A Friendly Exchange
A young friend (let’s call him Cole from Chattanooga, Tennessee) and I are having a back and forth conversation about the intrinsic value of donors becoming more competent and skilled. While we are in agreement on the value of competence, we are probably on different pages (for now) on how to define that.
The exchange started with our both seeing the difficulty of donors first encountering complexity. They believe (and sometimes ministries encourage this) that a gift to a particular cause will make everything in life better for a child. If we can improve their access to water or health care or education or Bibles then their whole life will improve. Whatever the cause, it tends to claim the key role. After a few years of experience we all know that is not true but how do we explain complexity without discouraging well-intentioned donors? They thought supporting this one organization was going to fix things. I wrote:
“Yes, explaining complexity to funders takes some of the air out of the balloon, doesn’t it? That’s a large part of the appeal of online funding, contests, feed a child for $1/year, drill a well, get a shot, etc. It’s part of what we have tried to explain in a number of sessions at The Gathering. We don’t want funders to “blame” ministries for the complexity of the issues and not delivering neat solutions. Sometimes donors ask for simplicity that just doesn’t exist.”
Cole wrote back: “I agree with you…and I am passionate about helping equip people with “actionable intelligence” and to walk alongside them on the journey. I feel like we are called to excellence and don’t you think the collective bar could be raised by more well-informed, globally aware, and culturally sensitive givers? Professionals (foundation staff) should be able to help principals up their game.”
I wrote back: “Yes, but most people improve their game by playing with their peers who are a few strokes better. We put on Pro-Am events with foundation staff showing the donors how staff play the game. While it’s fun to play with them, it doesn't necessarily raise the level of play.”
We probably agree but I’m not sure how many principals learn from the professionals or how much more the principals want to learn. I think it may be like the relationship between a week-end golfer and a golf coach. The golfer wants to know enough to play with his peers but not go on tour. The coach needs to be clear about how much time and energy the player is willing to commit.
Cole and I will keep this going because his desire to see principals benefit from the knowledge and perspective of professionals is pure and my bias toward peers educating peers is well-ingrained! Still, I heard a phrase today that applies to both of our points of view.
“The gap between knowledge and wisdom is your ability to teach someone else.”
Whether it be the professional or the peer, the ultimate test is our ability to teach someone else. The world of giving needs not just more knowledge or competence. We need wisdom that is capable of teaching someone else.