About a Girl

We’ve had a recent breakthrough at Rooftop. Our alpha patient, a term used to identify our first patient, has received the green-light for travel. We will buy her ticket tomorrow. Exodus, a 13 year-old burn victim, is traveling to live in Seattle for the next five months. Her scarred and deformed skin is being replaced with grafts from her legs. This won’t just give her mobility and beauty; it will give her life.

It’s not being melodramatic to describe her in this way. Americans are unexperienced with children who look like Exodus. Our culture isolates us in an unrealistic cocoon of beauty. Even the ugly among us could be considered attractive in many countries. Exodus’s injuries are too bothersome for most to lay eyes upon. If her injury had happened in the U.S., she would have received immediate medical attention. One year after her injury she would have hardly had any reminders of the pain inflicted by a terrible fire. In Liberia, with scars like hers, she has very little hope of working, playing or possibly even marrying.

I have a really difficult time expressing the emotions I feel of this girl. She is my daughter’s age. As I type this through tears, I try to picture myself in Exodus’s parents shoes. Hopeless and helpless, they are praying for a healer. They can’t take out a loan to pay doctors, and they can’t just show up at a hospital without cash in hand. There is no cavalry for rescue and no possible solution within reach. The sheer frustration of these two parents has the potential to drive them insane. It would crush me.

Now they all have more than hope. They have an excitement I can’t even begin to imagine. Exodus has a passport, a visa and thanks to some generous donors, a ticket on the way. A family in Washington is excited to welcome her into their home. Doctors in Portland are ready. It’s been about 18 months since we began dreaming about helping kids like this. Only by the strength of God have we come this far. We will treat Exodus. We will have a story to tell like non other. We will radically change her family and her community in Monrovia. To God be the glory.

Big Changes, No Problems

I haven’t posted for over two weeks. I apologize. When I first started blogging, I figured a few friends and my wife would read, and maybe on a good day, I could get my mom to read. As it turns out, there are more of you reading that I would have thought. And now I’ve let you down. Please forgive me.

In October 2010, we planted a satellite campus of Puyallup Foursquare Church. This was a thrill for us; planting the first out-of-state satellite for a church we helped plant in 1998. We faced challenges, we were personally stretched, and Cheryl and I were greatly fulfilled in our leadership roles. The Lord is doing an incredible work here.

Several months ago, the leadership team at Puyallup Foursquare began working with us to make some adjustments. Through our planning and prayers, we determined as a team to plant a church under the Southwest District of Foursquare. Roger Archer and team encouraged and supported our decision.

I never purposed to become a senior pastor, and I’ve been very reluctant to accept the role. The pastoral examples I’ve watched over the last dozen years are charisma-driven and animated. I would call myself neither. After two weeks of careful prayerful consideration, I have pledged to become the senior pastor of Desert Foursquare Church. (Our denomination will still have to appoint me to this position).

At the age of 18, at Northwest Foursquare Church, a woman prophetically shared that I would be a pastor. Worship, teaching and ministry are all passions, but the responsibility of shepherding feels simultaneously constricting and freeing. This is not my comfort zone. Here I am, a willing, joyful servant who loves to see Jesus work in people’s lives.

The last several weeks have presented many obstacles. Our equipment is heading back to the NW to serve Puyallup’s needs (they have a very busy summer), and we are not incorporated as a 501 (c) (3). There are many other details, but I shared those two with a visitor to our church on the Sunday we made the announcement that we are transitioning to a church plant. I didn’t know this when the silver-haired couple asked me about our church that Sunday morning, but they used to pastor a Foursquare Church in La Quinta.

Dale and Patti Downs are their names, and they offered to connect us with the resources we require. The most important resources was the gift of their friendship, and the relationships they have here in the desert. Within two weeks of their visit, they connected us with many people in the desert that are excited and encouraged that we are launching this fall.

So for the last few weeks, my pastoral duties have just about doubled. Now we are going through the process of incorporating and building a team of people who will launch Desert Foursquare Church. We are excited to spend this summer incubating our core team of staff and members (about 30 people in all). This is a critical time for praying and seeking God’s will for our church. If you’re reading this now, please take a moment to pray for us in this journey.

I could write a book about our adventure, but I’ll keep it short for now. I’m happy to respond to questions to this post, so feel free to ask any question. Thank you to all of my brothers and sisters who are praying with us.

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.

Starting a Nonprofit Organization

I have a lot of experience in nonprofits. In my 36 years of life, I’ve volunteered over 10,000 hours and been employed over 13,000 in church and para-church organizations. Ten years ago I graduated from the University of Washington with a minor degree and a certificate in Nonprofit Administration (which I actually thought I wouldn’t use until I retired from Costco, but that’s another story). Hands down, the most common question I get from people who hear about what I do is, “What does it take to start a nonprofit?”

An email from a friend-of-a-friend recently arrived in my box with this very question. This man asked me the question because he is burdened with doing something that has a greater purpose than just making money. I am a little leery about anyone who wants to do something because it is the opposite of what they’re currently doing, but I took the time to answer his question, and I let him know that I would have a more complete answer in my blog. Here it is.

The U.S. doesn’t need another nonprofit (writes the guy who’s started three, and is currently working for a start-up). There are currently 1.6 million 501 (c) (3) organizations in the U.S. This does not account for all of the unregistered community organizations and churches. We have nearly every niche filled, in most cases, multiple times.

Everyone wants to live in their passions and values. I believe the best way to do this is to find an existing organization that matches the purpose you seek to serve, even if you merely volunteer to do so. Clothing banks, homeless ministry and all kinds of community service can typically be facilitated through a church or community organization. If you exhaust all possible opportunities to piggy back or serve within a current nonprofit, then consider my advice below.

If you’re new to nonprofits, you can take a crash-course in the 3rd Sector by watching this short video.

Starting a nonprofit requires more paperwork, collaboration and back-end office work than most people would think. It is idyllic to think that you can spend 90%, 80% or even 50% of your time doing the program you seek to serve. Running the operations is an incredible task, especially during the start-up process. Here is a checklist of things to do to start a nonprofit in the U.S.

You should budget at least $3000 to pay for your filing fees and legal fees. The IRS form 1023 alone costs $850 for most nonprofits. You will also need Directors’ and Officers’ insurance (D & O insurance) to protect the board and officers from personal liability. This can run anywhere from $1000 to several thousand dollars, depending on the amount of liability coverage you desire.

Nonprofits are businesses that are set up to receive donations and avoid paying certain taxes. It takes a business plan, including financial plan and/or proforma. Most nonprofits depend heavily on philanthropy. The difficulty in funding a nonprofit, especially a new nonprofit, is always underestimated. This is something I drive home with anyone who asks the question about starting a nonprofit. I have had several occasions to explain to people that their pyramid model fundraiser of “1000 people who give one hundred dollars” doesn’t work. People give to people. More accurately, people give to friends, then to experts, then to organizations. Peer-to-peer fundraising is the best form of engaging someone’s passions. The ability to develop a case statement and use your case to raise capital is both an incredible privilege and a daunting task.

I heard once that the higher a case is identified within the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the more difficult it is to fund. This seems very logical to me.

A side note, I actually met a nonprofit executive who told me that she was frequently over-funded. They had to find creative ways to use the money they were given, and they rarely solicited funds from the community they served. If you’re curious, send me an email at shawn@rooftop519.com and will share what type of organization this is.

There are a lot of great resources for people who are starting nonprofits, and I never want to be the Eeyore that stops someone from accomplishing their calling or purpose. The world is a much better place because of the nonprofits that allow people an avenue for service. If you must start a new organization, do your homework. Cover your relationships in prayer. Intently seek the Lord’s purpose to be lived through your ministry. Get sound counsel and know that it will take a much greater effort than most people could ever imagine.