Engagement is like, um, an engagement

Had a great meeting this morning with Mission Increase Foundation National Senior Giving and Training Officer (SGTO) Tracy Nordyke and Colorado SGTO Suzanne Dubois to stake out new Transformational Giving (TG) territory in preparation for January/February’s workshop/lab series on Engagement.

The question:

How can ministries coach champions to move from participating in ministry projects to being comprehensively engaged with the cause?

Or, in TG vernacular:

How can you coach champions from P to E?

One of the realizations we had today was just how much Engagement in TG is like engagement in man-woman relationships and marriage and, you know, such.

Consider two possible paths a relationship might take:

A couple goes out on a date. They like each other. They go out again. They still like each other. They think, “Hmm… What more can we do?” So they decide to sleep together. They still like each other. They think, “Hmm… What more can we do?” So they move in together.

In TG parlance, we have an expression for this:

P + P + P + P ≠ E

In other words, no number of Participation projects combined together can ever equal Engagement.

Now, consider a second relationship path:

A man and a woman go out on a date. They like each other. They go out again. They still like each other. They go out on four or five more dates. They really like each other. The man begins to think, “This woman really is becoming a major part of my life. I want her being in my life to be the way my life normally is from now on.”

So they get engaged.

Notice what happens in this “P to E move” known as engagement:

There is a conscious, explicit, intentional moment at which the man moves beyond a series of dates and encounters and recognizes that there is a gradual change in his identity that is developing due to his relationship with this woman, and he desires to formalize this into a state where his normative identity is no longer singular but as a couple.

No different in Transformational Giving. No different at all.

Most ministries, sadly, prefer to sleep with their donors. They fear making a commitment–after all, that may cost more than it generates in revenue! So they reduce everything to a series of Participation activities: banquets, fundraising letters, emails, newsletters…solicitations. Even when they “do lunch” with a donor, it’s really foreplay for an ask. Seriously. They’re looking for the least they can give in order to generate the most in return. Interestingly, they find themselves attracted to donors who think the same way.

And when the relationship doesn’t work for one or the other party, they do just what cohabiting couples do in real life: They split up, move out, and look for another partner who really cares and really understands their needs.

But in TG the move from P to E is an explicit, covenantal move. The champion has touched the cause through the synecdochic, E-in-P core of the Signature Participation Project. Something touched them that won’t leave them alone, and now they want to go deeper.

So what’s a ministry to do?

Most ministries see no alternative to leading the champion through another project, and another one after that, each designed to bring the champion one step closer to that form of charitable whoopie known as writing a check.

But there’s an alternative, you know:

An explicit covenantal relationship with a champion (an engagement!) in which we pledge to support the champion–to equip them via experiences and education to grow in the likeness of Christ in relation to the cause.

Like an engagement, it’s important to enter into it at least a little starry-eyed, believing that this champion the Lord has given us can do greater things than we have done, by the grace of God. Heck, that’s even biblical.

Interesting what happens when you get engaged to somebody. You stop thinking, “What’s our next date going to be?” You stop thinking in discrete chunks of time. You recognize that not every encounter between the two of you is going to be positive. You even fight sometimes, and then you make up. You start dreaming together about changing the world even.

And you make an exclusive commitment to each other.

In charitable terms, that doesn’t mean that you become the only nonprofit the champion gives to. But it does mean that it’s wholly appropriate to say, for example, “Look–if you’re serious about wanting to make a difference in ministry to North Korea, you’re going to need to stop spreading your giving around to four or five different NK ministries. And it’s not about the money. It’s about you making a commitment to let us coach and train you in a particular way of thinking about this cause so that you learn, first, to think like us, and then, next, you take our thinking to the next level with the next generation of champions in this ministry.”

And–by the way– can you see where this precious engagement is leading?

Love. Marriage.

Then lots and lots of babies, otherwise known as moving from Engagement to Ownership.

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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5 Responses to Engagement is like, um, an engagement

  1. Kelly says:

    Wow. Can’t believe how well this illustration works! It makes so much sense! Thanks for painting a clear and beautiful picture!

  2. EFoley says:

    Thanks, Kelly. The only part we couldn’t figure out how to work in was signing up for the wedding registry at Target!

  3. This really makes a lot of sense – even to the idea that we talk about the E level being somewhat volatile and transitory…at that point, the relationship HAS to move to the next level for it to continue to be satisfying. Well, you know all this, but sometimes it helps for “newbies” to be able to articulate it, you know?

    Also, your last thought made me totally laugh. Thanks for that.

  4. EFoley says:

    Thanks, Rachel–you might be surprised to know just how helpful it is to hear these things articulated back to me in different ways and different voices. I very much like the idea that the relationship has to move to the next level and sometimes is a bit volatile–that’s well put.

    Glad you got a laugh from the end. I still have that “first comes love, second comes marriage, third comes XXXXX in a baby carriage” rhyme rattling around in my head!

  5. Pingback: More than a feeling, part III: When you go to E, take your kids with you « Transformational Giving

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