Congratulations! You’re on the last step. You’ve written your giving mission statement, created giving goals, learned the wisest ways to give, explored ways to evaluate charities doing the best work, and requested grants to those charities from your Giving Fund.
But wise giving doesn’t stop there.
As time goes by, it’s important to monitor your charitable investments to see how they are making a difference. Unlike business evaluation, the task of measuring a ministry’s effectiveness is harder to calculate. Beyond the finances, programs, and attendance, there can be many other intangible results that are impossible to put on a balance sheet.
To help you with this task, here are a few questions to keep in mind when measuring effectiveness:
- Are lives being changed?
This is the ultimate test of any ministry: is it bearing fruit? No matter how well-intended or well-run a charity or its programs are, those don’t mean much if they aren’t effecting true change in the lives of those they serve. And it’s crucial to remember that this question is about quality, not quantity. Some nonprofits are not called to reach large numbers of people, yet they have tremendous positive impact. As Jesus taught in Luke 15, it is sometimes just as important to go after the one lost sheep.
- What’s happening on the frontlines?
There can be a big difference in the way a charity looks in person and the way it looks on paper. Whether you’re spending an afternoon at a downtown homeless shelter or taking a week-long vision trip to an orphanage in a foreign country, nothing is more valuable than volunteering on the frontlines, so you can experience the challenges and triumphs of ministry first-hand. You may even be able to move from simply measuring effectiveness to actually multiplying it. With your fresh perspective, business expertise, or other God-given talents, you offer new ideas and hard work that can help a ministry thrive and mature as an organization.
- What is God’s bottom line?
No number or metric should ever outweigh the voice of God. One of the greatest examples of this truth can be found in a story told by ministry leader Joy Boerop, as she reflected on her father’s service as an early missionary to China. Her mom and dad spent their entire lives serving the Asian country – enduring hardship, imprisonment, and persecution with their young family in tow. Once, she asked her dad how many Chinese people came to know Christ under his ministry, and he responded, “If I can count them on one hand, I’m thankful.” Years later, Joy visited China, and a Chinese friend said to her, “Because of your parents’ obedience to God, many in China now have eternal life through Jesus.” Today, Christians in China number more than a hundred million. In every mission station where Boerop’s parents served, there is a strong church. In the province where her parents worked, there are now more Christians than Buddhists. And yet decades ago … a Christian giver supporting her dad’s ministry might have felt that it wasn’t measuring up or worth supporting.It’s obvious that God’s rating systems are much different than ours. When you’re trying to determine where to give, you may want to ask, “What is God’s bottom line?” God’s bottom-line is obedience, and when he is calling you to give, no further justification is needed.
Coming around, full circle
Now that you’ve completed this final step, what’s next? Well, think of this process as a “giving cycle.” It’s a circular, repeatable practice that you can revisit quarterly, or annually. Be sure to set aside time periodically – perhaps with a calendar reminder – to update your giving mission statement and your giving goals, to give in creative new ways, and to evaluate and measure your grants for maximum impact.
But most importantly, be sure to ask God for his wisdom and his leading in your life when it comes to finances and generosity. He prepared his works for you beforehand, and he will faithfully lead you into them and provide you with what you need to accomplish them (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 9:10).