business model and your plan of action will come from understanding the basic elements of your business.
The model will inform the plan and has all kinds of different plans, funding plans for changing plans, operations plans, doesn’t matter if you understand first what is your business model. It’ll improve or how you go about funding your ministry and how you go about achieving your strategic mission. But understand that plans in reality, never match. If anyone ever tells you they’re going to create the perfect plan for you, then they’re wrong because life and plans never match. Life happens all the time. I’ve got on the screen, a tool called a “Canvas,” and I can send you a copy of one, or you can Google a “Business Canvas for Nonprofits” and you’ll see some versions. Canvas is just a one-page tool that allows you to map out these core elements of your business model.
Once you understand your business model, you can begin to create your mission roadmap. It’s going to be informed by your model. It’s going to include things like mission and vision and values. It’s going to include how you fund your organization, how you market your organization, because if you’re doing amazing work, you don’t want to be a secret agent. Organizational smart goals where you don’t have a wishlist, you’ve got these really well-crafted goals that are specific and measurable and attainable and relevant to your mission and time-bound. You can create an action plan that is specific to these small goals so that you’re very wise with how you use your labor and you’ve got the ability to pivot which of these are okay. Terms, which are a pivot in age or change and what it is you do and how you do it or an iteration is a minor adjustment, but if you understand the basics of your organization, then you’re better positioned to deal with roadblocks when they occur. Understand that you’re a ministry achieving some relevant impact. It’s a journey. It’s not a destination and failure is part of that journey. So let’s talk about failure real quick as we move towards wrapping up because now I’m running out of time here. Failure is an option. By failure, I don’t mean catastrophic failure where you’ve got to close your doors forever. Failure could be that you made a mistake that you rolled out a new program or service and it didn’t really go so well. Failure is temporary and so is success, so understand that. And failure is an act, it’s not a person. Too often we get caught up in “We are a failure” rather than “We failed.” And those are different things. In entrepreneurship, we teach that when you go out and try new things, you’re going to fail.
So learn to fail quickly so that you can learn quickly. Go ahead and test something, don’t take two years to roll something out, roll it out in a little bit, go test it, and see what you learn. Fail often so you can learn a lot and fail cheaply so you can learn inexpensively. You don’t want these very costly lessons. So face failure as an opportunity to learn, to learn quickly, to learn inexpensively and to learn as you fail as you fall forward towards making a deeper impact. So in summary, I want to share this: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them. For the Lord, your God goes with you. He will never leave you or forsake you.” You’ve been called to do something amazing. Stay encouraged and go forth and do that. And I hope that some of what I’ve shared today has been helpful to understand that doing good requires doing well financially.
And my hope is that by virtue of you being here today, that you’ve learned some things that will help you. Empathy can be a secret weapon for you if you understand it and embrace it. Know the basics of what it is that you’re hoping to do and keep it super simple and focused. Learn to be really good at being small first before you try to grow and expand. Stay focused on what it is, your core elements of your mission and make sure you’re validating, testing any assumptions that you’re making and know that planning is not a luxury. You’ve got to plan and you’re not alone and help is available and you’ve been introduced to some people during Fun Con. They can help you in various ways and there are all kinds of other help out there as well. And remember that together, we are the change that we wish to see in the world.
So I really appreciate all of what you do. I appreciate your attention and appreciate you being here today. One thing that I want to share real quickly is there’s some help that EPIC Mission is offering and there are some additional details coming out of this. After this, we’re offering free one-hour strategy sessions with organizations just like yours. If you want to talk things through, this would be a Zoom meeting, like you are on here, and we’re also offering especially right now during this time of struggle, a “pay-what-you-can model” for any services you may need beyond that. So we want to provide the help that you need, but we’ll also want to work within a budget. And many of you may be struggling right now. So this is a way that we can help. More details will be coming out soon enough. With that, we can take a pause and see if there are any questions.