Outcomes

One of the greater challenges I faced when serving as a non-profit administrator involved fundraising, which will not come as a surprise to anyone who has done this kind of work before. It takes a good deal of research to identify the most likely prospects, whose own priorities match those of your organization. Then you must determine the best way to make personal contact with them in the hope of having a face-to-face meeting, whereby you both discover – to your mutual delight – that what amounts to a courtship will become a marriage made in heaven.

There is a technique for this; a sincere one. You do not have to be a donation predator to be effective in performing this role. We call it donor nurture and the emphasis is always placed on developing a long-term relationship in which everyone is pleased with the result. Trust ensues.

The greater challenge I have in mind, however, is not in cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship with a person who can transform a dream into a reality through their financial support. Rather it is the need to understand the aftermath of your work, the outcomes which are much harder to identify than the net worth of a prospective donor.

Outcomes are hard to understand because they are typically not measureable. Unlike cash receipts or attendance figures or site construction, outcomes are elusive and defy the best of us to encapsulate their presence within the framework of a financial report. They are the change in attitude initiated in the heart of the recipient of your product or service due to some ethereal benefit to them. Outcomes thereby answer the lingering question of whether or not your outputs (your products and services) achieved the intended results in changing a person’s life by altering their behavior and that in a good way.

Outputs, like financial reports showing revenue and expenditures, garner our attention because they are so easy to compile and distribute. They reflect the monetary value of our performance as entered into an accounting system measuring quantity and time. Most of our attention stops here as if this is the sum total of what we need to know about who we are, what we are doing and for whom. Outcomes, on the other hand, are soft, indeterminate and personal, rendering us less comfortable in confronting them. Yet they can be targeted and must become an integral part of our strategic planning process if we are to understand what we are all about and our capability of living up to our subjective standards.

It’s not my job anymore to validate my opinions about the outcomes of an organization under my care. I do still trouble over outcomes in a different way, though. I wonder about my own as in “What is the outcome(s) of my recent blog series on virtue?” Did it have any effect on me, let alone a reader, beyond the obvious benefit of giving me something to write about and post on a timely basis? I can say yes, but who is to know if that is really true, especially in this digitally distanced world we live in today?

I am not a manager anymore but the manager mindset has never left me. If anything I am a company of one, who still functions with a sense of mission, vision, values, inputs, outputs and – yes – outcomes. It is the latter which obviously concerns me at the moment.

Writing about virtue was not an assignment. It was a choice. The topic fit nicely into my never ending quest for character development for the sake of those who know me (family and friends these days) and who rely on me for doing more than my just being around like some accommodating fixture. There is a moral component to any relationship the essence of which is the compilation of the various virtues one endeavors to cultivate within the fabric of the soul. For the right to advise and consent in the lives of others that soul must be in pretty good working order.

This brings me back to outcomes, those of a personal nature. I wonder what behaviors have changed in me during my seven decades that indicate I’ve added value to the lives of those for whom I care? This is my new blog topic and to adopt a plan of sensible introspection, I am going to borrow the strategy used by Karen Swallow Prior for her discourse on virtue by making use of a classic theological/philosophical list of what I consider to be outcomes as my guide.

The list is found in a letter written by the Apostle Paul to a fledgling group of early Christians in the city of Galatia, a town in what is now the nation of Turkey. My take on his letter is that he was struck by the fear that this group founded on the concept of grace was about to abandon its foothold in freedom in order to adopt a more traditional view for legalistic behavior. His defining statement was that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” So this will not be about rules and regulations, but about choices we freely make.

Key to my purpose is his subsequent list of outcomes for his audience to employ in place of ritual and tradition. He wrote of these outcomes metaphorically as being like fruit, behaviors that others could see and receive as nourishing produce emanating from the internal presence of a transcending spirit. The concerned apostle wrote to his wards that “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  

Though a few of these outcomes repeat what we studied in the series on virtue, I will retain them as part of this series as essential elements to a completed portrait of an informed soul. In truth, it will also insure that I have topics for nine more weeks of messages in support of my desire to maintain the discipline of writing daily and posting these completed messages on a weekly basis.

I value the written word, my own especially, as a means to crystallize my thinking on any subject. This time with this endeavor my hope is that it may also benefit my soul as I make myself vulnerable on this path of serious introspection.

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