Taking-Action-Option2This month, the Donor By Design Group is challenging you to take action, moving from resolutions to results. Today’s topic? Going small to go big.  

    I used to be a “big church” guy. I liked the great music, theater, message, and classes. It excited me to see the impact we could have on others with our diverse mission work and community outreach. And, if I’m being honest, maybe I liked the fact that I could disappear a little in a big church. There were always plenty of people participating and volunteering, so no one would notice if I held back.

    Life took me to a different community and suddenly I find that I’ve become a “small church” guy.

    You know what? It is hard to hide in a little church.

    When you have big ideas but only a few hands, you learn quickly to pitch in or those ideas will die. Working side by side with other members of the congregation builds relationships faster than any Sunday chat ever could. And when the church needs something, it’s pretty clear that everybody needs to step up.

    I participate in many outreach activities, as do most of our members. It turns out, I really enjoy it. While I could say no in the big church, I felt I had to give it a try here. And those efforts have engaged me much more deeply in this congregation than I’ve ever been before.

    When I reflect on the amazing outreach a big church can do and compare it to my little congregation, I come to this conclusion: I believe the per-member impact in my community from the small church is much greater than the big church.

    We’re small but mighty.

    Here is the challenge: Whether you are a church, a youth organization or some other nonprofit or agency, give people a chance to engage where they feel useful, fulfilled and find joy. Create a situation where they can feel part of something greater. Often, that means creating a “small but mighty feel” – even in a large organization.

    How do you do that?

    • Break a large board into small, tactical committees with distinct goals and objectives. Each team member has to contribute if that sub-group is going to help the organization.
    • Look for affinity groups that you can empower. “Affinity” can fall along any number of lines including age, location, interests or skills. While an organization may be large, that smaller group can take on challenges that engage and connect them deeper to each other and to your cause.
    • Divide a big goal into small-group sized chunks. One person can feel pretty daunted by a huge fundraising goal, for example, but if a small group has an achievable goal, taking action seems energizing and not a futile struggle.
    • Measure your impacts in small and large ways. While it’s good to show organization-wide totals, it’s also important to help smaller groups within the organization understand their impact.
    • Emphasize accountability across the organization. When a smaller group works well, every member feels accountable to the others in the group. Encourage that value throughout your organization by modeling diligent follow up and follow through at all levels.

    “Big” has a great opportunity for major impact. But “small” can be a great for engagement and personal transformation. Use both to your advantage and you might find yourself able to make even more impact in the world and in the hearts of your team, congregation or volunteers.


    Posted by Thom Peters on Jan. 17, 2017
    Thom Peters

    Written by Thom Peters

    Thom has held executive positions with YMCAs in Albuquerque, San Jose, Chicago and Milwaukee, allowing him to develop expertise in leadership, group work, strategic planning, volunteerism, and staff development. He has demonstrated a keen ability to listen to and understand an organization’s needs, helping them bridge the gaps between status quo and mission fulfillment.

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