Fearless Fundraising #21: Hosting meaningful conversations

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“Fearless Fundraising” is a series on church fundraising by Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest, author and master potter living on a farm in New Mexico. Charles is the author of many books including Fearless Church Fundraising and now, Fearless Major Gifts: Inspiring Meaning-making. For more information, videos and model documents go to fearlesschurchfundraising.com.

 

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown argues that a group of leaders who solicit, accept, and incorporate feedback inevitably nurture an engaged, tenacious group of people who are both innovative and creative. I would add that they inevitably nurture effective and generous donors. An engaged group is a generous group.  A manipulated group will withhold their pledges.  Always.  What is the best way to destroy a capital or annual campaign from the very start?  Impose the case-for-support on the donors and leaders without hosting a conversation first.

 

Allowing our congregation or diocese to come together to express their hopes and dreams for the church mission and life before being asked to fund it inspires us to be vulnerable, to share openly, and to persevere together during times of hardship; whereas not gathering to express our longings openly together early keeps us small, resentful, withholding and afraid. Authoritarian cultures inspire disengagement, blame, gossip, stagnation, withheld financial and volunteer investment, favoritism, a dearth of creativity, and a stifling of innovation.

 

Quoting author and consultant Peter Block, Chris Corrigan, a friend and a leader in the Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversation (here’s a brief video of him speaking on the subject) writes, “Far from being about control, leaders exercising convening capacity set boundaries for action and then invite within them.”

 

Peter Block says: “We hold leadership to three tasks:

  • Create a context that nurtures an alternative future, one based on gifts, generosity, accountability, and commitment.
  • Initiate and convene conversations that shift people’s experience, which occurs through the way people are brought together and the nature of the questions used to engage them.
  • Listen and pay attention.

 

Convening leaders create and manage the social space within which citizens get deeply engaged. Through this engagement, citizens discover that it is in their power to resolve something or at least move the action forward.”

 

The Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversation can be a subversive act against power and control.  Power and control will always be seen clearly by a congregation or a diocese (they are smart and intuitive) and will then always constipate pledging.  Now, in these winter and spring months, is the perfect time for a church or non-profit to use The Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversation (AofH) techniques and tools to re-draft and write what you will need in five months for drafting your fall campaign Case-for-support such that the case (case-for-support = “Why we deserve the money for which we are asking.”) is ready on schedule and reflects what the congregation has heard itself say out loud as its longings for its life.

 

The Art of Hosting will not be received well in churches led by leaders bent on control or manipulation It will only work and thrive in places in which the views and opinions of the congregation or diocese are welcome and encouraged, given voice, recorded and re-stated so that the congregation or diocese knows it has been heard by the ordained leadership. The Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversation is one of the best ways forward to achieve the levels of engagement and inclusion which leverages giving to a full potential.  Here is a primer on the Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversations

 

Why is this material essential to teaching on raising money and people? One of the primary issues we are noticing in philanthropy at the beginning of the 21st Century is that a donor will only invest his/her money and membership into an agency which has first invited his/her opinions and longings to be expressed. Nonprofit agencies and churches which lead with order or control will not invite opinions or mission-longings from their constituents. The only way to effectively raise money or people in the 21st Century is to allow donors and potential donors to first physically and relationally engage in mission-formation by hosting a safe place and structure in which their longings may manifest and be heard as equals; even equals with bishops and clergy. Gone are the days when any one person has the answers.

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