DISCLAIMER: This content comes from a presentation by Larry O'Nan as part of Cru's Development Institute in the late 2000s. To watch the talk in it's entirety, you can do so here
In 2004, one of Cru's Development Directors was tasked with performing personal interviews with 13 major financial partners of the ministry. Each of these partners had given over $500,000 to the ministry at the time of the interviews and was passionate about partnering with Cru to advance the Great Commission. Each of the partners gave their honest & anonymous feedback about their experience as partners of Cru and the reporting process. To read some specific insights and statistical analysis of their feedback, read 21 Things Major Partners Want You To Know About Reporting
Aside from that, though, here are 15 lessons or principles that were drawn out of those 13 interviews. Enjoy!
#1 - EVERY MAJOR PARTNER IS UNIQUE
You can't create a formula for reporting and assume that one size fits all. Even the husband and wife think differently. Recognize that major partners require personalized attention, based on their uniqueness.
#2 - MAJOR INVESTORS WANT TO BE VIEWED AS PARTNERS
Each feels a responsibility and guidance from the Lord. The do not want to be viewed as donors who give, then ignored, and then later forgotten.
#3 - ESTABLISHING A GENUINE RELATIONSHIP MUST BE CENTRAL
More important than the reporting details is the bond of relationship that treats partners as equal players in the ministry mission. Partners are not a necessary evil; they are stewards who help empower ministry to be maximized.
#4 - LISTEN INTENTLY & CAREFULLY
Understanding a partner's personal expectations and needs regarding reporting is critical to a positive long-term relationship and ongoing funding. Give equal attention in listening to both the husband and the wife. To exclude one over the other will result in disappointment for the ministry partners and the ministry. Specific reporting plans should be based on what is heard and what is expected.
#5 - ONGOING, SMALLER UPDATES ARE CRITICAL
The better the communication, the less “donor regret” and greater ownership of the need and the solution.
#6 - MAJOR PARTNERS EXPECT PERSONAL CONNECTIONS WITH THOSE IN CHARGE
While most are eager to relate to a number of individuals within a ministry, they expect the top ministry leaders to be a part of the relationship. They want to hear from the top and interact about direction, victories, and disappointments.
#7 - HONESTY & TRANSPARENCY IS PARAMOUNT
Ministry leadership must be prepared to “tell it like it is” and not try to cover setbacks, roadblocks, or disappointments. Major partners hunger for progress updates, prayer requests, good news, breakthroughs and victories. Major partners are forgiving if they are not caught by surprise and are in the loop of effective, transparent communication. When they are ignored, they seek out other relationships that respect their interests and needs.
Major partners hunger for progress updates, prayer requests, good news, breakthroughs and victories.
#8 - NEVER TAKE THE PARTNER FOR GRANTED
Each major partner should be provide clear expectations as to what reporting will be provided and when reporting will be provided. Clear expectation at the beginning of a partnership will save hours of repair later on. Once the expectations are defined, do all possible to deliver beyond these expectations. The issue is simple: say what you will do and then do it.
#9 - AGE MAKES A DIFFERENCE
Generational thinking must be factored into the reporting process. Typically, the older the partner, the more demonstrated trust in the leadership, the field facilitators, and the reputation of the overall ministry. The younger the partner, the higher the expectation for regular, documented reporting. While they too like the leadership, their disposition is to not simply trust broad-based visions and words. Trust comes from stating what prayerfully will happen and then providing measurable accountability against the defined plan of action.
#10 - PARTNERS WANT SPECIFIC PLANS THAT INCLUDE MEASURABLE OUTCOMES
They look at all giving in the same context that they look at business success. Thus, partners give with an expectation that the ministry will treat them as equal partners and report accordingly. They believe they should see a respectable “return on investment” (ROI) and hear how their gifts have leveraged ministry impact.
#11 - ALMOST EVERY MAJOR PARTNER WORKS VERY HARD FOR THEIR MONEY
With few exceptions, today’s major partner is not giving someone else’s money away; they recently earned it, they feel responsible for it’s distribution, and they feel God is leading them to give. Their ability to generously give is the result of their diligent efforts, and they expect equal diligence in the ministry that is utilizing their stewardship gifts—they expect to hear of tangible results and impact.
#12 - MAJOR PARTNERS WANT TO MAKE A MAJOR DIFFERENCE
Their willingness to fund projects is based on a belief that the ministry has identified specific worthy needs in cooperation with appointed leadership and capable facilitators and that what is presented to them is ready for implementation when funding is provided.
#13 - THE PROPOSAL MUST BE MADE AND COMMUNICATED BY THE ONE WHO CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN
When either corporate or development leadership create plans apart from field involvement and then expect the field to implement accordingly, the ministry will experience both a plan and a major partner disconnect. Because reporting must come from the field, it is critical that plans be developed that involve those who will be required to formulate reporting documentation.
#14 - EVERY LINE ITEM MUST BE EXPLAINED
Five questions are central to building understanding:
What are the present realities that require this plan of action?
What are the anticipated outcomes of this effort? How will this initiative impact the core ministry objectives?
Is there ministry capacity to implement the proposed plan? Capacity includes, but is not limited to, experience (track record of success), expertise, reasonable business planning, available field manpower, appropriate partner alliances, planned locally generated funding, established accountability standards of measurement, and a plan for reporting.
Does the identified plan of action embrace a clearly defined solution that will likely emotionally connect with a potential partner?
What is the cost to respond to the compelling need? Have the timing and cash flow needs been clearly addressed? Does the cost clearly connect with the present realities and the core ministry focus? What has been factored into the direct cost so that the ministry can effectively administrate and facilitate the leveraged impact?
The reporting process should then keep major partners updated on these same issues through a variety of delivery options; i.e., two-page summaries, specific prayer requests, short two-paragraph emails, digital photos as attachments, occasional phone calls to bond, encouraging notes and updates, site visits when possible to see and experience the ministry in action, perhaps highly personalized video reports, etc.
#15 - MAJOR PARTNERS HAVE EXTENSIVE & INFLUENTIAL NETWORKS
How each major partner individual/couple feels they have been treated, the quality of the relationship with leaders of the ministry, and the timeliness of accurate reporting has significant barring on their future gifts and how they choose to encourage others to be involved as they are. A negative experience will require far more effort to recover from than a commitment to treat major partners as equals in ministry from the very beginning of the relationship.