Brett Walls’ Magnificent Journey against Locked In Syndrome and United Health Care Paralysis

CHICAGO — Two blocks east of Chicago’s posh Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue, in the shadow of the spectacular John Hancock skyscraper, sits the world’s leading hospital and research enterprise in physical medicine and rehabilitation, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

It is a place of hard fought miracles, and it’s where the latest chapter of Cincinnati restaurateur Bret Walls has played out over the last 6 weeks. Brett has progressed beyond all hope from the death sentence of a massive stroke and the in-body prison of Locked In Syndrome. With advances more dramatic than I described in August, Brett has amazed the medical staff of RIC with his determination and encouraging steps toward recovery.

This miraculous progress pleases everyone, that is except for what Brett, family, and friends have come to see as the anti-miracle, United Healthcare, which continues to make every possible attempt to block ongoing therapy for Brett.

On Friday, UHC informed Brett’s wife, Gayle, that they would be cutting short his time at RIC because he is not meeting their “criteria.” From their past obfuscation it’s hard to know what that means; sometimes UHC delays or denies payment because Brett’s making too much progress (doesn’t need aggressive help) and other times it’s because he’s making too little progress (this will never work).  What is clear is their threat to stop paying for Brett’s continuing care at RIC next week.  On Monday, they indicated that they’re pulling him from the world’s leading rehabilitation center because he’s not walking yet .

This continues a pattern of disruption, deception, and obstruction that has slowed Brett’s recovery and put the family on the edge of financial ruin.  And it is clear to all those close to the situation that Brett would be even further into his recovery–perhaps even walking–if UHC had agreed to aggressive rehab much earlier, on their own, rather than being forced to by the Ohio insurance overseers.

When Brett lay prone in a Cincinnati hospital, clinging to life with a prognosis of lifelessness, at best, UHC refused to accept his courage and detemination and sought to dash all hope for progress. He did not meet the criteria for hope.

When he progressed against all odds, breathing unassisted, swallowing, holding up his head, moving toes, fingers, then shifting arms and legs, gripping, sitting tall, and much more, UHC did not rejoice with the family. UHC did not recognize the sheet humanity of supporting human progress. UHC did not pledge to support Brett in his battle for vitality; his effort to speak, to stand and walk, to hug his wife and live a normal life.

Instead, he no longer meets UHC criteria for aggressive rehabilitation because although he has defied all expectations and made huge strides in recovery, he is not walking. Not yet.

United Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, and yes, one of the most reviled and mistrusted, has shown that it does not belong as a key component in the health care system, for it does not remotely follow the physician’s Hippocratic Oath to “willingly refrain from doing any injury or wrong from falsehood.”

Family and friends have stood by Brett’s wife Gayle, who has poured her life into the battle against medical odds and insurance company paralysis.  And there is growing support on social media, with Ohio’s key politicians, and among the people of faith, who have given and spoken and prayed for Brett’s recovery. Now, here in Chicago, despite the callous obstruction of United Healthcare, Brett and caring, decent people across the country are working against evil, believing in a miracle.

–Jim Jewell

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Note: To support Brett, join the social media battle against @myUHC, for #BrettWalls.  And please consider donating to his medical fund.

Posted in Ethics, Family, Jim Jewell, Virtue | 1 Comment

A Milestone Birthday for Debbie Jewell: Celebrating a Life Well Started

When you reach milestones that begin with crooked numbers, it is common to reflect on years gone by and their results.debbie 2013 2

Today we’re celebrating the milestone birthday of a remarkable woman whose 50 years have been time well-spent.  Debra Elizabeth Payton-Jewell personifies a live of giving, not taking. 

Raised in a financially Spartan but spiritually and socially robust environment as the child of Salvation Army ministers, she learned about giving as a natural and urgent response to God’s creative and redemptive gifts.  She has made much of her crafting by an attentive family and the larger church that were her formative influences, looking at life face-on and pouring herself into the tasks and opportunities before her.

Those of us close to her in this pivotal year know the vitality and contribution of Debbie in just this, her latest and certainly her most important career.  After establishing herself professionally with careers in social work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, in government service as an aide to a U.S. Congressman, and in communications as a fundraiser and public relations professional, Debbie then embarked on the impossible.  She birthed two children after the age of 43, and is investing these great years not in decorating a lake home or relaxing in well-deserved comfort, but in weaving and perfecting the character of two little beauties (girls naturally in her image) to take on the very character of her God. 

And now, she is also touching the lives of other children, brought into our home and receiving the special care and love that mark this remarkable woman.

The person who has benefited most from Debbie’s birth, God’s gift to us all, and from this  half-century of character formation and professionalism, and from her investment in her family, is the individual who now knows her best and  loves her most.  Her impact on my life is truly immeasurable, colossal.  I am the luckiest man in the world because of it. 

The places and people and challenges that Debbie has touched have been better for it.  What a start!  Onward to the next 50!

I love you, my beautiful Debra.  Happy, happy birthday.

 –Jim Jewell

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Autopsy Abuse Gets Personal

When race car driver Kevin Ward Jr. was run over and killed by NASCAR star Tony Stewart on a track in upstate NY Saturday, we saw self-destructive machismo at its worst.  Many think Steward didn’t try very hard to stay clear of Ward, mostly because Stewart is frequently a bully.  But then again if you watch the video of the incident, Ward is clearly strutting out into the travel lane wagging his finger at passing cars, unhappy that he was forced into the wall.  Another tough guy throwing caution to the wind to speak his mind.  Men being stupid with tragic consequences.

But I was struck by something else in this news story. Two days after the accident, the coroner announced that an autopsy had been done on Ward’s body and it indicated that he’d been killed by massive blunt trauma.  Now there’s a newsflash.  The guy was run over by a race car and he’d suffered blunt force trauma.  Duh.

It’s sad for my family because several weeks ago my cousin-in-law George Payton in upstate NY was fighting the flu and ended up dead.  He’d been to the doctor or ER 4 times and sent home each time.  Then he fell over dead.  The family requested an autopsy, but the coroner either forgot, or was lazy, or colluded with a malpractice-fearing hospital and didn’t do an autopsy. He wrote on the death certificate that George, a large man in so many ways, had died from complications of obesity.  I don’t know why George died, but if they do autopsies on race car drivers who die after being hit by a race car, why in the world wouldn’t they perform an autopsy in the sudden and puzzling death of a 51 year old man who had the flu but was otherwise apparently healthy.  Especially when neglect, incompetence or nefarious intent were possible factors.

That’s what autopsies are for.  Not to tell us the obvious.

–Jim Jewell

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Shame on you, Ann Coulter

SP, ebolaI frequently agree with Ann Coulter’s political commentary, although more often than not I’m put off by her acerbic, often cruel, manner.  I don’t appreciate cruelty and personal attacks from the right any more than I do from the left.

However, I’m appalled by the content and tone of the wrong-headed and mean-spirited column by Coulter on Samaritan’s Purse missionary Dr. Kent Brantly, who neared death by Ebola before apparently being saved by an experimental drug and an airlift to Atlanta.  Both he and missionary nurse Nancy Writebol, who also contracted Ebola in Liberia and was airlifted, are improving in insolation units at Emory Hospital.

Coulter sees no sense in missionary service in difficult settings outside the U.S., and not only mocks Brantly’s decision to serve in Liberia, but writes that serving in the developing world instead of fighting American culture wars demonstrates cowardice and miscalculation. She writes:

“If Brantly had evangelized in New York City or Los Angeles, The New York Times would get upset and accuse him of anti-Semitism, until he swore — as the pope did — that you don’t have to be a Christian to go to heaven. Evangelize in Liberia, and the Times’ Nicholas Kristof will be totally impressed.

Which explains why American Christians go on “mission trips” to disease-ridden cesspools. They’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists and bigots. So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.”

Coulter cannot see value beyond her own field of work, debating political and sociological philosophy and actions.  She is blinded by what Jacques Ellul called the “political illusion,” the misguided belief that all ills have political solutions. Her criticism of selfless faithfulness to God demonstrates an ignorance of Christian calling and spiritual gifts and is the worst form of narcissism of the political class.

Brantly’s work with Samaritan’s Purse and Writebol’s with the mission organization SIM was not an escape from more difficult, more important work (culture warfare in NY or LA, I guess). And it certainly was not a play for headlines in the NY Times. Coulter clearly hasn’t spent much time with Christian missionaries, among the most selfless and anonymous miracle workers in the world. Brantly and Writebol believed they were called by God to use their medical knowledge and skills to serve in areas of the world with unbelievable health crises.  They responded in obedience to God, and they responded with their gifts and skills.

Shame on Coulter and others who have disparaged them for their service, even as they risked their lives to save the lives of others.  Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are heroes of faith and faithfulness.

Dr. Brantly wrote in a statement this weekend:

“As you continue to pray for Nancy and me, yes, please pray for our recovery. More importantly, pray that we would be faithful to God’s call on our lives in these new circumstances.”

Ann Coulter, you owe these dedicated missionaries an apology.  And you owe it to yourself to spend a few weeks among the poorest of the poor.  Sorry, you won’t find them here in America, so you’ll need to pack your bags.

–Jim Jewell

 

Posted in Christianity, Communications, Compassion Ministries, Culture, Evangelicals, International aid, Jim Jewell, Nonprofit organizations | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

2014 political cartoons to agitate half your friends

2014 42012 cartoons 10 2014 8 2014 9 2014 10 2013 3 2014 1 2014 4 2014 52014 7

Posted in Cartoons, Environment, Funny, Immigration, Islam, Israel, Jim Jewell, Politics, Pro-life, Tea Party | Tagged | Leave a comment

Unlocked: The Brett Walls Story of Personal Miracles and Insurance Company Paralysis

Gayle and Brett

Brett and Gayle, June 30, 2014

[Prepared for media release. July 16, 2014]

Brett Walls moved all of the fingers on his right hand and lifted his right forearm about eight inches.  The date was July 9, 2014 and this movement was the latest miracle in a story filled with tragedy, heartbreak, love, courage, sacrifice, anger, despair and greed.

This emotional tableau is being painted in Cincinnati and features the journey of a family that is facing challenges that no family should ever face, and is seeing a spectrum of human and divine actions and responses that roil emotions and boggle minds.

It began on February 27, when restaurateur Brett Walls, 51, collapsed in his suburban Cincinnati home, crying out to his wife Gayle that something was wrong.  Indeed, it was. He had suffered two aneurisms in his brain stem and 3 strokes of the very worst kind and location, leaving him motionless.  Brett was near death.  He was unable to move at all, except for vertical movement of his eyes, and unable to breathe without a respirator.  His mental faculties were intact, but nothing else worked. He could hear and understand everything, but he couldn’t communicate. He had feeling in all of his extremities—but his brain had lost the ability to send messages to the rest of his body, so he could not move.

Worse, neurologists had a grim diagnosis and a hopeless prognosis.  Brett was left in a rare condition called Locked-In Syndrome, which in laymen’s terms means ‘what you see is what you get.’ Doctors said there was no prospect for improvement.  They had stabilized his condition–saved his life–but held out no hope for anything further.

And they presented Brett and his family with the most difficult choice of their lives. Do you want to live like this? If they removed the breathing tube, he would not survive. Would anyone question Brett’s decision to end such a limited life?

But on March 9, Brett chose life.  With no prospect of improvement, he wanted to live. To fight the odds. The neurosurgeon had been very clear about the dim prospects, but  he also said Brett was equally clear about his wishes to proceed a day at a time

The battle was underway, not just against such devastating medical odds, but—as it turned out—so much more, including an ongoing battle against people purportedly part of the business of sustaining health and well-being—insurance companies. Specifically, United Healthcare.

As the weeks go by, news is consistently bi-polar:  Brett’s unexpected progress, really nothing short of miraculous; and maddening refusal by United Healthcare to be a part of the therapy that will be necessary to keep Brett progressing. UHC’s “manual” rightly shows that victims of Locked In Syndrome do not get better.  Ninety percent die within four months, and those who live, do not improve—therapy or no therapy. Almost without exception.  Brett Walls’ file was stamped HOPELESS and UHC was content to pocket his years of premiums.  They understood the diagnosis and remained determined to ignore the progress reports that were consistent and shocking.

Day after day, there is a steady stream of small, but remarkable reports of improvement in Brett’s condition:

  • Small movement in left foot
  • Neck getting stronger
  • Respirator removed; Brett breathing on his own
  • Eating popsicles, apple sauce
  • Beginning to form words.  Can say ‘mom,’ ‘hi,’ and ‘bye’  (first word, Mom, spoken on Mother’s Day)
  • Slight back and forth movement in head – to communicate NO (nearly all victims of LIS can move their eyeballs; Brett has used this from day one, looking up to communicate YES).
  • Moving his fingers and lifting his forearms.

Not one of these improvements was expected by the medical team!

If you walked into Brett’s room today with no background, you’d see a tall, lanky man with a blank—even sad—expression, unmoving in his bed or stabilized in a reclining wheelchair. He doesn’t look like the personification of miraculous progress.  But make no mistake, he is that.  But there is so much more progress needed to bring back a quality of life that his movement beyond Locked-In shows is possible.

But in the midst of this painstaking but remarkable recovery, which shows the impact of physical therapy and the need for and efficacy of significant therapy, the massive national insurance provider, United Healthcare, has decided to do what it can to keep Brett locked-in!  If you’ve read the John Grisham novel Rainmaker, or seen the movie, you’ll recognize the storyline here.  Except this real-life victim of insurance company greed and evil practices is not dying.  There is great hope, but not without the support of continuous therapy.

Today, Brett and his family continue to need substantial help. This includes the following:

1. Pressure, including media coverage, on United Healthcare to provide the assistance it is chartered to provide.

2. Ongoing financial support for medical care and family sustenance. There is a fund set up at http://www.gofundme.com/brettwalls

3. Volunteers to help the Walls family in many ways

4. Prayers of the faithful for continued healing.

 

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“Your young men shall see visions”: The importance of organizational vision

If you are an organizational leader, do you have a vision? Is your organization focused on a clear and broadly understood vision of your corporate purpose and future?Vision

“If there is no vision,” a 1599 version of Proverbs 29:18 reads, “the people decay.” Without a vision, missions can stagnate or waste away. A vision is an answer to the question: “What can and should we accomplish?”

Scott, Jaffe and Tobe in their book Organizational Vision, Values, and Mission, write: “Establishing a vision is picturing excellence—what a person, team, or organization wants to create in its best possible future.  It is an evocative description of what is possible.”

The Valcort Group’s Chuck Thomas calls vision “held and frustrated values.” You know where you want to go, but haven’t got there yet.

A vision is not something “out there” that is impractical, but a way of painting a compelling scenario.  It requires the ability to expand one’s sense of possibilities without drifting into the ethereal, and then to focus on what new initiatives can lead this stretching yet realistic image of the future. Even though vision directs us to the future, it is important to understand that it is experienced in the present.  Powerful visions are never an escape from reality. A motivating and effective vision will connect today’s reality to a view of a better future.

I like the Top Nonprofits blog’s description a vision as “a one-sentence statement describing the clear and inspirational long-term desired change resulting from an organization or program’s work.” The blog also has a list of its 30 favorite nonprofit vision statements:

We’ve listed below 25 vision statements of large charities, Christian nonprofits, universities, and hospitals.  Some are quite good; others need work.  What do you think of these?  Will they provide the direction and inspiration necessary to guide today’s actions?

How about your vision?  Is your vision statement a guiding star for the important work ahead?

20 Nonprofit Vision Statements

Amnesty International: We will not stop until everyone can live in dignity; until every person’s voice can be heard; until no one is tortured or executed.

Bread for the World: We can end hunger in our time. Everyone, including our government, must do their part.

CARE International: We seek a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and people live in dignity and security.

Compassion International: Our vision is that children everywhere will be released from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.

Direct Relief Intenational: Better access to health services for people stuck in this cycle is integral to positive change on a humanitarian level and for economic productivity.

Food for the Poor: To be God’s instrument to help the materially poor and to renew the poor in spirit.

Feeding America: A hunger-free America

Focus on the Family: Redeemed families, communities, and societies worldwide through Christ

Goodwill: Every person has the opportunity to achieve his/her fullest potential and participate in and contribute to all aspects of life.

Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic will provide an unparalleled experience as the most trusted partner for health care.

Metropolitan Jewish Health System: We are dedicated to those we serve, each other, the community and our business partners.

Northpark University: Our vision, building on our core institutional identity – Christian, urban, multicultural – is to fashion a university of uncommon character and enduring excellence where faith, learning, and service meet.

Oxfam: A just world without poverty

Penn State University: Teaching students to be leaders with a global perspective. Conducting research that improves lives. Contributing millions to the economy and sharing expertise.

Red Cross: The American Red Cross, through its strong network of volunteers, donors and partners, is always there in times of need. We aspire to turn compassion into action

Save the Children: Our vision is a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation.

The Salvation Army: Into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means, with the transforming message of Jesus, bringing freedom, hope and life

Wheaton College: Wheaton College seeks to relate Christian liberal arts education to the needs of contemporary society.

World Vision : Our vision for every child, life in all its fullness; Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so.

Wycliffe Bible Translators: Our vision is that God’s Word will be accessible to all people in a language that speaks to their heart.

 –Jim Jewell

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7 Reasons NonProfits Flounder or Fail

By Jim Jewell

A group of my friends led a wonderful start-up that was trying to bring new perspectives to a worthy cause, to reach faith-based constituencies who were not traditional supporters of environmental concerns.  They had the plan worked out on paper, and even had a foundation to underwrite the effort for a couple of years.  But although there were many who cheered from the sidelines, very few people were committed enough to provide significant financial support.  When the grant money ran out, the charity all but disappeared.

1.  Empty Optimism

This story is all too common.  I’ve seen some of the best, most needed (in myview), and earnest efforts falter and fail because the leaders simply did not accurately  calculate the amount of support that would be available and the alliances and partnerships that would buttress their humble beginnings.  The first reason nonprofit flounder or fail is that the vision and the value proposition simply don’t “sell,” and the founders or investors didn’t have the tools or didn’t take the time to measure this before they poured time and treasure into a passionate desire that was not to be.

2.    Values Vacuum

Healthy organizations establish core values that guide the way leaders and staff do business, and how they deal with each other and with outside people and groups at every point of contact. But I’ve found that it is far too common for autocratic and self-focused founders to establish one core value: “do as I say.”  These nonprofit heads find it very difficult to transfer authority or to share the limelight and leadership with an empowered team.  There is little internal trust, and insufficient values to guard against abuses of power, privilege, and people.  It is also an environment in which many unethical and even illegal practices can flourish, and often do. These organizations frequently fail in the first generation, and almost never thrive when the leader with all of the chips finally cashes them in.

3.    Competitive Blinders

Nonprofit leaders and ministry executives are frequently insular and blind to the external changes and “market” forces that will be their undoing. Often it’s because they are so focused on the needs and crises around them.  Or they cannot imagine anyone or anything that would deter them from their righteous ends. And charities are often unfamiliar with, or even repelled by, the notion of “competitors,” so they don’t recognize true rivals or adjust to compete. There is no ability to adjust programs to match changing situations, culture, or competition and to compete for donations, volunteers, media coverage, or program space.

4.    Iced Innovation

The emergence of the Internet and subsequent online innovations that have changed the world in many ways has made strikingly obvious a business truth that is actually timeless.  If you do not innovate, you will disappear.  If there is no adjustment of creative content, communications, or methods for new times and trends you will miss opportunities, and be judged as antiquated (and perhaps irrelevant). Creative presentation and original thinking buy you another look, enable you to capture attention in a crowded field, and present new ways for people to engage with your mission.

5.    Mission Creep

When a corporation goes beyond its initial product line and area of service, it’s called brand extension.  In nonprofits, we call it mission creep, and because charities are in the business of changing the world, their leaders often cannot seem to stop themselves from seeing every need as a call.  The result is too many directions, no mission clarity, diffused expertise, and donor confusion.

6.    Lone Ranger

I have worked frequently with charities that have almost no real relationships.  One organization that comes to mind is the leader in its aid category, raising millions of dollars through television acquisition and direct mail. Although they rely on active churchgoers for their support, they have almost no relationships with church leaders, local churches, or other religious bodies. In the last 15 years, they haven’t pursued any meaningful community contact. All of their energy goes into completing donor transactions.  Although this is an extreme example, the tendency is rampant.  When organizations do not have authentic relationships, they are vulnerable to economic downturns.

7.    Data Dearth

Although many organizations have begun measuring every possible statistic related to fundraising efforts, few have enough data to guide planning, analyze management systems, or redirect underperforming programs or communications. This may be because of the pressure to reduce overhead, or because the entrepreunarial spirit of charity leaders causes them to fly by the seat of their pants, to trust their own (often prescient) instincts.

For the diagnostics and strategic counsel and service that will keep from being a poster child of one of these dangers, check out http://www.jewellconsultancy.com

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Business development, branding, and integrated communications…

churchstate-large…a few of the disciplines I can help you with.  My consulting business draws on my 36 years of experience.  I’ve just updated my consulting Website at http://www.jewellconsultancy.com.   Check it out/.

 

Jim Jewell
EARTH_AND_SUN

emerge. thrive. create. impact.

 

 

 

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7 Disciplines of Highly Successful Charities

Nonprofit 1How to build the trust that fuels program growth

By Jim Jewell

In the last year, some two thirds of Americans responded to appeals from charities for support of projects to meet human needs, create new initiatives, advance faith, and reverse wrongs. Nonprofit organizations received $298 billion in donations and were supported by about 64.5 million volunteers.

Unfortunately, the support is fleeting. For every 100 new donors, American nonprofits lost 107. A new report concluded that for every $100 charities raised last year, $100 was lost as donors stopped giving or donated less. Even as the economy flickered to life and giving increased slightly, donor attrition has stagnated charitable progress.

The reasons are clear:  Although people are moved to give to specific needs, impulse giving is thin commitment. The long-term loyalty of donors, volunteers and other partners is based on the trust of organizations and their people, the evidence of real change and impact, and the relationships that are developed as part of or after the donor transaction.

The building of trust and loyalty is grounded not in a schedule of follow-up letters or emails, but in the DNA of organizational structure, values, and promises. When organizations build trust and loyalty, it is an accelerant for growth and stronger program impact.

We’ve observed seven disciplines in the organizations that are successful in retaining their friends and partners:

Foundational Clarity

Successful charities establish and over-communicate a buoyant yet clear and reasonable vision, as well as core values that guide decisions and actions.  While most organizations at least ‘tip their hat’ at vision and values, and the missions that emit from these (all have become management buzz words in recent years), the successful organizations devote time to developing these directional and differentiating foundations and do not allow their leaders or communicators to marginalize the process or ignore the result.

We love the simplicity and clarity of the Charity Water vision/mission:  “bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.”  Of course many organizations deal with far more complexity than Charity Water, but if they get too far away from this simplicity, they may be doing too many different things.

We also like the improvement that a small charity that is known mostly in the evangelical community, CBMC, has made in bringing clarity to its vision, mission, and values (and featuring these at the top of the Website home page). The organization has struggled to decide what CBMC stands for, but have settled on Christian Business Men’s Connection, explaining in a prominent spot the men-only designation:  “Think for a moment about how your wife would react to news that you were meeting regularly with another woman to help her grow in her Christian faith.”

Rational Promises

Successful nonprofit leaders and soft hearted and hard headed.  Promises they make to themselves and to potential donors, partners and recipients are only those that are rationally defendable.  This may seem obvious, but it is a clear delineation between the successful charities and those that flame out quickly.

A leading reason for failure, particularly for small organizations and startups, is that entrepreneurial and earnest founders and leaders are lying to themselves. Not purposely, of course.  Their passion and drive simply overwhelm their common sense.  They have little or no idea whether assets will be available to them beyond an initial gift or a successful fundraising event.  Sometimes there is an enduring base of support; often there is not. Because passion does not necessarily translate into support, it cannot be the basis of promises.

There are many strong organizations that have counted the cost for many years. One example: we’ve worked extensively with Awana Clubs International, which has grown steadily and very carefully over 60 years, negotiating the challenges of national and international growth, dealing with many church denominational groups and theological traditions, and building revenue by franchising programs, selling products, and asking for donations.

Extraordinary Accountability

When it comes to accountability and reporting on results, there is plenty of room for improvement across the board.  We have found that nonprofits don’t have a lot of information available on the impact of their work, and do relatively little reporting on its extent, expansion, and in-program effectiveness. Much more money and energy is put into developing the contents and plan for future fund appeals than on presenting results in thorough and compelling ways.

Some of the most successful charities, such as World Vision, are able to be more complete in reporting to donors because their primary funding mechanism, child sponsorship, requires personal reporting.  Other groups are making an extra effort for thorough reporting to be a central practice. One example: a charity called DonorsChoose that lets donors pay for education supplies and other needs listed by schoolteachers on a Website.  In exchange for contributions to a teacher of their choice, donors are promised a statement from the teacher describing the difference made by the gift, thank-you letters from students, and photographs of students putting a donor’s money to work.

Regardless of the parameters of the program or the funding methodology, the best charities spend more to report extravagantly on the differences donors and volunteers are making through their contributions, time, and talent. What better way is there to earn trust and loyalty?

Declared Value

The best known, thriving charities search relentlessly for the values, programs, and characteristics that give them unique value–what in the consumer sector is called a value proposition.  It is this statement of unique value that explains how these organizations make a difference; it satisfies their constituencies of supporters and partners. In addition, the organization’s value has to be declared at times and in ways that will enhance and broadly communicate the unique characteristics of the organization.  Compassion International works hard at this, taking every opportunity to establish the differentiating characteristics that set it apart from its relief and development competitors. 

Powerful Vehicles

Great communications plans are evident at every point of public contact.  But they do not start there.  They start in the conference rooms and retreat centers, where teams of leaders gather and hammer out the bedrock of organizational value, and where the central messages of the charity are determined.  They continue in the research and planning that produces sound direction, and in the creative hot houses that germinate compelling creative.  What follows is truthful, compelling, flexible, and current communications that tell stories and capture the drama of human progress and struggle.

And today, ascendant nonprofits are those that recognize every vehicle—old, new and next—must be utilized to reach major groups, but all communications strategies must have the online component as the hub of the wheel. One example is Invisible Children which, since 2004, has made a habit of using media in new ways—dramatic documentary films in colleges, the Web phenomenon Kony 2012—to focus the world’s attention on the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda.

Personal Touch

The huge charitable dependence on mass, direct-response fundraising has limited personal touch. The organizations that survive and grow through national crises and economic recession complement their direct response efforts with programs that include small events and meetings, local celebrations, and other efforts to increase personal communication.  Charities can raise a lot of money for their work as a result of strong professional fundraising campaigns, but they won’t be great, deeply rooted organizations without the personal touch and relationships that require leaders and representatives to climb out of the ivory towers of charity and into the halls and living rooms and coffee shops, churches, and banquet halls of American cities and towns.  One example of this: Although it is one of the largest charitable organizations in the world, The Salvation Army puts itself in a position to make personal contacts and raise its visibility as it raises funds, notably through its Christmas kettles and its thrift stores.

 Meaningful Measurement

The final step for great trust-builders is actually a continuous process: the constant research, evaluation and measurement that precedes, interweaves, and follows every major move. Metrics are essential to track the perceived value of programs and communications, donor retention, public opinion, and relevant societal and industry trends.

Certainly many organizations are now routinely testing channels, audiences, vehicles, methods, and return on every investment. We are particularly impressed with Charity Water (again) because of their decision and effort to measure and report on their adherence to one of their core values or operating principles: that they will raise private and foundation monies for all overhead so that 100 percent of public donations go to programs to provide clean water.

 Successful charities have proven that it is attention to these 7 disciplines that will most reliably build the trust and loyalty that fuels program growth and organizational effectiveness.

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