Notes in the key of E: Equip and its false cognate, Encourage

Equip, Educate, and Experience are the three essential elements of Engagement.

(Today’s blog is sponsored by the letter E?)

Of those many E’s in that initial sentence, the one that trips up nonprofits the most is Equip.


Our traditional transactional fundraising (ttf) heritage causes us to confuse equipping with encouragement.

That is, a cornerstone of ttf is the sychophantic relationship between fundraiser and donor.

Adj. 1. sycophantic – attempting to win favor from influential people by flattery
bootlicking, fawning, obsequious, toadyish

Adj. 1. sycophantic – attempting to win favor from influential people by flattery. Synonyms: bootlicking, fawning, obsequious, toadyish

We’re taught to laugh at major donor and prospective major donor’s jokes…send birthday cards on their children’s birthdays…and engage in a detestable practice known as “friendraising” in which we befriend those whom we believe can give us lots of money.

Needless to say, this doesn’t put us in a particularly advantageous position to hold individuals accountable, subject them to strenuous training, coach them to do things they are really uncomfortable doing…and then drill them when they fall short. These are all the things any coach must do, and it’s certainly no less true in TG coaching where our goal is to equip individuals to grow comprehensively into the fullness of Christ in relation to the cause.

That’s a matter completely different from encouragement.

What could be wrong with encouragement? After it, doesn’t everyone need to be encouraged?

Make no mistake: encouragement is a great accessory to equipping. It is, however, a deadly substitute.


I’ve been talking with a ministry for the last couple of weeks.

The ministry had anointed a champion (a board member no less!) to coordinate a banquet using the Mission Increase Foundation model.

Good move!

Bad move: The ministry sent the champion the MIF fundraising banquet manual and asked him to read it. They checked in by phone to see if he had any questions. Then they checked in with him every week or two to see how it was going.

“Great!” he would say.


Until the time of the banquet drew night. Then he noted that he had lost his job and that he had had to move to a different state. He had some friends still working on the banquet in the original state, of course, but he himself hadn’t been able to devote the kind of time to it that he needed. Could the banquet date be rescheduled?

Yes, said the helpful ministry. So the date was rescheduled, and the check-in process began again in earnest.


Until the time of the rescheduled banquet drew nigh, at which point the champion acknowledged that he really didn’t have a whole lot of table sponsors, and there wasn’t really anyone who was confirmed to come.

The ministry, on the hook for $12,000 in banquet costs, contemplated its next move. Should it cancel the banquet and eat the loss? Should it plow ahead and try to recoup something? anything?

“I think we’ll do great,” assured the champion. “There’s a lot of people who will come. Trust me.”

Encouragement can be very expensive, indeed.

In contrast, TG Principle 5 says:

Transformational Giving relationship between a champion and an organization is primarily a peer-level accountability relationship, not merely a friendship or a mutual admiration society.

And equipping is at the heart of that accountability relationship.

When a champion wants to host a banquet for us, we help them count the cost. We mentor and coach them through the process. Due dates. Metrics. Deliverables. The occasional strained phone call. Times they want to give up, but we don’t let them. Times they want to vary from the model, but we say no. We’re coaches after all, not permissive parents.

Equipping is the process of collaborating with the champion on a detailed, structured plan with dates and metrics where we help the champion identify:

  • What does fullness in Christ in relation to the cause look like, according to the scriptures?
  • Where am I at presently, in contrast?
  • What are the steps that I need to and am willing to take to move from where I am to where Christ calls me to be in relation to the cause, according to the scriptures?

That phrase, “according to the scriptures”, is key. We’re not coaching champions to achieve their passion in relation to the cause. We’re coaching champions to achieve their calling, which is something distinguishable from passion. God doesn’t call us to do the things we’re passionate about. He calls us to do the things He’s passionate about, and, in doing those things, remarkably, His passions become our passions.

P/E/O charts are the heart of equipping in TG. The Coach Your Champions book shows how to develop one for your ministry.

Ministries often ask me, “Do I really need to do a P/E/O chart with each Engaged champion?”

My reply: “Only the ones you want to see grow.”

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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2 Responses to Notes in the key of E: Equip and its false cognate, Encourage

  1. Everett says:

    Hi Eric-

    The words to a PK song say, “Down at your feet O Lord is the most high place. In your presence Lord I see your face… there is no higher calling, no greater honor than to bow and kneel before Your throne.”

    Although I don’t usually like people using the word “calling” when referring to what people achieve, I appreciate your distinguishing the difference between “calling” and “passion”. God doesn’t call us to things or places or even projects. He calls us first to Himself to acknowledge Him as Lord for the purpose of learning His heart and then He sends us out as owners of that heart.


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