by Shawn Duncan
The New Year is upon us! And for many, it is a time of self-reflection and evaluation. What were the positive outcomes and experiences of last year that we’re grateful for? What do we hope to change in the new year? How will we reach our goals?
As we return to work, we can benefit from some reflection as well. Too often, charities move forward from month-to-month and year-to-year without truly evaluating if their ministry activities are achieving desired results, such as alleviating poverty. Instead, we continue to raise funds, promote programs, and engage neighbors in the same well-worn ways we’ve been doing for years. We’re stepping into 2018, and I’m offering five New Year’s Resolutions for charities.
#1. Change your language
Consider how you talk about your community. It may seem simple, but the way we speak can communicate volumes about how we approach our neighbors and understand (or not) our local challenges. One example is the language of “adopting” a local school. Adoption can come with the assumption that the school is alone and needs someone to show up and care for it. The word “partnership,” however, can communicate that a ministry is coming alongside a school and its talented educators to support the school in its ideas and goals. Seek small changes in your language this year that can communicate dignity and respect.
#2. Ask different questions
Do you want to create ministries and programs that are truly effective? Maybe you need to ask different questions this year. Taking a step back and evaluating where your ideas have come from or who you are listening to can help you shape a stronger vision for the year. Here are 7 questions that can be helpful both in forming local partnerships and in evaluating your relationship with the community.
#3. Disrupt dynamics
It is easy to fall into familiar roles of giver and receiver. But this power differential is harmful for both those experiencing material poverty and needing assistance and those who have resources and are trying to serve. Mutual relationships are imperative for breaking down these roles that keep us from experiencing community together. Consider ways you might go deeper in your relationships with neighbors or those who participate in your programs this year. How can you include others in fresh ways? How can you learn to accept help and support from those you seek to serve? Deepening these relationships will have staying power long after programs go away.
#4. Go deeper
Traditional charity models often try to solve problems that were misdiagnosed from the start. They may address symptoms of poverty, but the programs reveal a lack of understanding of the real issues facing a community. Learn from longtime practitioners, insightful residents, and experienced leaders to understand more about the realities of poverty and how we can solve it. The Lupton Center offers a 6-week eCourse called Seeking Shalom that can be transformational for small groups, as well as a Reimagine Charity Seminar that can spark new energy and ideas to make a real difference this year.
#5. Tell different stories
Changing our language is a good start, but we should also seek to flip our entire narrative in ways that highlight the strengths of our community and the everyday heroes who live here. Last year, Carver Market purchased ad space on a local billboard that had previously focused on public health in regards to sexually transmitted diseases. Now, the billboard highlights the community’s resource of fresh fruits and vegetables to passers-by. We have the opportunity to tell positive stories about our neighborhoods, highlighting their creativity and innovation over weaknesses and challenges. As we share this good work, we can also choose to flaunt our own organization’s impact and role in the community, or we can uplift the on-the-ground neighbors whose influence and hard work are changing their own community every day. Let’s tell different stories this year!
BONUS: Host a training in 2018!
In 2017, The Lupton Center worked with 292 organizations around the US who are trying to reimagine the charity paradigm. We would love to come to your city and partner with you to spark a new imagination for how to engage communities experiencing poverty. If you want to resolve to change the conversation in your community, contact us today.
Let’s make a difference in 2018. Let’s focus going deeper with our neighbors and our understanding of our communities this year so we can participate in solving real problems together!