Thinking Out Loud

October 15, 2016

Remembering Uncle Ted

I won’t purport that this in any way is a full tribute to my wife’s Uncle Ted who passed away several days ago. (In addition to being her uncle, she lived with their family for six months.)  Rather, what follows was presented previously on the blog in two different articles.

tedWe first heard about Partners International when Ted was doing a number of missions trips to Nigeria with an adjunct project named, appropriately, Alongside. You know how everybody is always raising money to build wells in the third world? Well (no pun intended) sometimes the pumps break down very quickly, and nobody is actually committed to repairing them. There’s no glamour in that. It’s hard to raise funds for that. It’s easier to drill a new well because then you can brag on the number of wells your organization is building and then raise the appropriate costs.

You cannot deny however that repairing them is a better use of resources. So Ted’s project involved working closely with the people already on the ground. You can’t always partner with every indigenous organization that needs help, so Partners International is especially focused on seven categories: Children at Risk, Education, Christian Witness, Entrepreneurship, Health & Wellness, Justice Issues, and Women’s Issues.  (You can learn more at PartnersInternational.ca.)

But here’s the thing: Just as there’s more glamor in drilling new wells, so also do the people who are simply fixing them not always get the same level of attention and funding. We tend to want to fund big buildings. Massive outreaches.  It’s probably much easier to raise $60,000,000 than it is to raise $60,000. People gravitate to projects that sparkle. 

And then there is another thing: Colonialism. The pros from the U.S. arrive to make everything perfect because it seems more straightforward to simply stick the drill in the ground and create another well, rather than honor the sacrifice and service of the previously group which dug the first well in the first place. ‘We know what you need and we can fix it.’ Maybe some of the motives are right, but in balance, it’s filled with impracticalities; not unlike the summer missions teams which went to Central America and kept repainting the same school which had been repainted two weeks earlier by another missions team.  Yes, that’s a true story. And despite the greater fundraising potential, it’s lousy stewardship.

The people on the ground know better. The indigenous Christian leaders know better. I’m told they are planning a memorial service for Uncle Ted in Africa sometime in the spring. Because heroes don’t always look like we think they do. Sometimes they are simply people serving in straightforward, practical ways.

 

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May 7, 2016

The K-LOVE Pledge Drive

K-LOVE

When Grove City College Psychology Professor Warren Throckmorton reports on Mark Driscoll’s troubles or Gospel for Asia’s financial situation we link to it. But when he talks about K-LOVE it gets personal; we listen to that station in our car on a regular basis. So I was surprised on Thursday night to discover I was arriving to this nearly a week late, though I got the payoff of being able to also read the 50+ comments that followed. (Click the title below to read at source.) What follows are the highlights. If you’ve heard the station but don’t know much about the parent organization, you might want to pause to check out this Wikipedia article on the Educational Media Foundation.

Warren ThrockmortonK-LOVE’s Pledge Drive: Money Behind the Music

The Christian radio empire K-LOVE (complete list of stations) is in the middle of their Spring Pledge Drive. To be blunt, the constant solicitations are annoying.

After hearing a claim recently that K-LOVE’s CEO Mike Novak’s salary is over half a million dollars, I decided to do some exploration of K-LOVE’s finances. K-LOVE is one of two radio enterprises run by Educational Media Foundation (Air One is the other). Because EMF is a non-profit, their finances are available via their 990 form. The organization is quite large and took in just over $152-million during 2014.

Concerning the salary claim, it is true that CEO Mike Novak got a hefty sum of $531,256 in 2014. Numerous employees, including one of the DJs got over $200k in compensation. K-LOVE pushes an “easy” giving level of $40/month on the air and their website. It takes 1,107 people making that monthly pledge just to pay Novak’s salary. By comparison, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders, Sophie Delaunay, got just over $160k for running an organization that took in twice what K-LOVE received in donations.

K-LOVE also spent $267,463 on “pledge drive coaching.” The return on investment was phenomenal in 2014 in that they raised over $32-million attributed to the effort.   [emphasis added]

Then follows some screenshots and a discussion of compensation of board members. On the subject of compensation he added in the comments:

Having said that, I am sure you can find non-profits CEOs who get more. My point in posting the info was to alert donors that K-LOVE won’t close down if some widow on a fixed income fails to give $40/month.

More transparency in the actual appeals would be refreshing. “We need your easy monthly $40 gift because we have a heap of debt and we are wanting to aggressively expand into areas which already have Christian radio stations. We need your contribution to help push local Christian stations out of the market.”

But it was this conclusion that really got to me:

K-LOVE’s net revenue over expenses for 2014 was over $64-million. At $40/month, that means 133,761 donors could have given their money elsewhere and K-LOVE would have covered operational expenses. While it clearly takes lots of money to run a high quality media operation, it may come as a surprise to donors who sacrificially give $40/month that K-LOVE is doing quite well financially.

I am not saying that K-LOVE is doing anything wrong (although I think they could make it more clear that staff board members are handsomely paid). My intent is simply to provide potential donors with information that is not provided by K-LOVE. It may be that your local church or food pantry needs that money more than this mega-station.  [emphasis added]

Again, in the comments he repeated:

…I just want people to know that if they are considering their local church or KLOVE, the church probably needs it more.

While I don’t want to get into the reader comments, this one from FormerCCMRadioPerson gets back to the heart of what Christian radio is all about.

The huge difference between EMF (KLOVE’s Parent Network) and other networks is that they [KLOVE] own tons of signals, but only have 3 different Formats.

EMF runs the nearly-same feed of KLOVE, Air1, and Radio Nueva Nida on their vast network of signals. So if you hear that a local long-time Christian radio station is selling their station [to] KLOVE, that means the local DJs (and other local workers) just dropped to zero. No local presence. No local weather, ads, connections with churches, outreaches, whatever. It costs precious little to keep those EMF stations on the air. If KLOVE starts up a signal in rural Montana it’s the exact same thing that they’re listening to in Chicago, Miami, and Fairbanks.

Also inflating EMF’s claims is the vast amounts of “translator” stations they run. These are tiny FM repeaters with a 5-15 mile radius that are far easier to license, and they take virtually nothing to maintain compared to their full-powered signals. Many of those KLOVE signals (and Air1) are translators — some of which are owned by IHeartRadio (aka “Clear Channel”) through an arrangement.

None of this is to say that a CEO deserves more or less, but it does mean that EMF/KLOVE’s uniformity makes it far different from comparable companies like Clear Channel or CBS.  [emphasis added]

Again, click the article’s title next to Warren’s picture to read this at source with all the comments.

 

April 2, 2016

Being Needy While Wanting to Help Others in Need

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:44 am
Crowdfunding websites make it possible for ordinary people to get financial help and support when needed.

Crowdfunding websites make it possible for ordinary people to get financial help and support when needed.

Because of the particular path our lives have taken, there have been times when we have accepted financial help from friends and acquaintances. In the process, we’ve often said that the people who are least able to help are usually the ones who give. I’m not positing this as a universal truth, I’m just saying that it’s been the case in our situation.

In Wednesday’s link list, I felt moved to post a story about a family who faced unusual financial hardship during Lent because of their daughter’s illness and are asking for help. You can read that link here. 48 hours earlier, my wife showed me a crowd funding page that was set up by students (or former students) in a local high school for a guy who part of our church plant ten years ago and has had a medical diagnosis that will result in unexpected costs. You can read that one here.

I’m reading these through the lens of our own situation.

My wife came to me a few weeks ago — she’s our family and business bookkeeper — and said, “We have enough in the savings account to last us one more month, and then we’re done.” By ‘done’ she means we don’t have a back-up plan, unless we cash in one more savings fund — which is currently locked — and take a huge penalty for so doing.

I announced in Monday’s column here:

We’ve never monetized Thinking Out Loud, but this labor of love — along with our Christian bookstore — have totally depleted our savings. Still, how does one do effective fundraising in the face of other families and individuals with seemingly far more urgent needs? After our US/Canada 800-number, toll-free, call-in-a-pledge appeal failed last year, we’re looking for something that will actually help us keep going. We hope to have an answer late this week. 

But as the week went by I keep fighting taking this particular approach. Surely the two stories listed above are far more worthy of my readers’ support, right? Still, I know there are longtime readers both here and at Christianity 201 who might give if we created the right vehicle for processing donations.

Within the Christian realm, there are bloggers like Tim Challies who is able to blog full time because of referral income and sponsored posts. Author Skye Jethani is not currently on staff at a church (or at CT) and is supporting his writing and podcast ministry (and his family) through the sale of monthly devotional subscriptions, and eBooks. (Check out, How Churches Became Cruise Ships.)

Because of my involvement in a brick-and-mortar Christian bookstore (which loses money almost every day the doors are open) I still can’t bring myself to be a referrer to A-zon or even CBD, both of which have contributed greatly to the closing of such Christian shops all over North America. So I’ve never monetized the blog in that manner.

And there is the pride issue. As a twenty-something, I was told that I have difficulty accepting hospitality in all its forms. Plus there is the fear of putting it out there only to find the donations embarrassingly meager. Add to that wanting to be hero; wanting to be the one helping others, not the one asking.

So the announcement I was going to make this week is postponed for now. I leave you the comments section — if you wish — for two purposes today.

  1. If you can recommend a crowd funding type of website that isn’t time-limited and would allow people the opportunity to support Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201, I’d love to hear it. Bear in mind that I’m in Canada, but nearly 80% of my readers are in the U.S., so it has to be American-based, but able to pay us up here.
  2. If it’s got a Christian connection, feel free to mention any fundraising page you’re aware of that’s running now. Honest! I don’t mind. (I might delete the comment after any relevant expiry dates.) Today is one day you can use the comments to promote a cause.

 

 

 

 

 

July 12, 2015

The Charity Fundraising Paradox

dollar signAmid last week’s news, you may have missed a small tempest that was created when it was revealed that former U.S. President George W. Bush received a $100,000 fee for speaking at a fundraising gala for the Veteran’s Administration. The charity also paid $20,000 for a private jet to fly him to the event. Interviewed on ABC News, one veteran was particular upset that Bush had sent many soldiers into war, and was now reaping a personal profit from speaking at the charity which assists the wounded assimilate back into society.

The New York Daily News noted this as well:

Former Marine Eddie Wright, who served on the charity’s board and lost both hands in a 2004 rocket attack in Iraq, told ABC he didn’t think it was right for Bush to have been paid to raise money for vets through the group, which provides adapted homes to service members who became disabled in combat.

“You sent me to war,” Wright said of Bush, according to ABC.

“I was doing what you told me to do, gladly for you and our country and I have no regrets. But it’s kind of a slap in the face.”

While you might wish to join the ranks of the outraged, it’s worth noting that this particular gala event tends to raise at least one or two million dollars annually. It’s chairman is quoted at Huffington Post as saying,

“The event raised unprecedented funds that are putting our nation’s heroes into specially adapted homes throughout the United States. His presence was appreciated by the veterans and supporters of the organization.”

And therein lies the crux of the problem. In charity, as everywhere else, you have to spend money to make money. Recently here, we wrote about a situation that came to light in the Family Christian Stores hearings, that the bookstore was paid up to $185 for each fresh child sponsor the bookstore chain signed up. At that time we wrote,

Let’s do some math here.  The sponsor is paying World Vision $35 per month per child. That means that for the first 5.28 months, the organization has yet to break even. It’s really into the 6th month that the sponsor’s donation is free and clear, but of course there are also overhead costs in that $35 that we don’t know. 

In charity parlance, this type of thing is known as “development costs.” There are organizations that carry out this function in different ways; one of the most common is having someone on staff available to older donors for things like “estate planning” or “writing a will.” Years ago, I knew one large church that had a staff member for this purpose, though the modern megachurch tends to attract younger adherents, many of whom haven’t totally embraced the possibility they might someday die.

World Vision in particular is known for having a very high percentage of its operational costs committed to fundraising. For charities like them, the George W. Bush story is a no-brainer: You bring in whatever political figure, actor, singer, author, or sports hero that will attract the right crowd. You do it at whatever cost.

 

November 28, 2014

The Audience Ambush

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:49 am

Of all the times I’m counting on the fact that my blog readership lies outside the local area, this is one time really counting on that…

So tomorrow night my wife and I are going out to a dessert night at the church which also includes a worship music component from a musician and band which are known regionally if not known by some nationally. Based on a sponsorship line that appears in the advertising, there is probably going to be an opportunity at some point in the evening to partner with a fairly high profile parachurch ministry organization.

fundraisingI have no problem with that. First of all, I have given to this organization in the past, and we have at least one family member who gives generously to them. They do good work. It’s not one of those cases where I see the ministry’s logo and roll my eyes. But the second reason I have no problem is that I can plainly see the fundraising appeal coming. I’ve been around enough Christian events. I know the drill.

Others may be surprised, especially when there’s already an admission charge.

In times like these I’m always reminded of the time when myself and girl named Carol were invited to the home of a guy named Steve for what we thought was going to be a social evening. Instead, the whole thing was about Amway. Carol was livid. “When I see him next, I’m going to wring his neck;” is I think how she put it. People don’t like being ambushed. People don’t like to go to “A” only to find it’s about “B.”

Thursday night my wife and I discussed this, and I noted that eventually, people will simply be ambushed too many times and they will simply stop turning up for similar events.

A few months ago we attended another event where we were fully expecting the high-pressure fundraising to kick in near the end. Instead, it was all rather low-key. The event was advertised as an information session, and as it concluded, they affirmed that this fulfilled their expectations. Yes, if you wanted to give there were forms and envelopes and a basket into which to place the envelopes, but for the most part this aspect of the night was fairly easy-going, even though they made it clear that the field worker in question did rely on 100% on donor support.

Maybe it was the cranberry punch, but I felt they handled this superbly. Some people gave. Some did not.

But when you go to see your favorite CCM or Modern Worship artist in concert, and you pay $30 or more for good seats, you don’t expect that 20 minutes of your time will be spent watching a slide show of starving or diseased children.

Yes, we need to be aware of these situations, and we all could do more and we all need to do more. But we need to find ways to accomplish this goal that avoid the entrapment situation that essentially says, ‘Now that we have you all as a captive audience, we’d like to make those of you who don’t sponsor a child feel really guilty.’

We need to change the paradigm, or people will either simply stop coming, or will find themselves urgently needing to use the restrooms en masse as soon as the fundraising appeal begins.

 

August 17, 2010

Abilities Church Mystery Donor Disappears

Nothing is more frustrating in ministry than people who say they are going to do something, or give something, and then never come through.   It would be far better for everyone if they had never made empty promises.   In this story, the disappointment was greater than usual.

On March 1st, I ran a story on this blog about Abilities Church, a unique church project that happens Sunday evenings in Toronto, Canada for people who are physically or developmentally challenged.    This church is being used as a model for similar projects throughout North America. 

Needless to say, ministry to certain people groups is more financially challenging, so when Abilities Church was contacted by Larry Gaiters with an offer to provide $5,000 monthly in funding, the volunteer staff and members were ecstatic.

But at an event scheduled for the purpose of meeting Gaiters and receiving his donation, he never showed.    Twice.   And then he asked them for money.

The story is contained in this story online at Christian Week, Canada’s Christian news source.

Gaiters seems to be targeting churches and organizations in the Toronto area, including First Baptist Church.

As sad as this story is, my take on it, having attended a joint service at Abilities mentioned in the March blog post,  is that if it somehow brings more awareness of the unique ministry Abilities Church is providing in Toronto, that’s not a bad thing.   God can take this story and redeem it.

In the meantime, if you’re in ministry, and a mysterious donor seems to good to be true, do some research.

June 15, 2010

Send This Boy To Summer Camp

A few days ago I mentioned that we were in a “fund raising” mode for our oldest son, Chris, 19.   He’s going to be — for the third year in a row — spending ten weeks working at Camp Iawah, an interdenominational camp in Ontario, Canada.  Much of his work will be centered around the kitchen, where this will be this be the seventh in a growing resumé of culinary accomplishments.  (This year he is also going to be doing some technical assistance in ‘Prime Time,’ the daily chapel program for campers.) He returns to second year electrical engineering in the fall, with fairly high tuition, textbook and residential expenses.

The work week is about 50-hours; it’s a six-day week with a single day off.   The base pay amounts to $3/hour.   (If this were some other camps we’re aware of, they would pay him just about anything to get good kitchen help!)    With previous commitments from people, we’re hoping today to raise an additional $3,000.   (I figure if Jon Acuff can raise $60,000 in a day, this ought to be a no-brainer, even for a smaller blog like ours.)

If you’re interested, go to this page, and click on the second last link (in blue) that says download CISS donor form.   You’d be designating your donation to Chris Wilkinson.   You must use the form for this to credit his summer staff account.

American readers of Thinking Out Loud who want to contribute to this may use a credit card (you will be billed in Canadian dollars which means potentially your donation will go farther) while Canadian donors will receive a valid income tax receipt and may use credit card or cheques.  (We still spell it the British way up here!)  You must complete and mail or fax the form to the camp, and if you’re giving by cheque, do not write Chris’ name on the cheque itself, just on the form.   (A quick e-mail letting us know what you’re doing or considering would help, too; so that we can keep in touch over the summer with what your donations are accomplishing.   E-mail: epistle[at]ymail.com )

In the event his donations reach the pay limit, any overage will go toward other staff members facing a similar need; many of who don’t have parents with an international blog readership.

Thanks for considering this opportunity to make an investment in many young lives through Camp Iawah.

January 17, 2010

Falwell’s Classic “Dear Chicken” Letter

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:57 pm

Some bloggers don’t post on weekends, because the traffic is lighter.   I do.   And speaking of lighter, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this classic letter from the computerized fundraising department of Jerry Falwell’s television ministry.

Thankfully, blogger and rabid U2 afficiando Dave Wainscott at the blog Holy Heteroclite (a recommended bookmark for you) was kind enough to post it to the internet two weeks ago for all to read.    But knowing you all won’t click, here it is (or, at least, the first page of it):

If anybody knows the whereabouts online of the complete letter in a text format, I’ll substitute it for the image.

May 29, 2009

Summer Missionary Without a Net (Network)

Camp Iawah Banner

~~ Camp Iawah – http://www.iawah.com – Kingston, Ontario, Canada ~~

So…we’re trying to help our oldest son raise some money for a summer work opportunity at a Christian camp.   They’ve promised him a base rate which is about a third of the minimum wage here, though he will also get room and board.   Given that he’ll be working in the kitchen and now has four kinds of food services experience, I was hoping they’d offer him a bit more than they did.   If he wants more — and he’s starting university in the fall — he has to raise the support himself.  That’s how mission organizations do things.

So armed with an e-mail contact list that contains over 1,000 names, I started to focus on the two or three hundred people that I know personally enough to ask, and made an interesting discovery:  Most of them are also involved — or have someone in their family circle involved — in some kind of mission activity, also.   An added challenge is that despite his exhaustive Bible knowledge, computer skills, and fluency in a second language, some people don’t see the kitchen as frontline ministry position.

Some well-meaning person once told me that if the friends I have can’t help me out, I should get new friends.   Seriously.   But it’s true that many people we know are ‘tapped-out’ financially with a variety of church and civic concerns constantly knocking at the door and asking for help.     Still, I also know that a number of people we know aren’t tithing to their local church right now because they don’t have a local church.   So given that I had nothing to lose, I sent off about 60 e-mails at the start of the week.   At first, replies were few, and we were only at about 20% of the maximum fundraising permitted.   But as the week went by, we were feeling more optimistic.

How about you?   Do you have discretionary funds available for special projects, or is your philanthropy relatively locked in?   I know that in future, when I’m asked to help out people — especially young people — in a similar situation, I’ll be looking at it rather differently.   And what about the many who are in-between churches and have been for many months or years now?   To whatever extent the “tithe” concept extends into the New Covenant era, do they still have a responsibility to give; and if so where should they direct those funds?  For those in that situation, these are actually hard questions.

We’ll keep you posted on how it goes, but I can tell you right now, we’re not well networked and we’re not gifted fundraisers.   But when you’re passionate about a ministry, like we are about this camp, and when it’s your own son on whose behalf you’re appealing, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

As to the advice I received:  We like the friends we have and we’re not getting new ones just so we can ‘use’ them.   I’d rather hang out in a social circle where everyone has mission opportunities that they are excited about than have friends who are materially rich but lack ministry passion.

If you live in Canada and want to help out and receive a receipt for your donation, contact us at the address in the lowest box on the sidebar at right.   If you’re the one-in-a-million person who is looking for a major project to which to direct your giving, I don’t know anything — outside of some third-world projects — better than this particular interdenominational camp organization.  Write us at the same address and I’ll tell you more!

March 12, 2009

Compassionart: Creating Freedom from Poverty

compassionartIsrael Houghton is as high energy off stage as his music is on stage; Paul Baloche is a wild man with a big sense of humour, and growing up in Australia hasn’t stopped Darlene Zschech from being able to hold her own in a snowball fight.    That’s the kind of insight into their lives you get into some of your favourite artists and songwriters as Martin Smith (Delirious) brought the top names in worship music to a country estate in Scotland in 2008 for a writing, recording and fundraising project called Compassionart: Creating Freedom from Poverty.

Mac Notebooks are everywhere, seen best as Michael W. Smith moves his nimble fingers easily between both types of keyboards.   Does a song need help with an extra line?   Graham Kendrick (Mr. Lyrics) is called in for re-write suggestions.   Also among the Compassionart dozen are Matt Redman, Andy Park,  Tim Hughes, Steven Curtis Chapman, Stu G, and Chris Tomlin.

compassionartThe concept:   Top writers co-draft 14 worship songs in five days with all performance and publishing royalties signed over to charity, and then meet up a month latter at famed Abbey Road Studios in London to record the songs in only three days.      Monies raised from the CD/DVD sales and publishing royalties from songs used in churches go to Compassion, four “headline” charities, and twelve charities chosen by each participating artist.  As one observes, “This time we are writing worship songs for money.”

Of the two discs in the package, I enjoyed the 49-minute  DVD much more.    It was great to see the creative processes involved in songwriting, as well as the spirit of cooperation among the artists.   I’d strongly recommend, if you are able, watching the DVD prior to listening to the CD, to get some context as to what you’re listening to.    As for the CD, if this is a review, then my top three would be Highly Favoured, Come to the Water, and Friend of the Poor.

If you’re an online downloader, why not take a retro moment to actually purchase the entire CD/DVD oldschool.    You’ll be striking a blow against poverty both where you live and around the world.

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