Coach through gaps, don’t manage functions

In most missions agencies (and in most nonprofits in general), your brain surgeon becomes your primary doctor and treats you for everything from gout to halitosis.

Problem is, brain surgeons don’t tend to know a lot about body parts below the neck. They’re, you know, brain surgeons.

Which is why World Gospel Mission is instituting a massive overhaul of their partner/champion structure to let the brain surgeons focus on brain surgery while instuting a whole new front line of general practitioners.

Permit me to explain:

If you are a nonprofit, it seems like the most natural thing in the world to manage donors’/volunteers’/champions’ activities, not the gaps between the activities.

So if you call up a missions agency and say, “My church group would like to go on a short-term mission trip,” they connect you to the short-term mission department. Or if you say, “I’d like to put Missionary Jones in my will,” they connect you to the planned giving office. Or if you say, “I’m considering full-time missonary service,” they put you through to the full-time missionary service office.

But what happens if you talk to the short-term mission department and decide you don’t want to go on a short-term mission trip? Or what happens if you get the brochure on career missionary service and it’s not for you? Or how about if you actually do put Missionary Jones in your will? What happens next?


Typically you end up in The Gap–AKA The Mailing List.

In most nonprofits, you get added to the mailing list as a way to make sure the nonprofit can still stay in touch with you. When you’re in The Gap, you get The Newsletter and The Occasional Appeal Letter–neither of which you probably asked for–because the nonprofit hopes that you will see something in The Newsletter or The Occasional Appeal Letter that will cause you to contact the organization again and reconnect with a different brain surgeon, which is to say a department that specializes in a particular function.

Nonprofits manage organizational functions when they should in fact be coaching donors through the gaps.

The logic is compelling when you really stop to think about it:

If I call your agency and inquire about long-term mission service, and then I decide I’m not interested, you will likely call me once or twice or maybe even three times before consigning me to The Newsletter List. But if I decide I’m not interested in long-term missionary service, there’s at least a pretty good chance that I’m not sure exactly what I want.

Which is why nonprofits should focus on coaching champions in the gaps, which can best be done by making sure that every champion is assigned to a “general practitioner”–a champion development officer who serves as a generalist, able to talk with and coach a champion through everything from short-term mission service to making a planned gift to becoming a full-time missionary.

This is The Great Leap Forward in which WGM is now engaged.

Instead of having a volunteer department and a donor department (which is typically divided into mass fundraising and major gifts and planned gifts) and a gift-in-kind department and a short-term missions department etcetera etcetera, WGM is now organizing its partner and champion functions into three departments:

1. A partner department, where, as we talked about in the previous post, each organization will be coached by a partner development officer/generalist who can help the church plan how to grow in missions on every front.

2. A champion department, where the same thing happens with individuals. Doesn’t matter if you want to volunteer, donate a car, go on a mission trip, or become a full-time missionary, you won’t be shuttled from department to department. You’ll have one person to coach you along all phases of your journey.

3. A partner and champion services department. What were formerly front-end functions passing champions and partners around like hot potatoes now become second-line specialists to which champions and partners are referred but never relinquished to as those champions and partners walk through specific parts of the journey. You may fill out a long-term service application with a career missionary specialist, but you won’t get transferred to him or her permanently–any more than you would leave your family doctor and have a brain surgeon take over your general care after the family doctor sends you to the brain surgeon for a consult.

It’s called coaching through the gaps. And it makes eminent sense, because the gaps are where champions and partners have the greatest likelihood to grow.

Why would you leave that to your newsletter?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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1 Response to Coach through gaps, don’t manage functions

  1. Pingback: A day in the life of a Director of Partner Development « Transformational Giving

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