“Have they fruit?” Mr. Wesley asked of his would-be preachers. Could those who were seeking ordination show anything for their service? Was there at least one person who had found faith through the word they proclaimed? A single person whose spiritual practices had been enlivened by what they taught? A hungry person who found bread? A homeless person who found shelter? Was there any sign that the ministry exercised by this person was waking the world to the dream of God?
Make sure to check out the rest of Nathan Kirkpatrick’s powerful piece at Faith & Leadership.
After you do, please take his question one step further.
Imagine the discussion that would ensue at the next administrative board or church council meeting if the question were asked, “Havewe fruit?” Imagine the conversation if the topic at the meeting became, “What evidence is there? What can we point to that demonstrates that the community in which we live is better, healthier and more faithful because of the presence of our church? Are our ministries making any kind of difference to our neighbors? Is the Spirit, through us, actually changing lives, deepening faith, seeding hope in this neighborhood? Or are we just taking up space on a corner in town, an antiquated placeholder on this block?” I imagine a lively scene as a congregation deliberates and discusses its missional role in its own context, all the while answering the question, “Have we fruit?”
My experience has been that most nonprofits are increasingly adept at asking the question of themselves, if not answering it.
But it is an exceedingly rare nonprofit that asks this question related to its donors.
On the one hand, there is perhaps no more measured “fruit” in nonprofitdom than metrics related to giving.
But what about metrics related to our donors’ understanding of the cause and their ability to act upon it knowledgeably and comprehensively, both through us and on their own?
The paradigmatic example of doing this well remains Atul Tandon, who led World Vision to ask and answer this question–and who thus demonstrated, as World Vision exploded with growth during his tenure, that asking about and measuring more than money is what yields a bumper financial crop:
We perform donor surveys once a year on key questions: Are you more aware of the poor? Is your time with World Vision enabling you to serve the poor better? Is your walk with Jesus Christ changing because of your walk with the poor? The critical question is, Have you changed the way you spend your money and your time? In 2003, 59 percent of our donors said they had changed the way they thought about and spent money and time. Today, that number is up to 76 percent. God has been faithful.
Sadly, as Tom from the Agitator notes today in quoting a piece by Tom Ahern, few of us are even surveying our donors, let alone thinking about measuring any kind of donor fruit other than dollars:
Tom talks about a recent fundraising conference where 150 attendees were asked if they conducted donor satisfaction surveys. Tom says not a hand went up. He goes on to discuss how lousy nonprofits are at holding on to donors.
So I like Nathan Kirkpatrick’s idea for a “lively scene”, and yet I want to propose something more, though I suspect it will initially draw blank stares from your board more than animated chatter. But let us persevere in this line of questioning, if only at first because Atul Tandon has demonstrated its efficacy:
Have our donors fruit?