There are different schools of thought on vision. Vision for a ministry organization should move people forward to accomplish great things. The vision cannot be about the organization. It has to be about the results of the organization.
In ministry work, the results are found in the lives of people. What we teach is that your vision is a person. Your vision is a life. In terms of raising money, you can really only raise money for two things: saving lives or changing lives. If that’s true, we really need to know if we’re in the life-saving business or the life-changing business or both. If we’re in one or the other or both, how do we talk about this vision for a life?
People are far more interested in investing in your organization because you’re accomplishing things in the lives of people than they are investing in your organization to help you be a better, bigger organization. We often see organizations who are sharing numbers but not sharing about the lives changed as a result. As a result, donors are disengaged.
It could be debt. It could be size of the organization. It could be numbers of staff. It could be all about programs. Organizations can fall in love with their programs, and they think, “That’s what we’re really needing money for. We’re asking people to give to these programs.” It could also be the numbers, people impacted, which is always powerful when you can talk about it, but it’s not nearly as compelling as we think it is. Numbers can get up in your head as a leader, whereas giving is a matter of the heart and the head. So, how do we really focus this message on the lives of people?
One of the things I challenge people to do is make sure they have this written down. This isn’t your strategic plan. This isn’t your marketing plan. Those are all important and helpful, but those tend to change every few years. Focus on your message that communicates your vision. It can be simple. It could be on one page. It could be ten pages. It’s saying, “This is how we’re going to talk about this. These are the bullet points we use. This is a picture or the profile of the way we talk about a life. These are the stories we use.”
The mistake that is made over and over again in ministry organizations is we think effectiveness looks like keeping all of these things very fresh. Because we’re around it all the time, we get tired of telling the same stories. We get tired of talking about the same people and the same programs. We want to change it.
One of the things we teach is to think not only in terms of the vision as a life, but think of an individual person. If I said to you that you can only talk about your vision for the next five years, and you can only use one photograph of one person ever, that’s all you ever get to use, who would that photograph be of and why? How would you describe that person? What is the language? What are the stories you would tell about that person?”
When this is working well, you’ll have a major donor who will meet with you with someone they’re wanting to connect you with. You’ll hear them say, “Will you tell that amazing story about that guy y’all helped? Tell me that story again. I tried to tell it. I can’t remember it. Will you share that story?”
Just because you’ve told this story until you’re sick of telling it doesn’t mean the community you’re trying to build, that is investing in this and moving forward, is getting it as much as you think. Jack Welch says in one of the books he wrote about his work at GE, “You repeat the message until you really feel like you’re going to throw up if you have to tell the story one more time.” That’s how you know you really are finally on message with sharing your vision.
Consider these questions:
1. Are we in the business of life saving or life changing?
2. What is the profile of the person whose life is changed as a result of our organization?
3. What stories or examples support that our vision is effectively impacting their life?
Then, meet with as many people as you can to share this extraordinary vision for the work the Lord has provided.