Integrity

One of my favorite questions I ask while getting to know someone is, “What has been your greatest experience during your time working at x company?” I asked that question of one of my neighbors last night, a wonderful man approaching his 90th birthday.

He hemmed and hawed a bit, but he shared how he had placed a Christian statue in front of his office. Stretching back in to his mind 60 years ago, he talked about how he had dedicated his business to the Lord and knew that his ultimate accountability was not to man, but to God. His statue was a bold and prominent display of the godly values he lived in his paper manufacturing business.

As I dug in a little deeper, he shared that his favorite value was integrity. It was one of those things that was so critically ingrained in his being that he didn’t even think about it anymore. “We always did the right thing,” he shared with confidence. “I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror knowing that we did the wrong thing.”

“One of our biggest customers was a bakery in the Mid-west. We realized we over-charged them by $10,000. We just sent them a check. They called us up and said, ‘What the #$*! is this?’ We told them the story, and they worked with us for the next 40 years.”

Warren Buffett summed it up this way, “Integrity, intelligence and energy. Hire someone without the first, and the other two will kill you.” Thousands of years before Buffett, Moses penned the following in Deuteronomy 25:13-15:

Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. 14 Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. 15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 16 For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

Anyone who consistently lives a life for the Lord, pursuing righteousness and honesty, will live a life of meaning and purpose. Healthy relationships are more important than money, fame or power, and God uses those relationships to bring true purpose to our lives.

When I was about 22 years old, my neighbor gave me some tools. Among them was a $200 engine hoist that he purchased from Costco. I worked for Costco, and knowing their return policy, I eyed a two hundred dollar “reward” for my find. With a bit of trepidation, I hauled it off to the store for my bounty.

Several weeks after the refund, I brought my store manager the $200 in cash and asked to give the money back. I ran out of justification for my action (hey, if they don’t want to give me a refund, they wouldn’t give me the money). It may seem strange, but this was a defining moment in my adult life. I had to make amends… I hoped for mercy and prepared for the potential loss of my job. I told him the story, handed him the cash and asked for forgiveness. His response was, “Are you kidding me? Do you know how much guts it takes for you to do this? Keep your money and don’t do it again.”

I Samuel 12:1-4: Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you. 2Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”

Acts 20:32-35:  “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Do what you say, say what you do, do the right thing.

 

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Tenacity

I Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In eighth grade I had my first encounter with a tenacious spirit. I was a heavyweight wrestler, better than some and less than others. My desire was to get in shape, not to beat anybody up. We had a great team, and one of our top wrestlers was a seventh grader who seemingly weighed about a hundred pounds less than me. He frequently bested wrestlers 20 or 30 pounds more than he.

“I could take him”, I thought. We were in practice, so I jovially stepped up when it was time for him to wrestle with the big boy. My 190 lbs to his 110 or 120. He wiggled, wormed and fought with every ounce of energy he could muster. Once when he was on his butt and I was fighting up his torso, I knew I was going to pin him. I was wrong. His tenacity… not just during that match, but, in every practice, gave him an advantage that my weight and muscle couldn’t overcome. I don’t remember the exact outcome, but it certainly wasn’t a feather in my cap.

Faith is like a muscle. Faith should be tenacious. This concept is often a business principle, but it is primarily a theological tenant. Jim Collins wrote a lot about tenacity in “Built to Last” and “Good to Great”, and leaders like Rudy Giuliani and Jim Sinegal have codified the executive tenacity we expect to see in leaders. Collins, Giuliani and Sinegal have something in common… the belief in disciplined exercise of faith.

The biblical principle is found in Hebrews 10:35-38 describes a relentless, unprecedented and supernatural faith. Likewise, James 1:2-4 tells us to grow our faith. It is the practice and application of faith that is beyond our own mustering that enables us to do more than we can do on our own.

I am going through a season of growth right now. My belief in God’s call in my life is greater than ever. I tenaciously believe in what he is working in me for his purpose. And yet, there is not a reason for my faith OTHER than the fact that I am called. I stand on the precipice of the unknown. But it is known, because the Lord doesn’t lead us to places where he doesn’t want us. Hindsight faith would be easy… like 20/20 hindsight vision. I look forward to telling the stories of God’s faithfulness in the year 2011 as He has provided everything we need, at the right time and in the right way.

This week we hosted an event at College of the Desert where we were able to evangelize to over 120 people. We boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus in a place that is filled with hurting people. Faith is the conduit for evangelism.

This week we partnered with a top medical professional who has incredible connections that will benefit the children of Rooftop 519. Only God could orchestrate these things. Faith is a catalyst for action.

This week I have taken inventory of the things that matter most. I am blessed beyond what most people will ever imagine. Faith is not fueled by external circumstance.

I would not trade this last year for anything. We have had more struggles, more pain and more loss (I am afraid to count how many friends and family members have died this year). Cheryl and I are growing in our faith. We are becoming tenacious about the things that matter, even when we can’t see answers to problems. We are more resolved, more determined and more patient than ever before. Faith does that. God creates that resolve within us when we fight the good fight of faith.

Asking for Money for Your Nonprofit

In this short blog, I’ll share an introduction to some of the things I’ve learned in my years of working with donors who have a passion for the work of nonprofit organizations. Whole books are written on the subject, but I will address just a few fundamentals in my blog. This is fresh in my mind because our board at Rooftop 519 just asked me to share a presentation on how to appeal to a donor or potential donor for funding. Today’s post relates to my recent article on Starting a Nonprofit.

The population of the U.S. is far more generous than other people groups. This isn’t because of our wealth, as we have had a history of compassion and philanthropy for centuries. I believe our biblical foundations for philanthropy as a Christian nation has created an environment for blessing, and we are currently reaping the benefit of our forefather’s stewardship.

Americans donate more each year than Portugal, Greece, Finland, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and China combined. We contribute exactly twice as much as the next most generous population: Germany. There are other statistics that show we have drastically declined in our generosity (percentages of per capita and GNI giving are both on the decline in the U.S.), but we are still a very generous people. We have contributed in excess of $300 billion each year for at least the last three years.

People give to their passions. The key to helping advance an organization or cause is connecting people to that organization around their passions. For instance, it’s easy to ask a carpenter who loves his church, his community and his children to volunteer his time and talent to build a swingset for the children of the church to use. It probably creates a lot of joy for the pastor or lay leader to ask the carpenter to donate some or all of the work necessary to complete the project. Couple his work with other people of complimentary passions (a gardner, a concrete worker, a sign maker and a landscape retailer), and you have the makings of a wonderful “barn raising” party that will create a tremendous amount of synergy and accomplishment.

In the same way, financial resources can combine to do something synergistically that cannot otherwise be done. This requires someone to present a case for support to a donor for a financial contribution. An appeal like this is never singularly minded (we never just want money). The best appeal is to someone who would fulfill their passions and receive joy and purpose in their gift, as well as their giftedness. Money should never be the central theme of any relationship.

The process of determining who to ask should always start with careful understanding of your organization’s Guiding Principles. Trying to connect a potential donor to something that does not match their passions is a miserable thing to do. Asking our hypothetical carpenter to design a flyer for the local kenel club, assuming he doesn’t use Photoshop and care much about dogs, is a totally unrealistic appeal. Likewise, philanthropists are limited in their investment interests.

Here is the Board of Directors Presentation I gave this Friday that explains the roles of directors and the CEO as it relates to funding your organization. The introduction is borrowed heavily from Dr. R. Scott Rodin’s “Four Theological Foundations for a Capital Campaign”.

Whether you are raising money for a mission trip or a youth sport, you have to understand that people give to people for people. The power of matching passions is usually connected to a story that gives a compelling illustration of your mission in action. In the powerpoint above, Dr. Rodin shares the five rights of an appeal: The right person ask the right donor for the right amount for the right project at the right time.

One of our core values at Rooftop 519 is “Relationship is the Prize”. Understanding the relational nature of fundraising helps to break away from transactional thinking. Fundraising is an essential part of any nonprofit, but it is never the primary reason for a relationship.

I would love questions about nonprofit fundraising in the comments section. I’ll do my best to respond quickly.

David Sokol and Worldview.

David Sokol is the heir apparent to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. I recently read several articles about this astonishing executive. He’s smart, wealthy, driven and intentional; not the type of person that wastes energy or time.

The most interesting thing to me was how Sokol touts his organizational values. Several years ago he laid out his principles in Pleased but Not Satisfied, a short self-published book about his management beliefs. Sokol’s six laws are: operational excellence, integrity, customer commitment, employee commitment, financial strength and environmental commitment.

These are wonderful values, but in and of themselves they are powerless. What gives them power is the imposing personality of a leader who tirelessly drives them home. I don’t know how effective David Sokol is in helping to create workplace environments that aren’t dependent upon his powerful confidence and charisma. What I believe with all my heart is that without people who believe in the “why” you do what you do, the “how” and the “what” do not bring significance to the work.

The best description I have seen of this concept is found at TEDx. Worldview is critical to aligning values for people who are connected to an organization; whether it is a family, business or church. The Biblical Worldview Institute uses this same premise to develop an understanding of how worldview (why) drives values (how) that determines behavior (what). Go back and click the TEDx link above. You’ll be glad you did.

Stephen Covey writes about the why in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, see habit #3, “Begin with the end in mind”. He also addresses the “why” in The principles of Leadership. They’re both great reads and I highly recommend them. Covey drives home the fact that if we’re not intentionally principle-centric, then something else in our center (core purpose, or “why”).

If I met David Sokol, I would love to find out why he is driven to do what he does. Seeking money is not innately meaningful. It is a behavior (what) sculpted by values (how). One of his principles for business gives us particular insight into his how, but gives no indication of why. “Environmental Commitment” can be motivated out of a biblical stewardship theology, a monetary incentive, a personal affinity for creation or nature, or peer pressure. There are more potential “whys”, but of the four I listed, only one that does not change over time (biblical stewardship may manifest itself differently within a culture, but it does not change based on what people think).

What happens when principles are in conflict with each other? C.S. Lewis wrote, “Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people.’ People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest.” In Sokol’s case, his ethical instinct became in conflict with his financial strength instinct, when the Waxman-Markey Bill was making it’s way through Congress in 2009. Sokol helped to lead the effort to lobby in the senate to kill the bill in the Senate.

The instincts and principles of the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy and more were firmly opposed to Sokol’s environmental ethic. Their principle of conservation and protection of the environment is rarely subverted by a financial principle. On the whole, people I’ve met from those organizations are living primarily for the purpose of the environment (what). That may sound like a worldview, but the actual “why” of their existence is peer pressure that leads to situational ethics. There is a strong emphasis on collaboration, shared learning and synergistic relationships. Those are all noble efforts (how), but the core purpose of their organizations is, on the whole, poorly defined and feeble-founded. An exception within the environmental movement is The Evangelical Environmental Network,  claims to operate from the “why” of “tending to the garden” (a reference to the Genesis story of God entrusting Adam and his descendants to steward creation).

Why does David Sokol run businesses for Berkshire Hathaway? I’d like to know. Why did he (seemingly) oppose his environmental values by fighting the Waxman-Markey Bill? Because the “how” of his life was in conflict. I don’t know if his instincts were even at war with each other. Maybe it was such a simple financial decision that he never explored the environmental commitment that he claims to live.

What about sick kids in our own country?

The question often arises, “Why does Rooftop 519 chose to help children only outside of the U.S.?” There are several layers to the answer, but before I dig into the solution, let me start with our Core Purpose. “To glorify God through healing people and transforming communities”.  As we have defined in our Messaging and Branding Guidelines, the Core Purpose is the “axis for why we exist.”

At that center of existence, we don’t care more about one life than the next. Nobody ever asks the question, “Why do you heal just children?” I don’t believe any person or organization has the moral high ground to choose one life over another based on subjective reactions to a feeling of ethics. Our mission focuses what we do and why we do it. Ours is “Healing the sickest kids in the world in the name of Christ.”

The mission becomes less subjective as we define our terms. One of the things we identified early on is that the vast majority of “sickest” kids exist outside of the U.S. Birth defect that are exhibited by teenagers in developing nations are, by in large, nonexistent among U.S. citizens (and even non-citizens residing in the U.S.). Any child born in any hospital in the U.S. who needs critical care is guaranteed, regardless of a family’s ability to pay, access to that care. While there are some exceptions for very complicated illnesses or injuries, children in the U.S. still have very good access overall to health care.

Some examples of this include Tuberculosis of the spine and Noma. Both diseases are rampant throughout Africa and parts of Asia. Estimates of children who are infected with these horrific and easily treatable illnesses run into the hundreds of thousands. Children in the U.S. may, on rare occasion, have a traumatic injury that would cause similar suffering – say from a boating or automobile accident, for example. The difference for a child in Michigan versus Nigeria is that when the Nigerian child’s body slowly disintegrates, either bones being warped and contorted or flesh being eaten by bacteria, there is no 911. I have heard stories of family members who will drown their own children because there is no hope for their disease. This is simply unthinkable among Northern Americans.

I live in one of the most pristine and affluent cities in all of the United States. La Quinta is a beautiful city, dubbed the “Gem of the Desert” in Southern California. Home to many retired executives and professionals, we are all privileged to walk down beautiful sidewalks, visit excellent libraries and have many wonderful amenities. Those amenities include access to emergency services. My son recently dislocated his kneecap. Save two minor wrist fractures, this was his first serious injury in his 13 years. Within seconds of his mishap, I realized what he had done and I asked a friend call 911. No more than 90 seconds passed until the professionals were on-site. Within several minutes he was at the hospital, comforted by some narcotics and met by doctors who eagerly relocated the wayward bone.

I try to imagine walking out of the coffee shop I visit in Old Town La Quinta and seeing a 13 year old child sitting on the curb, begging for food, but possibly unable to eat anything that was given to him because most of his lips and cheeks are gone. In his case, flesh-eating bacteria have consumed the muscles that contract to allow him to close his mandible. His body had fought off the infection, but not before it had stripped him of the ability to even hold water in his mouth.

Another thing about my city is that we probably have the greatest number of plastic surgeons per capita in the world. A block from where this hypothetical young teenager sits is an office where customers pour in and out to have their lips puckered and their brows hoisted. These surgeons have the ability to spend 90 minutes with a scalpel and some thread, maybe a little glue, and build him a face.

If that boy really came to La Quinta, I have no doubt that he would be healed. Rooftop 519 brings kids like this to the U.S. so we can all be a part of their pain, and more importantly, their healing. This is the core of what Christ would want us to do. What most of us have done, myself included, is that we have distracted ourselves from the pain of others because we don’t know that child. We cannot see him on our street. We do not experience his brokenness. He exists, and I am compelled because of the cause of Christ, to get him and show him to you. I am asking for you to help. Pray for him. Pay for a plane ticket or donate your vacation miles. Invite him into your home. Connect him with a doctor you know. Get your church to share the gospel with him and send him home to his family with a deep understanding of the compassion of Christ.