Healthy Conversations, Right?

A new phrase has entered our world to guide small talk conversations and in seeking acknowledgement or even agreement.

Sentences, in the past, have been tied together with a dangling “so” (aka Grandma…”Well she died, so…how are you?”) or drawn out “yeah” (aka Lumberg in Office Space, “Yeeeaah, the TPS reports need a cover sheet”).Lumbergh

We also had phrases to indicate one’s agreement with a thought or to acknowledge the statement.  They included, “Okay?” “Know what I mean?” “Understand?” “Hear what I’m saying?” or “Ja feel?”  Even if you may not have meant it, by using these phrases, they did ask a question.  They were seeking a common understanding.

The phrase of the new generation for guiding conversation, acknowledgement and agreement is, “Right.”  I’ve intentionally not put a question mark, because while it may look like an interrogative this is much more statement than question.  The full translation to this one word would be, “Whatever I just said is correct.”  “Right.”

Here is a simple example.  “Are we going to the store today?” verses “We are going to the store today, right.”  The second is much more of a statement.  Just a few years ago that may have been asked as, “We are going to the store, okay?”  It is seeking agreement verses making a decision.

That is a fairly simple example.  It gets complicated when making a statement of opinion.  “Trump is crazy, right” or “This weather, right” or “She just goes on and on, right.”

The “right” is not offered with a pause.  It is a expressway bridge.  There isn’t even time for a head nod in these situations.  When the word is used, it’s not to draw you into the conversation but just to make a statement.  This really isn’t a conversation, right.

This is more than just a single word addition in standard sentence vocabulary.  This is a statement to a widespread and strong movement that says everybody is entitled to their opinion and that opinion isn’t up for discussion or reason.  By the way, I’m not making a statement about whether that is right or wrong (ironic).  Shoot, the very polite and accepting Canadians have been doing this for years with, “Eh.”

In a conversation if you ask, “Understand?” or “Okay?” or “You know what I mean?” you run the risk of getting the response, “No” or “No, that is not okay” or “Help me understand.”  Most of us do not have the time, desire or actual undergirding to actually have that conversation.  We aren’t interested.

So listen for it.  You’ll hear it and it will make you ask about the person, opinion, community, common discourse, our society and world…right.


7 Steps to Your Ask

April is here and the spring fundraising season is upon us.  Between now and the launch of summer, there will be auctions, banquets, bbqs, breakfast, skeet shooting, golf tourneys, luncheons and teas.  These funding events are key to the financial success of the non-profits which we love.

Key to each of these events is the ask.  You can have all the best table decorations, beneficiary testimony, pledge card or skeets, but if you don’t have a quality ask your event my flop.

PItchThe following is an outline of what makes for a good ask.  This post will help non-profit executives make a quality choice of a person to give the pitch at an event.  It will also be helpful for the person giving the pitch, either as a guide or as a coaching tool.

1. Relax.  It is important for the pitch to be relaxed, comfortable and to flow as a part of the evening.  This means that the person doing the ask is very familiar with the purposes of the organization.  They should know the organization, it’s people and operations very well.  Being relaxed at the event means they have done their work prior to the event.  They should have passion for the mission purpose and be able to articulate it well.

2. Note Taking.  If I am doing a pitch, I am constantly taking notes during the event.  I listen to all the speakers and take the best of what they said and incorporate it into my ask.  This is the difference between any pitch and a great pitch.  It helps tie the night together.  I will have a general framework for the pitch prior to the event, but that framework will be filled in by what happens that night.  I use colorful quotes from the event.  I bring up the testimony.  I tie up loose ends.  My efforts are to remind people of the points during the evening they should remember.

3. Remind the Why.  I remind attendees why they are at the event.  I remind them that we (the people in attendance) care.  “Look at the people we have helped.”  “The mission is a good steward.”  I paint a very good picture of the organization.  The person doing the pitch should very much believe these statements…or find another person.  This is almost an assumptive sell.  I speak in the language that I want those in the audience to speak.  “I like this organization.  I like it’s people.”  Shoot, even “I like this guy.”  Say the words that you want those in the audience to say in this moment.

4. Extraordinary. Now, take it up a notch.  Remind folks that they are here to do the extraordinary.  We aren’t hear to do the ordinary.  Brenda and I have a standard dollar amount, that if you invite us and we accept, we will give at a fundraising event.  It’s our “ordinary gift.”  When doing a pitch, my hope is that those in attendance have been moved so that they are prepared to give more than their “ordinary gift.” I hope that they would give the extra ordinary.  In fact, depending on how the night goes, I may even admit the existence of the “ordinary gift” and encourage them to double it.  Now that is extraordinary.

5. Ask.  Ask people to give.  Ask for a sacrificial gift.  Never hesitate to ask people to invest.  They have been motivated by the people who spoke during the event and are ready to give.  This must be the mindset.  If there is a specific ask make it clear.  If the organization isn’t clear about their ask or have too many asks, the person giving the ask must have them clean it up.  The ask must be clear and compelling.

6. Mechanics.  Be clear about the mechanics of how the attendees actually give.  “Grab your pledge card.  Wave it in the air” (have some fun with it).  Tell them that they will have a couple minutes to fill out the card at the end, first we are going to walk through the pledge card.  Ask them to give that night.  Unless there is a clear mandate, do not say, “Take this card home and decide.” That is a killer.  We certainly want their pledge during the event and hopefully a check, transfer or directive.  Make sure it is clear what they are supposed to do with the pledge card and check once they have them completed.  Don’t assume that the table hosts will give this direction.

7. Be Yourself.  Now be yourself.  Forget all that I’ve written.  Forget the myriad of things you have heard from event producers, executive directors and major donors.  The pitch will not work if the person giving the pitch has all of the best input but they are not themselves.  Take in all that input, but in the end let the ask must be their ask and their way.  This is key.

Thanks for serving in this way.  It is a gift to have a quality ask at any event.  Own it, let it be yours, give direction, be confident, have fun and ask.

April Report: Isaiah, Famine, Teen, Discussion, Italy

The prophet Isaiah says, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.”  As the drought crisis in East Africa has escalated this month, I’m sure there are people in South Sudan and Somalia saying, “Surely, this can’t be.”  The prophet continues, “Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way as we stumble without eyes.”

Everyone in East Africa is grouping.  Grouping for answers.  Praying for rain.  Gathering anything to eat.  The World Concern staff are working day and night, spending some of their own money, just to ensure that “No child dies on their watch.”  That is their rallying cry.  They may not be able to save everyone, but they are working to save every child.

While applicable, the prophet in Isaiah 59 is not writing about a lack of rain.  Instead he is speaking to the human condition; the starvation in our souls. “He saw that there was no one,” he continues.  “So his own arm achieved salvation.”  God saved us and He will surely save East Africa.  The last verse, “The Redeemer will come to Zion” and He will come to our dear friends in Roc Roc, Kuburchaj, Ranguo, Abongo, Kuanya and dozens of other villages, towns and cities.

Famine.  Our Director of Disaster Relief Chris Seach spent a couple weeks in East Africa assessing the situation and working to strategize a response with our staff.  The Seattle radio station KOMO AM 1000 did a couple interviews with Chris.  It’s a powerful piece.  You not only hear about the field and the famine but your hear the exhaustion in Chris’ voice.

This interview was attached to the email newsletter I send out each month.  If you want to receive that newsletter make sure you subscribe to the right. This interview isn’t available anywhere except in this email.  This is the kind of information that I’m providing the in the monthly enewsletter piece.

If you haven’t seen news reports about the drought and subsequent famine in South Sudan, CBS News’ 60 Minutes aired a powerful segment.  You can watch it by clicking here.  Note that you only hear from Western, white aid workers in the story.  This highlights a key distinctive of World Concern’s work.  If 60 Minutes interviewed a World Concern worker in South Sudan, that person would be an East African.  It’s key to our work.  It opens doors for us in hard to reach places.  Our staff and volunteers are East African’s serving their own.  Chris may visit and offer history from efforts around the world and a career of experience in disaster relief, but it is our African co-workers that do the aid work.

Thirteen K for His Thirteenth BDay.  While much of the world may be missing the crisis in East Africa, there is one boy in Snohomish, Washington, who is not.  For his thirteenth birthday Blake Habersetzer is working to raise $13,000 for water in East Africa.  As most of you know, I spent decades working with teenagers.  I don’t know many (maybe any) that would go to this kind of effort on behalf of the poor, needy and oppressed.  I’m sharing his page (click here), not to entice a gift, but so you can see the video and the work that this young man has done.Thirteenth Bday

Blake isn’t just relying on the website.  His main approach is standing outside of a local grocery store.  He made a display and developed a quick pitch for the approaching shoppers.  “I talk really fast as they approach,” Blake said.  “I stop talking when people start digging in their purses and wallets.”  He then gives them a report on how the water is being delivered.

So far it is going very well.  His biggest obstacle has been people thinking he’s selling Girl Scout cookies.

Monday Discussion.  Last month I asked you to pray for me as I was preparing to participate with other aid and relief leaders in a panel discussion of how Christian relief and development agencies might better embody religious freedom/reconciliation in the Pacific Northwest.  It was a powerhouse group and I was honored to be a part.  I led a fascinating discussion about the unique characteristics of the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve summarized the discussion and some of my thoughts in a recent two-part blog post.  You can read it on http://www.lifeontherutledge or see the first post by clicking here.

Thanks for your prayers.  It went amazingly well.  So much fun.

Vacation.  Can I offer another personal prayer request in such a challenging time for so many?  My family and I are blessed this week to be in Italy.  Our 20-year old daughter is studying in Verona this semester so we took advantage of all the local connections to visit.  Our whole family is enjoying her Italian “home.”  Pray that this is a wonderful time for us.  Thank you.

Thanks again for reading this little piece.  Thanks even more for your support of World Concern.  My goal in this email is to give you some special insights into World Concern, our work on behalf of the poor and oppressed and on my own life.  Thanks.

Potlatch Part II

This is part two of a two-part series on the uniqueness of life in the Pacific Northwest.  Check out part one by clicking here.

The independent, innovative, entrepreneurial nature of those living in the Pacific Northwest stacked on top of the abundance of this region is what has caused this region to explode.

CompaniesThere are $800 billion in goods and services developed and sold annually in the Pacific Northwest.  Think of the innovative companies that have started here:  Boeing, UPS, Nordstrom, Starbucks, Microsoft, the Hutch, Amazon and there are hundreds of spin offs that are changing the world and we have not even heard of them.

Our informal nature allows us to color outside the lines.  It’s more than wearing flannel, shorts, beard and hat to work.  We work differently.  We work with a mindset that has the confidence of abundance.  We don’t have anything to fear.  If we fail there is another six-figure salary around the corner.  We’ve never experienced a real estate pull back (take a moment and knock on wood).  And if we fail, we all know someone who needs help with their early-stage tech start up or a buddie to train for the Seattle-to-Portland Bike Ride.

This independent, information nature is part of the reasons Seattle is widely known as the “most unchurched city in the U.S.”  This independent, non-conformity is found in our spiritual lives.  It is true that most of us don’t go to church, but many people in the Pacific Northwest have faith.

Dr. James Wellman, Chair of the Comparative Religion Program at the University of Washington, has opposed the “Nones” tag given to the spiritual life of those in the Pacific Northwest.  Dr. Wellman instead reflects the historical bounty of the potlatch and spirit of abundance.  He would argue that we actually have a very open and engaged spiritual environment.

You may not find us in a pew on Sunday morning but those does not mean we are not engaged.  It may be that our “church” is Taco Tuesday with our like-minded, same age, neighborhood friends at someone’s house.  Of anything discussed in this blog post about life in the Pacific Northwest, this is the most alarming, but that is another article.

Feats of strength by the Power Team use to be ripping a phone book in half.  Today they could try and do the same with a voter pamphlet from Washington state.  We love the voter-led referendum.  I don’t know if it is an insecurity about government officials or an independent electorate, ie. “they” do not decided for us.  You want to be an politician in the Pacific Northwest because you don’t have to make a tough decision.  It will be made through an energetic, signature-collecting referendum fan base.

Underlying in this discussion about the Pacific Northwest is that we are really talking about two distinct communities.  There are the folks around Seattle/Bellevue (which is the vast majority) and then there is the rest of the region.  These two groups have been tagged liberal and conservative, but they really are progressive and libertarian.  Each of these groups live out the principles of this post, they are just lived out in different ways.

This first in the list may be the most interesting.  People in the Pacific Northwest love their animals.  There are more pets in the city of Seattle then kids.  Some laws are strong against abuse to animals that abuse to people.  Animals allow us to be indepent.  They love us in our idicynries.  And even if we give them the Seattle Freeze they love us.

Here is the list again.  What would you add?  Do you agree?  How have you seen these lived out?  I know you are probably outside, working independently and don’t want to give your opinion as maybe better than someone else’s, but share.

  • Outdoor
  • Self-Reliant
  • Tolerant – Live and Let Live
  • Informal
  • Love for animals
  • Environment
  • Non-Conformity is cool
  • Two worlds in one.
  • Spiritual
  • Diversity is highly valued
  • Innovation
  • Seattle Freeze