Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Two British Androids Walk Into a Pub.....

My 8-year-old, Lauren, is Luke Skywalker's golden protocol droid, constructed by the young Anakin.  This droid makes me laugh.  Note the subtle reference to "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" at the end.  Batteries not included.  Enjoy.

(note: you'll need to pause the iMike Music Player at the bottom of the page)

video

....and not to be outdone by her older sister, Moriah comes in for the encore performance....

video

Monday, October 27, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

For twenty years I had everything I desired.  I've spent the last 12 years learning the gift of being satisfied.  May we give more.  And more.  And more.  And more.  (note: you'll need to pause the iMike Music Player at the bottom of the page)


In Defense of Raising Money: A Manifesto for NonProft CEO's (like me)














I read this post recently on Sasha Dichter's blog.  Sasha is the Director of Business Development at Acumen Fund, a global non-profit venture capital fund that invests in enterprises that fight poverty in the developing world.  

To put it smoothly: Sasha feels me, dog.

I'm in the process of raising my own support to continue to fund my ministry of pouring into worship leaders and various other followers of Christ - living in relationship with, training, and teaching these people.  And the opportunities are endless.  It's my work with these people that helps to spread the gospel of love that is Jesus Christ.  I don't merely enjoy the work.  It is wholly what I stand for.  It is me.  I don't have to, I must.  

If you have ever (or aspire to) raised money for any cause, this will pull so many thoughts into focus.  

May you be encouraged through the knowledge that your passion matters enough to tell others.

Enjoy...

I’m sick of apologizing for being in charge of raising money. 

I work at a great nonprofit organization (1) that is doing great things in the world, one that’s attacking daunting problems in a powerful new way.  I believe in what we do, and think that we may be catalyzing a shift in how the world fights poverty.

So why did one of my mentors – someone with a lot of experience in the non-profit and public sector – tell me not to take this job?  “Be careful,” he said, “You’ll get pigeon-holed.  Once a fundraiser, always a fundraiser.” 

He misunderstood what job I was taking.

Look around you at great leaders who you know or respect.  What do they spend their time doing?    They are infused with drive, passion, vision, commitment, and energy.  They walk through the world dissatisfied with the status quo.  They talk to anyone who will listen about the change they want to see the world.  And they build a team and an organization that is empowered to make that change.

How good is your idea?  How important is your cause?  Important enough that you’ve given up another life to lead this life.  You’ve given up another job, another steady paycheck, another bigger paycheck to do this all day long, every day, for years if not for decades, to make a change in the world and to right a wrong.

How much is your time worth?  Start at the low end: if, instead, you had worked at a big company or started your own company or worked at an investment bank or a consulting firm, how much money would the world pay you for your skills?  A few hundred thousand dollars?  A few million dollars? 

That’s your baseline.  Now ask yourself: how important is the problem you’re trying to solve?  Are you trying to make sure that women have a safe, affordable place to give birth?  Creating a way for people to have clean drinking water so they and their children don’t fall ill? Protecting refugees from genocide?  Providing after school tutoring for at-risk kids?  Giving people with chronic disease a place to come together and support one another? 

Sounds pretty important.

Our political system is mostly broken, but the fact that candidates have to go out and convince millions of people to get out and pull a lever for them matters.  This communication defines the terms of the debate; it defines what issues will and won’t get addressed.  And it defines accountability.  If Barack Obama really becomes President of the United States, don’t you think he’ll be just a little bit more accountable to the one million people who donated directly to his campaign?

What’s your theory of change?  How much change happens through the services you deliver?  And how much change happens by convincing the rest of the world that the problem you’re trying to address, and the way you’re trying to address it, is worth paying attention to?  It’s both, it’s not either/or.

Breast cancer has an unbelievable level of awareness in the United States, definitely ahead of all other cancers.  Yet breast cancer is actually the 5th leading cause of cancer death in the United States, behind lung, stomach, liver and colon cancer.(2)  So why does it get the most attention and the most funding? 

It’s because of Nancy Brinker.

Nancy’s older sister Susan Komen died of breast cancer in 1980, at the age of 36, three years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  In her sister’s memory, Nancy Brinker created the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which has since raised $1 billion for breast cancer research, education and health services – and promised to raise another $2 billion in the next decade. Breast cancer research is the best-funded of all cancers,(3) and that is because of Nancy Brinker’s leadership.  Nancy decided that fighting breast cancer was worth fighting for.  Because of her efforts, drastically more resources (public and private) are in play to find a cure.

This is not about competition for resources, this is about increasing the size of the pie.  We’ve seen an unprecedented growth in global wealth in the last two decades: there are currently 95,000 ultra-high net worth individuals in the world – people with $30 million or more of investable assets.4    On top of that, there are more than $60 trillion worth of investment assets in the market today, with an increasing amount of this money thinking more long-term about the big problems facing the world: energy and water scarcity, greenhouse gases, global commodity shortages, healthcare and education delivery, poverty alleviation…you name it. 

The allocation of these resources matters. 

Convincing the most powerful, resource-rich people you know that allocating some of their capital to the issues you’re addressing matters. 

You’re devoting your life, your spirit, your energy, your faith into making the vision you have of a better future into a reality. 

So why are you so scared to ask people for money?  Why do you feel afraid to say: “This problem is so important and so urgent that it is worth your time and your money to fix it.  I’m devoting my whole life to fixing this problem.  I’m asking you to devote some of your resources to my life’s work too.” 

Maybe it’s because:

1.    People think that asking for money is all about asking for money.  It is and it isn’t.  Most of the time it is about inspiring someone to see the world the way you do – with the same understanding of the problems and the same vision of how it can be overcome – and convincing them that you and your organization can actually make that vision into a reality.  The resources come second. 

2.    People think that storytelling is a gift, not a skill.  Learning how to do this – to be an effective storyteller, to consistently connect with different people from different walks of life and convince them to see the world as you do and walk with you to a better future – is hard, but it’s a skill like any other.  It’s true that some people are born with it.  But it still can be learned and practiced, and if your nonprofit is going to succeed, you’d better have more than one or two people who can pull this off. 

3.    Money = Power.  Our society has done a spectacular job of creating enormous amounts of wealth.  At the same time, wealth is associated with power, and not having wealth can feel like not having power.  So going to someone who has money and saying, “You have the resources, please give some of them to me” doesn’t feel like a conversation between equals. 

How about this instead: “You are incredibly good at making money.  I’m incredibly good at making change.  The change I want to make in the world, unfortunately, does not itself generate much money.  But man oh man does it make change.  It’s a hugely important change.  And what I know about making this change is as good and as important as what you know about making money.  So let’s divide and conquer – you keep on making money, I’ll keep on making change. And if you can lend some of your smarts to the change I’m trying to make, well that’s even better.  But most of the time, we both keep on doing what we’re best at, and if we keep on working together the world will be a better place.”

4.    I’m terrified you’ll say ‘no.’ We all hate rejection.  Being rejected when asking for money is a double whammy.  You were already scared to ask, and then the person said no.  They have all the power.  You walk away, head down, empty hat in hand. 

Get over it.  You’re still devoting your life to this work.  You shared an idea with someone.  You didn’t convince them today, but you probably got their attention.  Maybe you’ll convince them tomorrow.  Maybe they’ll tell a friend.  Maybe you learned something that will make your pitch better the next time.  At least you got your story out there to the right person. 

You made a change – you just didn’t get any money in return.

I’ve met too many nonprofit CEOs who say “I hate fundraising.  I don’t fundraise.”  If you’re being hired as a nonprofit CEO and the Board tells you that you won’t be fundraising, they’re either misguided or lying. 

Tell them they’re wrong.  Tell them that your job as a CEO is to be an evangelist for your idea and to convince others about the change you want to see in the world.  Tell them that if this idea is worth supporting then they should jump in with both feet and support it with their time and money and by telling their friends it is worth supporting.

Spending your time talking to powerful, influential people about the change you hope to see in the world is a pretty far cry from having fundraising as a “necessary evil.” 

Do you really believe that the “real work” is JUST the “programs” you operate?  (the school you run; the meals you serve; the vaccines you develop; the patients you treat?)   Do you really believe that it ends there?  Do you really believe that in today’s world, where change can come from anyone and anywhere, that convincing people and building momentum and excitement and a movement really doesn’t matter? 

Of course your programs or investments are real work.  But so is evangelizing, communicating, sharing, convincing, cajoling, and arm-twisting.  So are videos and images and stories and ideas.

If your ideas and programs and people and vision are so great, shouldn’t people be willing to reach into their pockets and fund them?   If it’s worth spending your life doing this work, shouldn’t you or someone in your organization be able to convince someone else that the work is worth supporting?

In the for-profit world, nothing happens if you don’t have a compelling product with a compelling story that wins out in the marketplace of ideas and gets people to act.  People get so excited about Apple’s products that they blog about the next release, scour the Internet for registered patents, spread ideas and rumors about what is coming next, and convince the people around them that Apple = cool.  Do you think this would happen without Steve Jobs living and breathing the brand each and every day?

So how is it that in the nonprofit sector we create this illusion that growth and change and impact can happen absent this kind of energy and engagement? 

There’s this unspoken idea floating around that “fundraisers” can go about their work in a vacuum, having quiet, unimportant conversations with nameless, faceless rich people, while all the while the people who do the real work (the program folks) can go about their business, separate from and unconnected to this conversation. 

What a waste. 

Don’t you think that creating a tribe5 of connected, engaged, passionate evangelists for your cause will create a positive feedback loop that will amplify the change you hope to see in the world?  It doesn’t matter if that tribe is 300 powerful, smart, wealthy people or 3 million regular folks who believe in you and the change you hope to make.  If they are passionate and engaged and you give them a way to help, you will amplify your impact.   

If nothing else, then, we need a new word.  Fundraising is about a transaction – I raise funds from you, you get nothing in return. 

I’d rather be an evangelist, a storyteller, an educator, a translator, a table-pounder, a guy on his soap box, a woman with a megaphone, a candidate for change.  I want to talk to as many people as I can about my ideas – whether in person or in newsletters or on Facebook or Twitter or in the Economist or at the TED conference or at Davos – and capture their imagination about the change I hope to see in the world. 

Don’t you?

----
1 It’s called Acumen Fund (
www.acumenfund.org or http://blog.acumenfund.org).
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/index.html 
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/NCI/research-funding orhttp://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/06/cancer-funding-does-it-add-up/ 
4
http://www.us.capgemini.com/worldwealthreport07/State_of_the_World_Wealth_2007.pdf. Though the October 2008 crash may have affected these numbers somewhat, there is still a lot of wealth out there.


...and you can partner with my family in spreading the life-changing message of Jesus Christ by using the "donate" button on the sidebar.  I'm not afraid to ask.  Now.

What if Jesus Ran for President? Spinsters Unite!

Thanks, Travis.  (note: you'll need to pause the iMike Music Player at the bottom of the page)




Saturday Night Live - A Prophetic Voice from the Past


Take heed.  Maybe your finances could use some reform.  (note: you'll need to pause the iMike Music Player at the bottom of this page)

Bike Basszilla















Saw this one over on Evan Courtney dot com.  What song would you be playing on this system-o-doom?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Coming Soon...








Join me in the Love Revolution that is Positive Post Tuesday!

Speaking of Movies...















Yes, for realz. 

With the recent resurgence of Star Wars, no doubt fueled by The Clone Wars, is it any suprise that Mel Brooks and his cronies would do such a thing?

From Wired: "Darth Vader is huge. So why not just make the Spaceballs version, Dark Helmet, short? That's funny, right? Why not name the old green wizard in Spaceballs Yogurt? See? It sort of looks like Yoda. And you can eat yogurt. Classic. And, if Star Wars built much of its story line on The Force,Spaceballs has The Schwartz — a Yiddish-y lightsaber that extends from the crotch. Unpack the Humanitas Prize.

All you need to do is take jokes like these and explain them to exhaustion, and you have the level of parody Spaceballs: The Animated Series offers."

Yeah.  But that movie made me laugh...

I'll watch it once just for sport.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bill Maher's "Religulous"... and why it doesn't bother me


Funny how this movie thing keeps coming up.  Though I have yet to see the movie, (as tends to be the case with two young children) I have recently watched many extended trailers, clips, Bill Maher interviews, a few supportive reviews, and loads of  opposed reviews of the film.  Bill is the flag-bearer of the self-proclaimed gosepl of "I Don't Know" (read: agnostic)

I'm not a Bill Maher fan.  Watched his show for years just so I could cringe and yell at the screen.  But he's no fool.  While there's no ground-breaking trails blazed in this comedic documentary, Bill does one thing very well: He asks GREAT questions.

To Followers of Christ: Does that offend you?  

I seem to remember this lengthy love story where people were full of questions about the coming Messiah.  And later in that love story the Messiah himself came and served the masses, loved people, and, yes, answered burning questions regarding this King and his supposed Kingdom.

The book of First Peter in the Bible, Chapter 3 verse 15 has this to say: "Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with utmost courtesy." (The Message version)

When this faith is genuine; when it's bursting with love; when it's clothed in humility and service to others - it's beautiful.  When it's burdensome religion - it's religulous - and who can blame Bill Maher for thinking it through?

I welcome such a film.  A catalyst of sorts.  If it furthers the possibility for followers of Christ like me to step out of my box of comfort and into the lives of people that crave intelligent and potentially transforming discussion, I'm all in.  

Makes me wonder about the virtues of a film like Fireproof versus the virtues of a film like Religulous.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Show and Tell (or why "Christian" movies bother me)


Lately I've had a few challenges to my thoughts on what I deem as the sub-par "Christian" film-making industry.  In short, we followers of Christ simply give grace to what are otherwise awful movies.  This angers me.  This frustrates me.  Why in the world would anyone else care about such a movie...other than those already filling the churches?  So what is really accomplished?  It seems to me that we further fulfil the notion that the arts and influence of the body of Christ are ineffective and poorly exectuted.  Yay us.

You may have read my past blog on Facing the Giants, or my recent comments on Fireproof - though I have yet to see the movie.  Fortunately.  

Shaun Groves takes a stab at venting his thoughts on the process of "Christian" movie making.  Read below:

Ted Slater has a very clever and thought-provoking post up about the movie Fireproof. (HT: TC) But I don’t agree with it.

Ted argues that despite the film’s production shortcomings, we Christians should still cheer this film because of its transforming message.  I disagree.

The way the message is conveyed is less effective at accomplishing the goals of its makers than it could be, I think.  So I’m not bashing Fireproof, but I’m not cheering either.

The thinking of Fireproof‘s makers may go something like this: More people go to movies every year than go to church or to sporting events.  People currently watch movies about sex and violence and are influenced to be promiscuous and violent. So let’s make a movie about Jesus-y stuff and those same people will come see it and act more Jesus-y.

Putting theological, historical and sociological problems with this kind of Constantinian thinking aside for a moment, let’s think about the efficacy of these films as it relates to their makers’ expressed intent to influence audiences.

Have you ever seen a movie that came right out and said, “The solution to your problem, everybody, is to hate your neighbor?” Ever seen that?  Heck no.

Have you ever seen the movie gang member or the mafia guy or the serial killer go to his son and explain his philosophical and moral position on violence in a long chunk of dialogue?  Again, heck no.

This is because nowadays a movie’s message (and every movie has one right?) is shown, not told.  Because it works.

What we’re likely to see in a movie advocating violence is a sympathetic character in a situation that motivates him to commit a violent act.  Then we see the favorable or ambivalent reaction of other characters to that violence.  If the protagonists commit the violent acts and approve of them, the message is stated clearly enough to the audience. Indirectly.  Every movie goer is shown, not told, that violence is acceptable in the situation depicted.  Then each individual chooses whether what they’ve been shown is applicable to their life outside the movie theatre.  And Christians boycott and criticize these violent films (or used to) because they’re convinced this method of communicationworks.

But when Christians go to make movies/music of their own for the purpose of communicating a message, they don’t always adopt the same method.  Instead, what Christian movie and music makers often do is tell more than show.  In Fireproof, in just the few scenes I’ve watched, there is an awful lot of telling.  No doubt there is some showing too.  But Fireproof’s makers try to connect the dots for the audience with sermonettes.

I don’t know why this was done.  I know why I’m so tempted to do the same thing (and have done it) in my own music. I’m afraid of two things (at least): 1)Not being Christian enough to please my Christian audience.  If Christians aren’t happy with what I’ve made, I won’t make money or get to make anything else for the Christian media subculture. And, I fear (know) any subtlety in my lyrics will be scorned as “shame of the gospel.” 2)My audience might not get the point I’m making unless I spell it out in big bold letters.  And that last sentence, by the way, contained a metaphor and I fear (know) many Christians on a diet of Christian media don’t get those these days. (How many people still think “Welcome Home” is about heaven and stare blankly at me while I sing about being a hummingbird?)

Still, I prefer showing over telling simply because it works - it’s an effective memorable way to communicate a message.  Popular movies, books and music do influence, to varying degrees, the way we perceive ourselves, God and each other.  And, like olympic figure skaters, they do this without looking like they’re trying - without preaching, using mostly story.  And more than one camera, a multi-million dollar budget, and a household-name director. But is that any excuse for making yet another Christian flick that tells us to do the right thing?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Silence Speaks


Silence reveals truth to me.  Silence is something I cherish more times than others.  Silence is painful.  Silence is revealing.  Silence is deafening.  Silence draws me into myself.  Silence makes it hard to look in the mirror.  Silence makes me sleepy.  Silence sets me free.  Silence takes me back to childhood memories.  Silence reminds me of regrets.  Silence reminds me of my future successes.  

As a corporate worship leader, the most powerful times I have personally encountered were in times of total and complete silence.  Not because I didn't know what to do, but because I knew exactly what to do.  Do you know the feeling?  To know God's presense is so thick, near and permeating that you respectfully fear so much as blinking or inahling.  I'm the best I know when I am silent.  Interestingly, the church seems to be fearful of such an occurence.  I aspire to lead worship where people understand the power of silence.  

1 Kings 19:11-12 "...Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord...and after the fire, a still small voice..."

Lord, help me to teach and experience the powerfully uncommon times of your holiness.

What are your thoughts on silence?

Monday, October 6, 2008

What's In a Name?

I spotted these at EPCOT's U.K. Pavilion last night.  I know what you're thinking; Nothing says "yummy goodness" like Digestive.  I thought the same thing.  

Maybe you'd like to wash it down with this fine beverage?   

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Inspiration...

In case you wondered about some of my influences in music: The Beatles, Harry Connick, Jr., Third Day, Beck, Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crowes, David Crowder Band, Lenny Kravitz, and these guys.....   (note: you'll need to pause the player at the bottom of this page)