In my last post a few of weeks ago I wrote about how the goal of finance in ministry was to create sustainable ministry—a ministry that can last for years to come—and offered a list of things we need to do to have sustainable ministry. But as I said in that post, sustainable ministry is not the only goal.
Back when I first entered business school, I spoke to my program director about getting a second major. I entered the MBA program to get a specialization in arts administration, which was a natural transition from music, and I thought that my analytical side would do well with either accounting (what happened to money in the past to get to where we are today) or finance (how we can use money we have today to make more). So my program director had me talk to an accounting professor and a finance professor. The accounting professor effectively said to me, “You’re in a program where you’ll be working in nonprofits. Nonprofits don’t want to make more money, so your second major should be accounting.” Then I went to the finance professor. The finance professor effectively said to me, “You’re in a program where you’ll be working in nonprofits. Nonprofits don’t want to make more money, so your second major should be accounting.” So what did I do? I double majored in finance. To this day I have no idea why I chose the path I did against the advice of both professors as I am hardly the rebellious type, and can only assume that God meant for it to be.
But here’s the thing: a couple of days before I graduated I went back to the finance professor and told him about my experience in the finance program. What I told him then is what I want to say now, and is the second, and more important, reason for finance in ministry. I said:
Professor Ramirez, contrary to what you told me about nonprofits not needing to make more, what I realized about finance in nonprofits is that they do want to make more, but it’s something other than money.
The whole “return on investment” concept in ministry is not about making money. It’s a different return on investment. In ministry, return on investment is measured lives changed: souls saved, homeless fed, teens with direction, addicts living the 12 Steps, and on and on it goes.
So my question for you is this: what does “return on investment” look like for your ministry? How do you define it? Does your board what this is? Do your contributors know what it is? Do your constituents know it?
Think about it, write it out, pass it around, get feedback, and then base everything you do on it—from programs to developing administrative support, and see how it impacts your ministry in effectiveness and financially.