Home Field Advantage

The World Series started this week and there is a lot of talk about who has home field advantage. There is a distinct advantage to playing at home. In fact, the benefit of winning the annual major league baseball All Star game is that your league gets home field advantage. There are 7 games, so one team gets 4 at home and the other team gets 3.

In the world of non-profits, the church has a home field advantage of sorts. The church is the only entity in the not for profit world that has the opportunity to look its people in the eye 52 times a year. Yeah, I know people are more mobile than ever and the definition of a regular attender is now 2 times per month, which is a lot lower than it was 8-10 years ago. But the fact remains, the church sees its people face-to-face more than any other entity in the non-profit world. This is what I call the “home field advantage.”

This advantage has always been important, but it is more critical then ever to developing and growing generosity in the post 2008 era. The effect of the economic meltdown of late 2008 has been to reframe the rules for raising ministry support. Donors are still willing to give, but they are vetting the choices they have for their charitable giving more than ever. Because of the home field advantage, the church has a distinct opportunity to stand out.

The question for church leaders is, what do I do with that advantage? Six things come to mind as important.

  • Build trust: All charitable funding is given in an atmosphere of trust. Leverage the weekend worship experience by building trust in all you do.
  • Cast (and re-cast) vision: People have to be constantly reminded of the vision of ministry of the church. There are three types of reminders — blast (fire hose), soak (garden hose), drip (soaker hose). There is an appropriate time for each. Use the blast sparingly and follow with soak and drip to make sure your people absorb it.
  • Shape culture: You can have great vision, but bad culture will cause problems in implementing it. Culture is never neutral — it is either for you or against you. Make sure you are always shaping culture so it is working for you.
  • Demonstrate impact: More than ever before, in the post 2008 money environment, givers are vetting the choices for their charitable dollars. Impact is like “ROI” — where givers see it, they direct their charitable giving. You have the stories of impact, but they are probably hidden in the numbers. Make sure you pull back the numbers and tell the stories of impact.
  • Enhance relationships: After trust, relationship is one of the most important factors in a giving decision. Build relationships while people are on site at your church. Make sure there are ample “met and greet” type spaces throughout your facility or campus.
  • Highlight good stewardship: Churches that practice good stewardship with the money that is given them earn the respect of givers. Let your people know about key decisions you make to be more effieient in the use of the funds entrusted to your church.

Check yourself against this list. Which of these things are you doing? And not doing?

Don’t ignore the home field advantage. Let it work for you in the post 2008 era of developing and growing support for your church.

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