Archives For April 2012

This is the best idea I’ve ever come across for planning.

How do you take all that is going on in your movement (the good and bad) and all you hope to accomplish (with often conflicting team opinions on what we should focus on next) and make sense of it all to determine what your team needs to focus on in the fall?

A few years ago I read the book The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam. The author described a brilliant way to take a LOT of information/issues/problems and emerge with THE best solution. We’ve found this approach to be incredibly effective and a lot of fun (something no one has ever accused PrEFACE of!).

Roam calls it the garage-sale principle:

“Regardless of how well organized all the stuff in our garage may be, laying everything out on tables in the light of day yields a completely new perspective on it all. The same is true of data: when it is packed away in individual files and records, it’s impossible to look at the big picture – but getting everything out in the open makes otherwise invisible connections visible… great ideas emerged as people really looked at everything for the first time.”

The single best way to effectively to look at a lot of data is to take everything we’ve collected and lay it out side by side, where our eyes can scan it all in a few passes.


So how do you set it up?

  • Gather all the information (this is actually the hardest work) – get accurate stats on EVERYTHING you can. Send out staff evals to have them evaluate the current reality of the movement (here’s two we use: 1 & 2).
  • Print out all your data and information about your current reality on sheets of paper and really big sticky notes.
  • For staff planning get a conference room and cover every inch of wall with information on the current reality of your movement.
  • You want both:
    • Qualititative analysis of your movement (pictures, descriptions)
      • We have everyone draw a picture of our movement and then share it with the team
      • “What words or phrases would you use to describe the feel of our movement?”
    • Quantitative (numbers, spreadsheets!)
      • Now, I know some of you may balk at spreadsheets – I mean we are about lives being changed not numbers. But Dan Roam sums it up well: “spreadsheets are excellent tools for spreading out a lot of data on a single sheet.”
      • And without fail, numbers are what bring the most productive ideas for change as we can quickly see where we are doing well and where we are lacking.
  • Then give everyone a few minutes just to take it all in.
  • And ask something simple like, “what do you see?”

Once you lay out all the information in front of you, you can then begin to see it with more clarity.

You begin to see:

  • patterns (“we’ve had the same number of freshmen for 4 years straight” or “we’ve seen fewer people come to Christ each year”),
  • contradicting data (“this doesn’t make sense: we did WAY more first week surveys this year but the exact same number of freshmen as always – why?”),
  • what we are doing well at
  • where there are gaping holes

Here’s some of what we put up on the wall:

  • 5 Year Goals (which is an entire page of dreams we have for 2015)
  • Priority steps from our Strategic Plan from this past year (a reminder of what we focused on)
  • Goals for the year (that we brainstormed in Aug 2011) vs. reality now
  • Year Calendar (just to refresh memories on what we did this year):
    • Fall
    • Move-in week (cookouts)
    • First week – Surveys and Dorm Studies
    • Fall Retreat
    • TWC
    • Spring
    • Leadership Retreat
    • Spring Break Trips
    • Fellowship Dinner
    • Legacy Dinner
  • Our Vision Statement – printed big on a page:
    • That everyone would know someone who passionately follows Jesus
  • The following stats are most effective if you can compare to the last few years
    • # of Community Group Leaders (going into the fall)
    • # in Community Group (broken down by guys/girls AND fish/soph/jr/sr)
    • Trusted Christ
    • Summer Project (# applied AND # going)
    • Fall Retreat #’s
    • Winter Conference #’s
    • Legacy Dinner attendance (end of year banquet)
    • Involved New Believers
    • M29 Leadership (# attending weekly Leadership meeting)
    • Cru #’s avg in the Fall
    • # at last Cru in the Spring
    • # at Cru 1st week in Fall
    • # of 1st Week Spiritual Interest Surveys
    • # in Dorm Studies (big co-ed studies we do week 1&2 in fall)
    • Freshman in CG in April
    • Intern/Stint/Staff (how many laborers raised up in each of these categories)
    • Number Men/Women Discipled (start of fall/end of spring)
    • Seniors Sent
    • Times shared gospel (broken down by: 1st 4 weeks/rest of fall/spring)

As we look at it all, we record staff’s thoughts on big stickies under three categories:

  • Holes (“wow, we did not share our faith much this spring”)
  • Sustained Growth (how do we improve on what we are already good at? – “we’ve seen a big jump in SP #’s, how do we keep momentum there?”)
  • Connections (not sure if it’s a strength or weakness – just an observation: “it seems like our studies that did really well were led by juniors”)

At the end we give our staff 3-4 minutes to write their initials next to three things they think we should dig into more (and focus on during planning).

Out of that comes our 3-4 Priority Steps for the Fall.


Would love to hear from you:

  • What stats do you track year to year?
  • What do you do in your planning for the fall?
  • What Evals do you use?


Feel free to email me if you want more details on any of this (like I can send you the spreadsheet we use to track things!): timDOTcasteelATuscmDOTorg


“9 years ago we had our first fund raising dinner and raised $24,000.

Last year we raised $230,000”

Like it or not, as a leader one of your chief jobs is to raise money to fund your mission (for more on this read my post Money to Fund the Mission).


And I know of no better way for a para-church ministry to raise money than putting on an annual fund raising dinner.


This upcoming Friday will be our 11th annual Fellowship Dinner.


Most years we have 150 guests and raise $50,000 at the dinner. It’s the only fund raising we do all year. (I don’t share that amount to brag. I share it because by doing so I hope to encourage many  more Cur movements to do Fellowship Dinners).


A few days ago Ryan Sather, the co-director of Here’s Life Inner City (a ministry of Cru) in Minneapolis, tweeted this:

109 tables & counting for the @hlictwincities Fellowship Dinner on April 28th! Join us and bring some friends!

(which makes me wonder – I’ve benefited tremendously from other leaders’ tweets about ministry success (knowing who I can learn from). But I never share numbers/success story for fear of bragging/pride. So I’m merely a consumer. How can people learn from what you’re good at if you don’t share where God is blessing you? Haven’t figured it out yet.)

I DM’d him and asked if I could get his phone number and pick his brain for a few minutes.

I’m confident our 14 minute phone call will result in a huge increase in funding for our ministry (isn’t Twitter great?).


Here’s what I learned:

  • 9 years ago HLIC Minneapolis had their first dinner with 100 attendees. They raised $24,000
  • Last year they raised $230,000
  • This year they anticipate 1300 attendees when they hold their Dinner at the end of April
  • Ryan estimates that every 100 attendees will produce $25-30,000 given


Ryan listed four things as keys to their growth:

1) Growing the number of table hosts by challenging every staff and key donors/volunteers to each get 10 table hosts

  • Table hosts agree to fill a table by inviting all their friends to the dinner

2) Connecting the Dinner to Staff’s personal MPD (Cru lingo for “support”)

  • “At the dinner we communicate that each of our staff raises their own financial support and we’d love for you to give to them in addition to what you give to us as a city ministry”
  • “After the dinner, we give our staff the contact info of everyone that came from one of their 10 table hosts (usually around 20-30 contacts).”
  • “Our staff see an average of $200-300 in new monthly support”
  • “It’s help our staff understand: Your donors are giving to 6 other ministries. If you can get them to a dinner, it won’t decrease their support of you, it will actually increase their vision.”

3) Having a Matching Gift

  • 2 years ago they received 28 gifts of $1000 or more
  • Last year they offered a $35,000 matching gift – with a stipulation that they would match any gift of $1000 or more
  • The result? They had 58 gifts of $1000 or more given!
  • This year they hope to get $60k or $70k as a matching gift
  • Ryan said that even $10,000 is a good start (get 4 people to commit to giving $2,500 each)
  • “Anytime there is a match, people are extra motivated to give” (especially when it asks them to increase their gift amount – saying that last year, many who traditionally give $500 upped their gift to $1000)

4) Hosting volunteer events throughout the year where people can join with them in serving those in the inner city

  • At those events they cast vision for their ministry and ask people to join them (they gained 12 new table hosts from the last event in March)


  • Ryan called me today and mentioned that a fifth crucial element that has been key to their growth is: they do all of their thank you calls and letters the very next day after the dinner.
  • “It has been HUGE. It’s a long weekend and a long day but it has been unbelievably key in showing gratitude – for donors to get a thank you on Monday right after the dinner”
  • Calling all their table hosts the very next day and everyone who gave a substantial gift
  • And writing everyone a thank you

Ryan is a huge believer in having an annual Fellowship Dinner – both for the money it raises and the relationship it builds with the community (which I heartily echo!).

“One of the things that’s missing in fund development is the relational piece. The Dinner is very relational – breaking bread together. The money spent on the dinner is worth it on it’s own. It is great PR for the ministry.”


I asked Ryan if I could share this and he agreed and added a few things:

  • The last thing we want is people to think we’re bragging but I’d love to help others raise more money
  • Ryan works nationally with 17 HLIC ministries to put on Fellowship Dinners and he was quick to point out that they definitely are not all huge successes (some have even lost money!)
  • Jim Dempsey (former national director of Fund Development for Cru) played a crucial role in helping them grow


Would love to hear from you – what do you do to raise money for your ministry?

If you have a fund raising dinner, what has helped you grow your dinner?


 photo courtesy of Tracy Hunter