What Can Missionaries Raising Support Learn from Business? (part one)

Last week we talked about the need to act more like a pro in our missions support raising.  That is, we needed to take the work seriously and act as business professionals.

We need to get stuff done and stop making excuses about it.  There’s stuff we know we should be doing, and we need to take action on it.

The first tip is that action trumps theory.

So instead of planning and doing research, you need to take action.

Instead of dreaming about this great idea for a presentation for raising missions funds, you create the presentation.

Instead of feeling bad about not writing thank you notes, you create a system so that you can most easily get thank you cards sent out.

You know how thank you cards go:

You need a break after the presentation, or you’re busy looking forward to the next one, and so you give yourself some time before you send the thank you.

Then, it get’s a little awkward to send a thank you note.  You should have sent it three weeks ago, but now it would be tacky to send one so late.  And so you promise yourself you will do better next time.

In reality, you keep on knowing you should send thank you notes, but you almost never do.

You even make excuses as to why you don’t send them:

  • “If they really want to financially support us, they aren’t doing it for the thank you card, and so it doesn’t matter.”
  • “I’ll just thank them next time we email or talk.”
  • “They know we’re thankful – they don’t need some card to tell them that.”

Before we get to a system that will help you send the thank you cards that you should, let’s talk bigger picture.

Thank You Cards as a Case Study for Missionaries Raising Support.

Anybody have a PhD. in sending thank you cards?

Nope.  It’s really easy, and nearly anybody could do it.  So it’s not that sending thank yous is difficult or requires any special skills.

If you had a regular 9-5 job at the office, and your boss told you to have the thank you cards written by lunch, you would get it done.  Not doing it and offering some lame excuse would be out of the question.

And here’s why thank you cards are a case study for missionaries raising support: all support raising tasks are simple.

  • Writing letters?  Easy.
  • Making phone calls?  Everybody does it.
  • Sending emails?  A breeze.
  • Asking friends for help?  You do it all the time.
  • Giving a presentation?  (Who hasn’t done some kind of presentation by the time they finish high school?)
  • Teach one Sunday School class?  You’ve probably done that – and teaching kids is harder than teaching adults if you ask me!
  • Writing thank you notes?  Consists of writing 3-6 sentences on a folded piece of cardstock.

So when you do a bad job on any of those tasks and make excuses for yourself, it’s not because the task was too difficult.  I mean, people do some really difficult stuff – like the paraplegic who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

When you get behind in things like sending thank yous, you are discovering that being your own boss is harder than having a boss.

Why Raising Missionary Support is Tough.

The second lesson we can learn from business is that being your own boss is harder than having a boss.

Think of some bosses that you’ve had.  Basically, they tell you what to do, and you have to get it done within their parameters.  We probably all have some stories about a Dilbert style boss, and there’s some things not to like about having a boss, but there are some great things about having a boss.

You don’t have to think big-picture strategy.  You don’t have to figure out if you should do something totally different.  You already have at least one other person’s opinion about what you should be doing.  If somebody insults the company you work for, you probably don’t take it personally.  If you don’t know how to do something, you can probably ask your boss for help or ask a co-worker.

You’ll hear successful entrepreneurs say this all the time.  It’s so hard to be your own boss.  We dream of escaping our cubicle, relaxing at Starbucks while we work on our laptop and watch everybody else shuffle to their stale office with off-white walls, dreaming of when 5pm arrives.

Then the entrepreneurs discover that a coffee shop is a horrible place to accomplish anything, and the smell isn’t so great after a while.  They learn that they can push back deadlines indefinitely, and there’s no boss to yell at them.  They get sucked into the latest gossip about a Transformers movie, only to discover that their whole day disappears without them completing several key, yet simple, tasks for their business.

They think, “It was so much easier when I had my own boss.”

You are Your Own Boss when You Raise Missionary Support.

I know you have a supervisor or some other accountability who checks up on you while you raise support.  But when it comes down to it, each morning, you have to set your schedule and priorities, and then do the work.

My guess is that you have never been your own boss.  So how can you learn to be your own boss so that you get your work done – without some guy yelling at you when you miss a deadline?

Do One Thing at a Time.

Don’t fool yourself.  You can’t multitask.  Brain experts tell us that when we are multitasking, our brains are really just constantly switching between the tasks.  This takes a toll on your brain.  It wears you out and makes you work slower.  Your output is lower quality.  It can make you feel “busy”, but your output will be lower.  So turn off distractions.  Turn of your internet router.  Turn off your phone.  Focus on one  task at a time.  When you are writing a dozen thank you notes, don’t try to check your email at the same time.

Batch your Tasks.

Because it is so hard to switch from task to task, work on the same task in bunches.  Instead of writing your thank you notes throughout the week, write all of your thank you notes on Monday and Thursday morning.  Stamp twelve envelopes.  Address twelve envelopes.  Write the thank you note.  (Be sure to put them in the correct envelope…)

Know which Three Things You Must Get Done Each Day.

Ask yourself: “What three things must I do today to make today a success?”  Make this list before you go to bed, or right when you get up.  Prioritize those three things according to importance and how little you want to do those things.  Do the least enjoyable task first.  Usually, that’s writing thank you notes.  Write those first.

Obviously, some tasks will be time sensitive.  You can only do a lunch appointment at lunch time, but prioritize as much as possible according to importance and how little you want to do it.

Create a System to Make it Easy.

I forgot who said it, but the saying goes like this: “Resolutions are for losers.  You need systems to succeed.”  This is getting at the fact that lots of people make a new year’s resolution, and they’ve given up by February.  Those who keep their resolutions and reach their goals are those who created systems to achieve those goals.

Make a system so that writing thank you notes becomes as painless as possible.  In the past, I’ve had one folder with cards, envelopes, stamps, address lists, return address labels, and a pen in it.  That way, when it was time to write a thank you card, I didn’t have to track each of those down.  I made it as easy as possible for myself.  I removed as many excuses as I could.  For those of you who love to read, Switch is a great book and will show you how to make it easier for you to reach goals.

I’ve also improved the system by adding good examples of thank you cards I’ve received.  This isn’t so that I could copy them.  Rather, they’ve provided good ideas and inspiration when I’ve gotten stuck trying to write so many thank you cards at the same time.

Set a Time Limit.

Another great idea from Switch: set a timer for six minutes.  Start writing your thank you notes and start the timer.  When it goes off, you can choose to keep writing and set it for another six minutes, or you can stop and move on to your next important task of the day.  This trick helps you to get started.  I’ve used it for chores that I hate, and it has definitely helped.  Getting started is often the hardest part, so once you’ve started, you’ll find that you will often finish the task, regardless of how many times you reset the timer.

Have a Keystone Habit.

In Habit, keystone habits are described as those habits that have ripple effects in our lives.  For example, exercise is a keystone habit.  If you exercise regularly, then it affects your mood, makes you healthier, increases your energy level, and lots of other great things.  One keystone habit positively affects many aspects of your life.

Of course, habits can negatively affect us as well.  Constantly checking email is a habit that will kill your productivity.  If you want to be productive, try this: don’t check email or Facebook before lunch.

Now that you’ve learned how to be your own boss as you raise your support – and how difficult it really is  – tell me which idea you are going to put into action.

I’d especially love to hear how it goes when you stop looking at Wastebook Facebook before lunch.

Those of you who are brave can leave a comment, or you can email me privately.

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