Beth Bennett from Mission Increase - Helping Ministries Thrive with Biblically-Based Fundraising

Beth Bennett from Mission Increase - Helping Ministries Thrive with Biblically-Based Fundraising

The Ministry Growth Show

March 9, 2021

Episode Notes:

This week on The Ministry Growth Show we're joined by Beth Bennet, Atlanta Area Director for Mission Increase. In this episode, Beth shares her expertise and insights on biblically-based fundraising and how ministry leaders can move from a theology of scarcity to a theology of abundance. Enjoy!

Episode Transcript:

You're listening to the Ministry growth show brought to you by Reliant Creative, the creative agency for Gospel centered ministries. Find out more at Reliant Creative dot org. Welcome to the Ministry Growth Show, a podcast dedicated to helping churches and ministries grow and make more effective impacts for the Kingdom of God in an ever changing digital world, whether you're building and growing a gospel center ministry or leading a church, if you want insight into the strategies, struggles, challenges and successes of other ministry leaders, you've come to the right place.

Welcome back to the ministry Growth show Today. On the show, I'm going to be talking with Beth Bennett. She is the Atlanta area director of Mission Increase. Beth thanks for being on the show. Great to be with you, Zach.

Yeah, it's good to have you. So, can you tell us a little bit about mission increase and share uh, maybe what your role is within the organization? Yeah, I'd love to mission increase actually exists to help ministries thrive and we help them thrive basically through biblical practices of fundraising.

And so we offer our coaching and training services are consulting services to any faith based nonprofit in America or in the world and all based on a transformational giving principles. So I have been the area director here in Atlanta for almost two years previously.

I was with Ministry Ventures, a very similar organization that coached and trained ministries in their fundraising practices. We actually emerged Ministry Ventures merged with mission increase. So I've been in this work here in Atlanta for over eight years in about a year and a half with mission increase.

Oh, I wasn't aware you guys merged with Ministry Ministry Ventures. Yes, we sure did. Yeah. Both organizations live right here with mission increase now. When did that merge take place? The merge took place summer of 2019.

Okay, cool. So that's pretty recent. Yes, it was pretty recent. Both organizations uh, became into being about 20 years ago on different ends of the coast. Mission increase was birthed out of Portland Oregon and ministry Ventures was birthed here in Atlanta Georgia and very like minded visions and products we offer to the ministry space.

So we emerged about a year and a half ago. Okay, and so is mission increased focusing on um, donors at all or is it strictly ministry leaders, ministries and organizations or a little bit? That's a good question actually.

Both more so the emphasis on the ministry leader and the boards, but we have found that as we have coached and trained ministry leaders on transformational giving practices and how to grow their champions, grow their donors in discipleship, making it more of a transformational relationship versus a transactional feel like an ATM relationship.

This actually grows the donors as well. Okay, cool, so, so what does that, that process look like as you guys train a donor around what you just mentioned? Yeah, good question. So we have a concept called P E O.

And all of our training is really based around this p participation, e engagement and ownership. So we help ministries create next steps of engagement for their donors or champions. You'll hear me inner, you know, intimately kind of combined the donor champion idea.

So a champion is anybody in a ministry that either gives the volunteers that, Um, you know, is involved in their heart passion in some way. So, so yeah, so the peace steps, the initial steps of getting a donor involved in the ministry could look many different ways.

You know, maybe they come to a banquet and give 50 bucks, maybe they, you know. um, do a walk for life one time, volunteer on a saturday morning, something like that. And so then the idea is, okay here, They have encountered our ministry in these different ways.

How can we grow them to the next e step where it's more of an engagement? More of, it may be more of a regular engagement, a lifestyle engagement, um, where maybe now every month there volunteering or they're giving monthly or they're growing in the sharing of their minister of this ministry, space may be on their facebook or instagram page where they're just engaging deeper into the cause and mission, where it's more of a discipleship kind of journey for them.

So once they're there in that space than we help ministry leaders create. Oh steps, Which is the ownership where a donor or a champion now feels like they actually have part owner in, they are an owner in the ministry.

They own maybe a volunteer team, Maybe they lead a team or maybe they are giving a larger sum of money for a matching gift, things like that. So you're moving people from first initial steps of participation to engagement.

Steps to ownership steps. And so what does the model look like an engagement look like with, like is there a requirement to budget or size of ministry before they work with you? What do they have? Some of the prerequisites organization has to have before they can come in and get any budget start up to, you know, to $8 million.

10 million is pretty much our sweet spot right in there. They need to have a five oh one C three and they need to create an account with mission increase. And that's really all they need to do and create an account is at no cost to the ministry.

And so this is what I would say. Another key distinctive of mission increase is that we offer all of our coaching and training at no cost to the ministry leader due to the local underwriting of area directors, local boards.

So like here in Atlanta, I have about nine people on my local advisory board. Nine funders that underwrite the work that it takes to run an office here in Atlanta so that all of the ministries engaged here in Atlanta can participate at whatever level they choose to at no cost to them.

Oh, interesting. So you're a nonprofit model. That's right, That's right. We practice what we preach. That's really cool. Um, what kind of pain points and maybe struggles, challenges have you run into functioning within that model? Well, um, I would say, you know, I don't never want to come across as competing with donor dollars here in Atlanta.

So the ministries that I serve all of course are raising their own funds as well. And so I am very careful to, uh, to share my donors, which actually happens all the time because the donors that are passionate about seeing, training and equipping happening here in Atlanta are also very passionate about the individual ministries that we work with.

So, you know, we do do a lot of, I would say, um, champion sharing and really our heart is just to see champions engaged with their passions and so matching passions is a big part of my job and I love that part.

So the challenge I would say would just be to keep my donors engaged at the same at the level that I teach my ministry leaders to keep them engaged. So always telling stories, fresh stories of impact here in Atlanta of what a ministry went through, who maybe came to us at first had no communication plan was losing donors left and right had no way to really sustain their donors.

Didn't understand how to ask. Were very afraid and not confident in asking. Well, had a scarcity mentality, uh, moved them from an abundance mentality. Those are the kinds of stories that my, you know, advisory board love to hear.

So I get to share those stories all the time. That's really cool. Uh, now you mentioned a couple of topics offline that I'd like to explore during this conversation, the first being uh, the problem of that poor messaging and communication, you just touched on within just the ministry space across the board.

Why do you think ministries struggle with clear messaging and communication and how can they there are some ways they can move beyond that problem? I think one of the main reasons they struggle with clear messaging is because they try to do too many things and you know, they're trying to do all these wonderful, great things for God, because the needs are always there, there's never a lack of need.

And so when you try to do too many things, it's hard to explain to people exactly what you do. So my encouragement would be to focus prayerfully focus on one area of impact and really stick with it. And I often say that ministries don't have a fundraising problem, they have a messaging problem.

And I find a lot of ministries are attempted to drag out the description of what they do instead of saying in a real short, clear, concise, compelling vision statement or mission statement, they go on and on and on and on and try to describe what they do day to day and all the while donors eyes are glazed over.

You know, it's like asking a rocket science just how you get a rocket to the moon. You just kind of want to hear the cliff notes version, right? And so help leaders really fine tune their elevator pitch and come up with really powerful words that are going to draw people in for them to ask tell anymore.

Yeah, it seems the thing that we run into a lot with messaging and communication is ministries are like you said, they're trying to say everything there. So in tune and a part of and and ingrained in their organizations, they know their ministry so well they are in it every single day and they want to share all of those different aspects within their communication, their marketing and the audience is that they're trying to reach often times for the most part don't need to hear those things, those things convoluted and clutter the message in the communication.

And so it becomes strategy, data statistic driven communication that doesn't engage well with audiences because it's just too much. Our eyes are as an audience are going to glaze over to that kind of communication.

Right, wow. Well said, can you share maybe a little story of how they transform communication model or strategy resulted in increased fund development effectiveness maybe? Yeah, I sure can, I can think of a few, I can think of a few in particular.

Uh, one ministry came to us about six months and months ago and I realized that, you know, their major donor section was really lagging and wonder why like people would only give once and by the way, 77%, this is the industry average.

You may know this exact 77% of people only give once to an organization. And so, you know, we were looking a little deeper and finding out that the reason why people weren't staying engaged with the ministry for the long haul is because they did a really poor job of communicating.

And even though maybe they gave once or twice, they were only communicating with them. Thank you. Note those times, once or twice instead of on a monthly or semi monthly basis, updating with stories and just had a real clear communication plan.

So helping this ministry think through a clear communication plan for their major donors as well as their monthly givers, which had two different strategies because you think about it monthly givers are giving to you every month.

Well then it would just make sense. Let's communicate with them every month. This is a great excuse to send fresh stories and um, you know, and touch them. We always say the average is seven touches per gift.

And so seven communication touches her gift, you know, take some thinking and some, uh, some plan and strategy and strategy. That's right. Um, so they began to reach out to these major donors and ask them, well, first of all, you know, why, why did you come to this ministry? What drew you to our work? And just begin to ask simple, common sense, friendly questions.

Getting to know them better. Get into the other points of passion. Um, getting to know what really broke their heart about the cause and also asking them, how do you want to be communicated with? What is the best way for you? Do you prefer meeting with us maybe a couple of times a year? Do you prefer emails? Do you prefer a call on the phone or type thing? So it's just getting to know kind of the donor donor demographic better.

You know, older people are going to respond to different communication styles than younger people. And so the lights really went on for this ministry and they did come up with a strategic plan and I've seen some really great fruit as a result.

Mm. And so if a ministry is looking at their communication and they're seeing donors drop off and realizing, hey, maybe we haven't done a good job of communicating what are some, like initial steps they can do on the research front to just garner some of that information that, um, would help paint a picture of why maybe their donors are leaving or or not giving a 2nd 3rd time.

No, that's, that's good. I recommend first of all, being honest about the drop off your communication and just being honest about, you know, we have messed up here. We have not done a good job. We have not been focused on this.

And it's not been right and we please forgive us. And this is what we want to do better. And then there would be a great point to begin to reach out to them, asking them what kinds of things, you know, are important to you here and, uh, and how can we better serve you? And, and what kinds of things would you, you know, like to, uh, hear hear from us on a more regular basis.

And those are open ended questions, I know, but maybe giving them some ideas. And yeah, just genuinely like wanting to create a relationship with them a personal relationship. Now, I realized that every donor wants a heart to heart BFF relationship with the ministry leader.

Right? But you'll be surprised at, you'll be very, I have been surprised, shall I say in this work, How donors really appreciate over the top communication. And that is the truth. You let me tell you another story along with that is here at the year end 2020, I have a good, good friend who is they're very generous and well to do family and she knows my role here with mission increase and there's actually two ministries in particular.

She really loves to support. And she was describing to me, uh, the communication from one ministry and just gloating and on and on and on about how wonderful Laurie has reached out to them and has just updated them monthly, has sent them, you know, a christmas gift.

It wasn't extravagant, but it was very, it was very appropriate for the amount of money that they have given this ministry and just handwritten notes and a call on her birthday and these kinds of things.

She's just like, oh, we just love supporting this work. We just always know what's going on. On the other hand, the other ministry that she has been engaged with just as passionate, probably if not more passionate about what these people actually did, and also this other ministry was much bigger in scope and impact in my opinion.

However, they gave an initial gift and the only thing they have received in the last six months was one template. Thank you template email, that's it. And so she goes, I don't know if you want to talk to this other ministry leader, but I don't think they're really doing what you're coaching them to do and come to find out at the end of the year, they had another extra, you know, some money to give away and guess who they gave it to the first leader who had this plan, who really genuinely had a relationship with them.

So, again, it really does work and, you know, sometimes ministries are afraid of bothering, you know, their donors or over thinking, I'd say you can never over think that's just a general practice. And realization you guys have found working with ministries consistently is that you can't over communicate.

That's exactly right. You really, really can't do you find that ministries like consistently have that fear that I, you know, I don't want to bother them, don't want to communicate too much. Like we want to find a balance between being respectful of their time and communicating well, like if there defaulting towards the side of that scale, where you're communicating a lot more often, that's just never been a bad idea, never been a bad idea, and that's right.

You said it well, they always seem to default to the other way and I think that makes sense. There's a couple of things that are going on, I think there is lack of confidence and fear and scarcity really, and um, you know, they don't want to come across is feeling too needy and, but here's the thing is that there's a way to communicate without, you know, like feeling like an ATM or asking for money all the time and this is really what they come into thinking.

Well, for communicating, we're always asking for money. No, you only ask for money one out of seven times, right? And so this is kind of a mind shift change that they're coming into is okay, you know, we're actually communicating most of the time without asking and to which I say, Absolutely, that's right, Yeah, well, this is what we we've been trying to get ministries in to to shift mindset in and doing a lot of training around storytelling and communicating what God is doing to your organization.

Like there's there's I believe that there is intrinsic value in Mhm. The story of a transformed life, I think that God is doing some incredible stuff and he's moving and working all over the world through the church through organizations and ministries in incredible ways and that if we simply documented what he is doing and shared that with our audiences, uh that there is value in that there's value in sharing those stories, and there doesn't have to be a financial asked tied to communicating that type of work, communicate documenting that type of those types of stories.

It can just like where ministries are, especially in light of this, um, content driven, content, strategy driven marketing landscape that we're living in ministries are always trying to figure out how do we provide value to donors? How do we provide value to donors? How do we provide value to donors? Um, there's intrinsic value in the, in the story of those transform lives.

Like just sharing those stories is valuable to a donor and communicating that on a consistent basis without some type of financial ask can be incredibly powerful. That's right. No, I agree. And also just helping those donors really feel the emotion of those stories and like they're a huge part of what's happened.

Really inviting them into the story as well is so huge and really lighting. They're really giving them a platform to tell their story, uh engagement and how it's changed their life. And so now where the ministry is really, really the platform for the donor or the champion to shine.

Now, offline, you mentioned a ministry leader has this dual calling to steward the mission well and to grow the people that God brings them. Um, we touched on it a little bit early on, I think. But can you flush that out a little bit and share what you mean? Yeah, this is huge.

And once a leader begins to realize that, oh, you know, I'm just not caring for the constituents of my ministry, the homeless, a sex trafficked the orphan, but equal engagement and care and intention on caring for the champions well, and creating those P.

O. Steps, like I mentioned before, thinking through next steps of engagement for them and really what's best for them? That's the end of the day. That's the heart here. What's best for the donor, not for the ministry.

And when you have that heart and desire to grow people in that way, God's going to honor it. You know, jesus did this very thing really well. He never pushed himself on people. He only invited people to, uh, life change and invited them to really blessings that we're going to, you know, change their life.

And so we like to use that invitation word a lot and just inviting people, inviting people, never pushing but inviting people. How do you encourage ministry leaders to balance the time between like fun development and the work They actually do the causes that they've been called to or the work that they have been called to and caring for their donors and growing their people.

Like what uh, is do you do you find pushback and ministry leaders and say yeah, but I've been called to this specific thing. How do I take care of my donors as well? That seems like an added thing. So is there push back in that space when you, when you encourage ministries to function in this way? Yeah, it does.

Uh, and yes, we do get some pushback at first, but to reframe it in the way of, uh, you know, first of all, I think a lot of ministry leaders don't put their pastor hat on and they, you know, it's just part of the work, right? It's like, you know, I love cooking and baking cakes, but to open a bakery is a whole nother thing.

And so, um, growing people 35, the best minister leaders that do this really well, Open about 35-50% of their time in growing their donors. And this is the kind of focus that's needed, but my encouragement to someone who would push back like that.

First of all, I would say, Hey, you know, again, where are you getting? How are you receiving from God in your own relationship, truly, this discipleship journey, I'm talking about this, inviting donors to next steps of engagement beyond giving, I'm talking about really comes from a strong inner life and love relationship with jesus christ, and if ministry doesn't ministry leader doesn't, um you know, isn't walking in that kind of dynamic life giving life, you know, beloved in their own beloved nous, I guess growing in their own beloved nous and security in God's love for them, then they're never going to be able to like share that with their donors.

And it's always going to be more of, I work for God instead of from his love. And so that's why I'm very passionate as well about spiritual formation with the leaders I work with and helping them create healthy spiritual rhythms in their lives.

So that there is such a joy in their life, out of their love relationship with jesus christ, that it's so winsome and attractive that donors are involved in this work because they just love being around the culture and kind of, you know, the intimacy, just transformation that's happened in the, in the leaders lives of the organization.

Yeah. Um, now you've, you've mentioned a couple of times that the idea of this theology of scarcity, how often do you, do you guys run into ministry leaders who are functioning in that that mindset is that pretty often it is, it is especially the, well, they can be young or old, they can been around for a while or new.

It is a new concept I think. And uh, I mean, it's something that we hear in church and we kind of know the right language that God is abundant and you know, it's cattle on 1000 hills and um, you know, we'll never leave me or forsake me and those kinds of things, but you know, we can say them and in Perret them.

But again, to have this really deep in our souls takes intention and it takes, uh, intention to be formed in these ways spiritually. And so that's what I love about. Mission increases. Our trainings are always centered around one transformational giving principle at least.

And so I find the more they come to our trainings and the more they actually hear this and hear other ministry leaders talk about their transformational path. They moved from scarcity to abundance, how God changed their heart in this, How they're really finding joy in spending time with donors and they don't have this pressure anymore where naturally they're just kind of flowing in this way.

It truly is a work of the spirit and but it happens within community and it happens when the leaders that I work with are actually in the same room or on the same zoom call the here, here, there, here, each other tell the stories of how they have grown and they have changed and then it really is a catalyst for others to walk in this kind of victory mindset.

That's really good. Now if if a ministry or a church wants to move their congregation or their donor base, their audience towards increased generosity, what are some initial steps they can take? What are some like tangible things they can walk away from to start moving towards that today? Well, um, again, I think it's, it's listening well to your donor in terms of, okay, what really are you passionate about and why are you here? What breaks your heart? And if they can begin to name that and begin to own that as part of their story, then I just see have seen over and over again where their hearts of generosity towards this cause begins to grow.

And when a ministry engages with you guys, what what's the process or how long does that process take? Usually, I don't know if you have data around this, but from a ministry leader too, for that shift in mindset to take place.

Like is it a overnight type situation or is it a consistent walking with you guys through a long period of time before they start to realize, oh, I'm thinking about this differently now. That's a really good question.

As a matter of fact, I just had deep dive interviews with three ministries and I've worked with here in the last 18 months in Atlanta and we tried, we want those kind of uh, statistics and we're just kind of digging for some deeper analysis to the very thing you're asking zack.

And it's interesting because two of the ministries both said, you know what, I think I'm starting finally to get it. It's like when I first came here and first heard this kind of transformational teaching and abundant ideas and things like that, I, you know, I didn't get it, but the more we have quarterly training, so they're coming to these trainings every quarter, then they're working on certain aspects of their plans, of their strategic plans or their communication plans, whatever.

And they're beginning to just engage with the concept and really challenge their ways of thinking and maybe where there uh, you know, where they have been experienced roadblocks in their own, um, kind of ideas about money, right? And how they view rich people even, or you know, just how they view money even the way they grew up.

We have we have exercises around that kind of dig a little deeper about why do I believe this about money, Right. And so it does take time. So here now, after 18 months, it was really cool to hear a couple of these people though, you know, I think I'm finally trying starting to get it.

So it takes time and we're patient. That's where we don't go away here mission increase. We're here in the community for the long haul uh, folks that they keep their ministry accounts updated, can engage with us, you know, um, at any time.

That's really cool. Well, but this has been awesome. I really appreciate time if people want to get a hold of you or learn more about mission increase and and learn more about maybe what you guys are doing lately.

How can they get a hold of you? Wow. We would love that. Check out our website, m I F dot org, that commission increased foundation dot org. And then they have, we have all of the location tab under the location to have all the different communities that were in.

So click the community closest to you, you're gonna be introduced with the area director, there's a picture of the area director and bio of us there and you know, a direct link to the email, Go ahead and email that person and they'll be getting back with you and kind of talking to you, talking with the individual ministry about there specific challenges or questions we're here to serve.

We're here to pastor them in their fundraising and raising journey. That's awesome. And I'll include that in the show notes for our listeners. Um, so you guys, there's a global reach to what you do, but there's like if if I just need to find, say I'm a ministry leader and I want to engage with you guys, I would just need to find the closest hub to my location.

Even if that's out of the country. That's right. I'm the closest hub. And even if there's not anything really close to you like four or five hours away or something, you can still, if you create an account with mission increase, you can still engage with some of our webinars and national offerings.

Okay. Okay, great. Well beth can I pray for you and mission increase? I would appreciate it. Thank you Zack. Of course. Father. Just lift up beth and mission increase in her team over there. I pray that you would just continue to guide and lead this ministry and helping ministry leaders and organizations and donors and churches think um about money better and and with greater wisdom and more centered on a biblical approach to money and donor development and fundraising and and so I just thought you just lift this organization up to you.

Thank you for their willingness to say yes to your call and be a part of what you're doing and support and invest in organizations that are doing incredible work for your kingdom. Father. We love you so much.

Um, thank you for allowing us to be a part of your work in jesus name. Amen. Right. Yeah, Beth thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it. Hey, thanks for having me zack. It was fun.

I appreciate your work. To what a what a needed space that you are offering to the ministries. Thank you. Thank you. All right, have a good day. Okay, thanks. Thank you for listening to this episode of the ministry Growth show.

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