2014 in the Rearview Mirror.

Toronto New Year

Toronto New Year

Several key things happened at BFFM during 2014.

Of these, there are two that stand out.  The addition of the video vault and the series about lessons from business.

The Awesome BFFM Video Vault.

Of course BFFM has always been extremely valuable.  If you gain just one more supporting church because you put BFFM into practice, that can result in thousands of dollars of financial support over your career.  Pretty good investment.  But adding the video vault also addressed some nitty-gritty questions, some of which every missionary raising support will face.

My favorite is the video about making phone calls.  Sounds so easy, and yet it is a simple task that support raisers hate, despise, and even fear so much.  Let’s face it, sometimes you just want to watch a quick video to solve your problem, and you don’t want to read through a guide.  The video vault did that, and it addressed lots of other issues support raisers face.  I’m no video expert, but I’m proud of how they’ve helped people.  (I was losing my voice during production, but that’s all part of the fun, right?)

Be a Fully Funded Missionary_3D Web

Business Lessons Learned.

The series about lessons gained from business was also valuable to BFFM students and readers.  One key to success is becoming a lifelong learner.  That sounds generic, but it includes gaining insights from other disciplines, and then applying helpful principles. That sort of cross-pollination of ideas and strategies is fun, refreshing, and motivating.  When a missionary is in the thick of raising support, it can feel totally bewildering, and you may not feel like you’re getting anywhere.  Insights from the business world help shed some light on these issues in a fresh way.

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of some lessons.  Sometimes a small adjustment can result in huge and unexpected results.  For example, most missionaries want everybody to partner with them financially.  Key lesson: you need to screen your supporters, and you really don’t want everybody to support you.

A note about BFFM’s second birthday in July:  It’s hard to believe it’s already been over two years since BFFM has gone online!  What matters for you is that I’m deciding to continue running BFFM, at least through 2015.  There just aren’t that many people who are interested in raising missionary support, and even fewer who want to know how to raise support from churches.  There are already excellent resources available for raising support, but BFFM is the only one that focuses on raising support from churches.

Everybody’s situation is different, but I firmly believe that even if you were to never gain any support from a church, missionaries still need to be challenging churches to be partnering with what God is doing in the world in missions.  You may or may not need or want a church’s support, but churches need missionaries to give that call to missions.  So as long as there are enough of you who want to give that challenge and cast that vision to churches, BFFM will continue.

Price.  A Hot Topic.

That brings us to price: it has radically changed over the years.  At first, it was priced extremely high (like $97 dollars, I think) while I gave it to some people for a steep discount so that I could get good feedback on it.  I didn’t want half-hearted people to buy it, so I priced it really high.  Then, in the summer of 2013, I changed my payment processor to Gumroad.com.  Along with that, I radically changed the price to “pay-what-it’s-worth.”  That meant that people could pay nothing, or they could pay as much as they wanted.  So that was a big change: from quite expensive to potentially free!

Lots of people took it for free, and some people paid something for it.  The result: many people didn’t take BFFM seriously, and they didn’t value and respect it enough to do the hard work prescribed by BFFM.  (If you’re one of the people who grabbed BFFM for free and you’ve worked hard at it, I’m not talking about you.  Congratulations!  It’s not easy.)  Now, if you’re one of the people who took BFFM for free and blew it off, I’m totally cool with that.  That was the deal.  I offered it for free if you wanted it for free.  I certainly don’t hold a grudge against you for taking advantage of a really good deal.  Like I’ve said before, BFFM isn’t for everybody, and that’s totally fine.

Then, in the summer of 2014, I changed the pricing again.  I stuck with Gumroad.com, but I made the full version $29, and offered just the guide for $19.  The result: fewer orders, but more revenue in total dollars overall.  Every month is totally different, and the market for this type of product is really small.  So small, in fact, most people would say it shouldn’t be available.  Overall, I think BFFM is basically paying for itself (running an anonymous website on the other side of the world is a little more expensive than just having a free site on wordpress for sure.)

Here’s the problem: BFFM is a side-gig to help just the right people, and I can’t be available to answer everybody’s questions as quickly as I would like.  I have another full time job as a missionary that I don’t want to, and shouldn’t, take time away from.  So that gives me three basic choices: just ignore students’ questions (or offer slow/low quality responses), raise the price to decrease the number of students, or limit the number of people who can buy each month.

For the first option, I can include a disclaimer that I won’t necessarily answer questions, even of those who have paid for the product.  That just seems like bad customer service.  As for raising the price, I just don’t know.  Like I said, I don’t think it would make a huge difference in overall revenue, but it should result in fewer students, and thus fewer questions for me to answer in my free time.  For the last option, I can simply only make six copies available each month on Gumroad, for example.  Or, I could make 20 copies available each quarter.  Or I could do some combination of them.

Pricing and Support Raising Emotions.

Honestly, all this talk about price brings up a familiar negative emotion because money is involved.  It was easy when BFFM was essentially free if students wanted it to be.  Likewise, it’s not necessarily tough raising support until you actually ask for money.  However, it comes back to this: I know for sure that implementing BFFM can – and has – resulted in missionaries raising lots of money to carry out ministries God has called them to.  I have also heard from supporters that they really like missionaries who follow the advice in BFFM.  So even if getting money involved can make me feel icky, it’s gonna’ continue so I can continue investing in making BFFM better.  (For example, good video software is not cheap.)

Looking to 2015 and Beyond.

Here’s my wishlist of what I’d love to see BFFM do in the next five years – because I’m gonna’ slow the pace in 2015.

  • Include guest posts from other missionaries.  Contact me if you’re interested.
  • New Resource: Ultimate Frequent Flyer Guide for Missionaries.
  • New Resource: Be a Fully Fit Missionary.  Addresses overall holistic health for the unique lifestyle of being an overseas missionary.
  • New Resource: Money Mindset Changes Necessary to Raise Missionary support.
  • Break BFFM down into individual modules for ease of use and include worksheets.
  • Include more video posts.

If you have any other suggestions or encouragements of what would be valuable to you in 2015 and beyond, tell me.

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, wherever you are in the world right now.



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