Posted by: Don Linnen | 18 November 2007

Starts and Finishes

Time to start your next project? Or are you just too whipped to think about climbing a new mountain?

Wonder when this current project will EVER finish? When will we ever get out of this valley? Is it time to give up?

Don’t like those words? Try these: It’s time for someone to feed us. We’ve been feeding others long enough.

Ahhhh….the joys of projects, especially those that start with good intentions, but seem to lose their luster and energy as time goes by.

The November issue of Christianity Today has an excellent article by Greg Snell titled “Developing Good Development.” More than a few skeptics think millions (billions?) of dollars are being wasted (they probably are) and that all that generosity is harmful to its recipients (in many cases it is).

Some of those skeptics are saying “give up.” That’s just what you wanted to hear, right? A reason to quit. Mr. Snell disagrees. There are others who share the views of Mr. Snell.

Ram Cnaan, in his book, The Other Philadelphia Story, talks about how faith-based giving initiatives in Philadelphia are making huge differences in that urban environment. His studies conclude that faith-based nonprofits in Philly contribute as much as $250M a year for vitally needed services that the government does not have to maintain.

Byron Johnson of Baylor University looked at Ohio and concluded in his study that faith-based programs in that state can bring about “dramatic increase in the cost-effective provision of social services that otherwise go unmet in so many communities.” It seems to me this applies to the world, not just a city or state.

John DiIulio, does a good job of summarizing the works of Cnaan and Johnson in his Wall Street Journal article, The Other Philadelphia Story. Mr. DiIulio has also just released a book, Godly Republic: A Centrist Blueprint for America’s Faith-Based Future. A magazine that presents a vision of liberal philosophy, politics, and public life, The American Prospect gave the following review of his book: “If there were more liberals who shared John DiIulio’s passion for justice, liberalism would be better — and so would America.” My comments on faith vs. secularism and liberals vs. conservatives will have to wait for another time.

Back to “Developing Good Development.” Mr. Snell offers ten principles (my comments are in parenthesis):
1. Know more than your mission statement (make sure everyone knows it)
2. Avoid deficit auditing (live within your means)
3. Seed the project with local seeds (insure there’s “skin in the game”)
4. Make the rounds early and often (relationship 101)
5. Build values before buildings (see number 1)
6. Practice cost sharing (find partners willing to invest)
7. Use the eyes and ears of locals (relationship 102)
8. Don’t patronize (relationship 201)
9. Answer questions slowly (relationship 202)
10. Plan your exit strategy (plan on eliminating yourself)

Whether your working in Kenya, Mississippi, or Dallas, Mr. Snell offers principles that every nonprofit will do well to consider.


  1. Thanks for the encouargement. You might check out this article…, Greg Snell

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