DickersonBakker Blog

The Faith of Playing to Win with Major Gifts

I started playing baseball when I was six years old and I played into my senior year of high-school. Although I made the all-stars 6 out of 7 years I was only a good athlete. What kept me from being great?  It wasn’t my athleticism that kept me from being great but rather my fear of failure—especially the fear of striking out.

But something happened my junior year of high-school which was the last year that I played baseball. I led my team in hits all season, batting .413 and was ranked in the top 15 baseball players in Central VA every week that season.

What made the difference? 

That season, I was playing to win versus a mind-set of being afraid to lose.

How We Can Play to Win with Major Gifts

Now let’s look at “faith-based” nonprofits, especially rescue missions, and evaluate optimum program effectiveness and an optimum development operation. Many rescue missions remind me of my former self.  So many seem to play afraid of losing or striking out.  The symptoms of this are manifested by not hiring the very best people in all roles, unnecessarily underpaying staff, high staff turnover and dissatisfaction, and even sub-optimum program results. Vibrant, innovative environments are replaced with a political climate where success isn’t measured by producing the very best results but rather spending a dollar in direct marketing to immediately get a dollar in return and by not upsetting anyone.

This type of environment makes our work as fundraising consultants very difficult because our company, Dickerson, Bakker & Associates, is all about helping an organization to reach their fullest potential for the Kingdom.  It’s our passion.

Our goal is not to just help them achieve a fundraising goal.  We want to help them to become their best so that they can help their guests to become their best.

We want to see 10 talent organizations become 20 talent organizations and 5 talent organizations become 10 talent organizations, etc.   We believe that when an organization has talented people coupled with effective strategy that they will realize an abundance of resources.

How Buffalo City Mission Plays to Win with Major Gifts

For the past year, I’ve had the good fortune of working with the Buffalo City Mission (BCM).  One of the things that stood out to me almost immediately when I began working with them was the quality of the BCM associates—especially the leadership team and their major gifts officers.  Each of their C-level staff–CFO, Programs Officer, Operations Officer, and Chief Development Officer could easily step-in and run the entire mission if they were asked to do so.  This elite team is led by a very strong and Godly leader who pays them well, leads them well, and who leads them with a BOLD vision.

Normally, when we conduct a Development Assessment, there’s one song that is sung by staff—especially development staff—and that is, “the Mission doesn’t pay me enough to really apply myself.” However, we didn’t hear this song in Buffalo.  I inquired of the CEO, Stuart Harper, about why none of his leadership team members and their staff complained about what they were paid. He responded that “we pay our people what they would make in a for-profit role based on their education, experience, and skill set.” Of course, their calling to rescue work is already a given or a prerequisite.

Then our team encountered their program.  They call it “The Dream.”  They genuinely believe that with God’s blessing, they can end homelessness for each man, woman, child, and family that they serve; and because each of these is made in God’s image, they want every single guest to bear God’s image well and realize His dream for their lives, the true person that He has made them to be in Christ.  It’s not a shock that last year, they helped 406 men and women to secure permanent housing; 114 men and women to secure permanent employment; 39 men and women broke free from addition; and 13 men and women are currently enrolled in post-secondary education!

Our Work with BCM

BCM hired our firm to co-labor with them to raise $15 million for a new men’s campus; and concurrently, to help them grow their operating support through our firm’s major gift services.

With God’s blessing, we helped the BCM team to see close to a $200,000 increase in what their major donors gave in the fall of 2016 over the fall of 2015.  Meanwhile, we have come alongside to help them raise approximately $3.2 million in capital funds.

One of the things that made all the difference in our work with them last fall was their commitment to implement our Discovery Tour program by getting major donors onsite to tour.  Aubrey Calhoun, the Associate ED in title but CDO in practice, and her major gifts team, David Wetzel and Laine Anastasia, scheduled 60 major donors to tour in November and December last year within a two-week period!

It’s obvious that Buffalo City Mission isn’t playing scared to fil in their “Dream Program” and playing to in win in major gifts with their major gift ministry of growing partners to invest in God’s Kingdom through BCM’s “Dream Program” and/or “Next Century Campaign.

In sum, because they have talented people, and effective strategy both in their programs, operations, and development, God is sending a bountiful harvest—albeit, an abundance of resources!

Let’s talk about action steps on playing to win at your organization. Contact us today to start the conversation >>

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