Tag Archives: research

Is Your Ministry Challenge a Puzzle or a Mystery

The type of research and thinking required in global mission has fundamentally shifted and few have taken notice. I don’t say this to be controversial, I say it because today I see people asking last century’s questions and hoping for 21st Century insight.

Most of our line of inquiry in mission is assuming that we simply do not have the information and need to collect it in order to understand our world better and make decisions. This was the case in the mid-1900’s when the amount of activity and complexity of the activity were fairly limited. In those days the question, “Where is the church and where is it not?” “How many Christians are there in a given country or province?” “Where is a Scripture translation underway and where is a translation needed?”

In today’s globalized world the complexity is much higher but the amount of information we have is also exponentially greater. Today’s complex world requires us to ask questions that will overlay various pieces of the information already collected to give us insight to very specific situations.

The difference between a line of research defined by a lack of information and a line of research defined by multiple streams of complex or conflicting information is described in Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article, “Open Secrets” (reprinted in his book “What the Dog Saw”). In this article Gladwell applies Gregory Treverton’s principle of “Puzzles vs. Mysteries.” Simply put, when solving a puzzle the main ingredient needed is more information. However, when solving a mystery the main ingredient needed is insight.” Gladwell goes on to give very practical examples. Finding Osama Bin Laden was a puzzle whereas understanding Enron’s fall was a mystery. The first required information in the form of intelligence. The second required people to go through mind-numbing amounts of publicly filed paperwork and understand the complex financial tools being employed in risky ways.

In the missions world today, we have fewer puzzles and more mysteries. There are still places in the world where we simply need more information. There are countries like Laos, North Korea or parts of India where we truly need more basic information about the Church and the status of the Gospel. However, for most of the world you can get this information at one level or another.

Our greater challenge involves the mysteries of mission. For instance, “How do we know when a church is sustainable?” “What triggers growth in a national Church?” “How do we measure and understand discipleship?” “How do we reach a people group when so many are in cities and in diaspora communities?”

For each of these items we have a myriad of data points, on-the-ground stories and theories. The challenge is to work through the data and the complex situations to try and come up with possible ways to understand these questions and make decisions based on that understanding.

If what Gladwell described is really the situation facing mission, that has significant implications for the mission community. For one thing, we need fewer counters and more analysts. We need fewer people out collecting data in the field and more people analyzing what we already have. We also need people who are able to understand complex cultural, religious and geopolitical realities.

Secondly, those of us in leadership need to recognize the difference between the puzzles and mysteries and think strategically about what we are trying to solve. Many of us are mobilizing the resources necessary to solve a puzzle when we really have a mystery on our hands.

The last century required persistent puzzle solvers but this new century will require inquisitive detectives who love a good mystery. Do you have any good detectives in your mission agency? If not, now is the time to start looking.

What type are you: Outfitter? Orality Overcomer? Obi-Wan Kenobi?

 

Do you like personality tests?  Some people repeatedly retake the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessment to see if they have changed their personality.

My kids, meanwhile, love online personality quizzes like “Which Star Wars Character Are You?”

Recently they found this “infographic” which combined the two concepts.  Here’s an excerpt:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My kids, checking up on their parents’ MBTI® types, dissolved in hysterics to learn that they were the product of a union between C-3PO’s personality and Yoda’s.

Such quizzes not only make for entertainment but also for interesting insights and discussions—with application for global mission.  I can envision a church-planting team having an extended discussion on whether they have the right mix of Star Wars/MBTI personalities to overcome the strongholds of evil in their quadrant—and using the results to inform recruitment of new team members.

However, another type of segmentation might prove more relevant—such as a quiz that lets you know your church-planting personality (more on that later).

With good data and the right analyst, your ministry can develop segments (donors, workers, prospects, churches, peoples) based on specific, relevant information that is most meaningful for your ministry.  Further, you can create classifying tools (quizzes) that your people can take to better understand themselves—or their ministry environment—informing Spirit-led decision making.

Most people are familiar with simple segmentation approaches that rely on one measure (such as birth year) that does a reasonably good job of dividing a large group into meaningful subgroups (such as Gen Xers and Millenials) that reflect a set of shared traits.

The MBTI rubric uses four dimensions of personality, each with two poles.  Tests determine on which side of each spectrum a person falls.  Voila!  Sixteen possible personality combinations emerge.

Mission researchers like Patrick Johnstone and Todd Johnson have popularized geo-cultural “affinity blocs”—segments that reflect collections of people groups on the basis of shared social/religious/geographic/cultural traits.  It is much easier to remember and depict 15 affinity blocs than 12,000 people groups.

Recently, GMI has done value-based or activity-based segmentation analysis on several survey projects.  One is the subject of GMI’s featured missiographic for early November—giving an overview of five personalities of those investigating mission agency websites, based on their information needs.

One of those segments is Faith Matchers—those for whom theological alignment is of primary importance.  When Faith Matchers visit an agency website, they are looking first for to see if an agency’s beliefs align with theirs before considering strategy, location or service opportunities.

Last week we learned that one agency web designer had read the detailed website visitor profiles and related communications ideas in GMI’s Agency Web Review report and made a small adjustment to the website to make sure that Faith Matchers would be able to find the agency’s statement of faith with a single click from the home page—an easy change based on segmentation analysis.

Some of our other recent segmentation work included identifying :

  • Three mission agency CEO personalities (Outfitters, Entrepreneurs and Mobilizers) based on organizational-, staff- and personal-effectiveness priorities, as described in the Missio Nexus 2013 CEO Survey Report based on the responses of more than 150 agency leaders.
  • Three motivation-based segments (Where, Whether and Whatever) for those considering six-to-24-month mission internships, drawn from a quick survey of GMI’s panel of future missionaries.  One group is committed to long-term service and discerning where or with what agency it should serve.  One segment is discerning whether it is called/cut-out for long-term mission service.  The largest segment is eager to serve now, with little or thought given to post-internship service (whatever).  Following is a scatterplot of the 205 respondents.

 

  • Four Church Planter personalities (Word-based Advocates, Orality Overcomers, Trade-Language Strategists and Judicious Intercessors) based on how often they engaged in “fruitful practice” activities, from a survey of nearly 400 church planters working among resistant peoples.

For that last one, we developed a 10-question quiz that church-planting workers can take to discover the strengths and potential growth areas of their church-planting personality.  Sound interesting?  Write us for details on how to get a copy of the Church Planting Personality Profiler—it’s available to member agencies of a particular network.

In a follow-up post, we’ll discuss analysis approaches for creating segments and how scatterplots and the classification quizzes are developed.

 

Jesus Sweets

I’m privileged to be in India meeting with GMI’s long-time friends and those we serve through mapping and research tools. What a blessing to hear how the Church in India is growing and how ministries are using research to make Spirit-led decisions about how to move forward.

I was sitting with Richard Howell, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, and talking about what he is seeing as the Church grows in India. We talked about a variety of trends and big picture items, but one story he shared stuck with me as an example of transformation.

We were talking about the fact that there is little separation between religion and other areas of life in India and Richard shared about a man in a village that came to know Jesus. This man sold sweets for a living. Others selling sweets would label them with names that connected to their faith - Krishna Sweets for example. As the man began to process his faith decision and what God would have him do to live out that faith, the answer was easy. If there could be Krishna Sweets, why can’t there be Jesus Sweets!

So that is exactly what he did. Now all the sweets he sells come bearing the name of Jesus! This man found a way to bring his faith and his life together and see it as one testimony to his Savior. Are we doing the same? Are we integrating our faith, family, work, recreation, relationships and hobbies together in such a way that they represent our Savior?

I would encourage you to ask that question today and then ask God to give you the wisdom as you strive to represent God in every area of your life.

To retain missionaries, help them keep their CHIN UP

Retention of field staff is a key effectiveness issue for mission sending entities. In The Future of the Global Church (p227) Patrick Johnstone notes that “the period most likely to prove fruitful in cross-cultural church-planting ministry” is between the eighth and 17th years of field service.

Retention is also a key stewardship issue, as the costs of recruiting, qualifying, training, funding and sending a cross-cultural worker are vastly front loaded (incurred before sending and in the early stages of field ministry).  This is true regardless of the worker’s country of origin.  From a financial perspective, sending costs are “amortized” over a worker’s tenure on the field—the longer the tenure, the more cost-effective the sending process.

While it is true that when missionaries need to leave the field, allowing them to stay on can be damaging (personally, organizationally and ministerially), the general principle remains: encouraging and equipping workers toward longer tenures is a worthy goal.

A few weeks ago I spoke to prospective cross-cultural workers on “How to Become an Ex-Missionary…Or Not.” The research supporting the talk came from the qualitative module of the Engage study (fielded 2006 and 2007), which GMI did in partnership with Best Christian Workplaces Institute and Rob Hay, now principal of Redcliffe College.

A bit of backstory before getting to five key retention factors for North American cross-cultural workers.

The Engage research was initiated by the WEA Mission Commission as a North American follow up to the global ReMAP and ReMAP II studies on attrition and retention, which led to the publication of the useful books Too Valuable to Lose and Worth Keeping.

The ReMAP studies did a great job of outlining best practices in missionary retention on a global scale, as well as in drawing attention to the issue.  For example, the 60-plus agencies participating in the U.S. portion of the studies could be divided into virtually equal groups based on retention.  High-retention agencies averaged 97.4 percent retention annually, while the low-retention group averaged 90.4 percent.  When compounded over a decade, the high-retention rate projects to 77 percent of non-retired workers remaining on the field, while the low-retention rate projects to only 37 percent remaining.  You can read the source report here.

Still, there was one significant problem with the ReMAP studies: no current field workers were interviewed, only agency administrators.  We first got involved when the ReMAP II U.S. study coordinator asked GMI to review the U.S. data.  Certain variables appeared to yield counter-intuitive results—meaning agencies that rated themselves as high performers in certain dimensions actually had lower retention than those that rated themselves as lower performers.  How could this be?  Easy—self-evaluation often produces results such as these due to differences in standards.  Highly effective organizations typically have very high standards.  Therefore, they see more room for improvement than do their peer organizations.

The solution: don’t self-evaluate.  Allow others—in this case, current and former field missionaries—to rate how well a sending organization equips and supports them.

That’s what we did in the Engage study.  The quantitative module surveyed more than 1,700 current field staff from 17 organizations.  Results verified that an organization’s retention rate correlates positively with the attitudes of current field staff.  That finding refutes the hypothesis that ex-missionaries are merely can’t-hack-it, sour-grapes misfits who needed to be weeded out.  Rather, an agency’s missionaries reside along a likelihood-to-stay continuum.  The better an agency’s vision, leadership, training, policies and support, the less likely workers are to fall off of the attrition cliff.

The qualitative module compared the experience of more than 40 current field missionaries and more than 40 ex-missionaries who had left before retiring or completing a fixed assignment.  Questions asked of both groups included open-ended inquiries about factors that encourage or discouraged continuing service.

Group comparisons of coded responses yielded five key encouragement factors (as well as six key discouragement factors).

I remember those five encouragement factors through the acronym CHIN UP:

CH      A strong sense of personal CALLING and HOPE from God

I          A feeling of INCLUSION in team/agency decision making

N        A perception of great spiritual NEED among the people being served

U        A sense of personal USEFULNESS, regardless of visible ministry progress

P        A strong sense of God’s PROVISION via the prayer and generosity of others

Agencies and their member care departments will do well to regularly check the pulse of their field staff in those key areas.

Want to know more about applying insights from Engage?  Contact us at GMI about speaking to or consulting with agency leadership and/or member-care staff on retention issues.  We also love to speak with future missionaries about how they can prepare to avoid becoming ex-missionaries.

Also, agencies can sign up to do the Engage survey with your current field staff.  Best Christian Workplaces offers the survey at a very reasonable cost, using a sliding scale based on the number of field workers invited to take part.  It is a great investment that also adds to an ongoing database of learning about retention.  Please let them know that you heard about Engage from GMI.

 

 

A Busy Week and a New Phase of Ministry Launched

“In today’s world, we seem more fractured and divided than ever with agendas and spin permeating everything as people jockey to get the corner on people’s perception of truth. And as the world fights over perception, what is the responsibility of the Global Church? I believe one of the main roles of the Global Church is to humbly discover truth together and bring it to light. As a research organization, GMI’s priority is not to accumulate more and more isolated data that can be used by various groups to win hearts and minds. While we must always be keeping the data current,
the pressing need of the day is decision-making!”
Jon Hirst, GMI Installation Service January 22, 2013

The audience at the GMI Decision Support Initiative Last week was a big one for the GMI team on three fronts. We released some findings from our research on ministry worker decision-making at our Decision Support Briefing and tested some new product/service ideas with those that attended. If you want to find out more from this event, please visit the web page for the event. This event represents significant thinking and momentum for GMI and will be key to the tools and services we focus on in the next year or so.

 

Secondly, we held the installation service for my role. This was a time to celebrate Mike O’Rear’s Kingdom legacy, talk about the transtion and then give a vision for the future of GMI. I was so blessed by all those who came to listen, sing, pray and dream with our team. We focused our vision-casting on the new phrase that is describing GMI’s ministry: GMI helps Kingdom workers make Spirit-led decisions that advance the Global Church. 

The Installation of Jon Hirst as GMI President

We would love for you to get a sense for the evening. The best way is to go to the page we set up for the event. There you can download my remarks, see the memorial we did for Mike O’Rear and see a map of where attendees prayed for decision-makers around the world. Click here to view these resources.

Finally, with all our staff from around the country in town, we spent some wonderful time strategizing about what God has for us this year. It was a good time of thinking and I came away excited about what God is going to do.

It seems like an eternity since the administrative team of the International Orality Network prayed over me days before I assumed this new role. So much has happened to strengthen my faith and humble my heart. While we still face many challenges in crafting a way forward to serve the Global Church, I am confident that God is working through our efforts.

I look forward to serving each of you who spend some time reading this post. Ple

Analysis links website “personality” to follow-up actions

 
Third in a series of three posts looking forward to the 2013 Agency Web Review by reviewing highlights from a prior edition of the study.

As in 2004, the upcoming edition of the Agency Web Review will not only consider the rational elements of a missions website (clarity, functionality, information) but also the emotional side—its “personality”—and how that aligns with visitors’ responses and potentially influences follow-up activity.

From a list of 40 or so descriptive terms, respondents select the ones that they felt best describe each website.  Once data collection is complete, GMI analysts use factor analysis to boil those characteristics down to a smaller set of themes, or personality factors.  Then, they use regression analysis to measure how those themes correlate with the follow-through outcomes that agencies are looking for: revisiting the site, recommending it to peers and pursuing service opportunities.

In 2004 four out of the 10 personality factors correlated strongly with desired actions.  Web designers for the participating agencies learned about these factors and were able to draw on them in adapting their sites to encourage future missionaries to take the next step.  Those four factors are shown in this chart:

The degree of correlation varied depending on the follow-through action being studied.  For Intent to Recommend, the strongest link was to the “Creative” aspect of a site (a factor comprised of “Creative,” “Fresh,” “Visual” and “Non-Traditional”).  For overall website appeal, the same four factors emerged, but with “Energetic” (an absence of characteristics such as “Calm,” “Simple” and “Casual”) at the top of the list.  

How did designers use this information? Here are two ways: 

  1. Striking the right balance between identifying with who your audience is and who it aspires to be.  The presence of Energetic and Creative suggests that an agency should demonstrate that it understands the next generation of workers and is relevant to them.  This is the classic affinity principle—demonstrating that an agency is “for people like me.” Prospects are drawn to organizations that have and welcome high-energy people with a creative spirit.At the same time, the presence of Wise (“Humble,” “Experienced”) and Capable (including “Secure” and “Aware”)  suggests traits that future missionaries do not yet have—especially in terms of cross-cultural effectiveness.  Prospects desire to develop these qualities and hope that an agency will be able to draw them out.  Prospects look for signals that an agency knows what it is doing and can help new people get where they need to be.

    It is easy to miss the mark a bit one way or the other.  Too much creativity can be misinterpreted as an emphasis on style over substance.  Too much emphasis on experience and resources can be misread as close-mindedness or lack of need.  In short, prospects don’t want agencies that aspire to be “like them”—rather, they do want to be understood while being given something to aspire to become.

  2. Designers also need to understand what is not helpful.  In this case, six other website personality factors were not significantly linked to any of the key follow-through behaviors:  intention to revisit, refer or respondto opportunities.  Websites that were viewed as “Courageous,” “Concerned,” “Sharp” (incorporating “Confident” and “Smart”), “Thoughtful” or “Fun” likely did not generate the best possible response from visitors.(Note that positioning does not refer to the inauthentic donning of characteristics that are not part of an agency’s identity, but rather to expressing aspects of one’s true identity that are likely to resonate with candidates.)

Web designers usually know how to help make a website more usable or functional.  Some also have intuitive skills that enable agencies to strike the right notes in messaging and imagery. But for those who don’t—and even for those who do—message modeling can provide a well-defined target to shoot for and criteria to assess whether the messages are hitting their mark.  Such models are a standard feature of the Agency Web Review report.

Eight years after the first review, who knows how the personality characteristics may have changed?  New factors are likely to emerge in association with key outcomes.  To find out, be sure to register for the 2013 Agency Web Review.

 

From their keyboard to your web designer

(Second in a series of three posts)

As we introduce the 2013 Agency Web Review, we are reviewing highlights from the 2004 edition.

It is great for an agency to get numeric ratings on various aspects of its website—especially when comparable ratings for a group of other agency websites are available to show relative strengths and weaknesses.

But the ratings come to life when designers and mobilizers learn the specific reasons beneath the great ratings—or when they get suggestions to improve elements of their site.

Back in 2004, when we first gathered opinions of dozens of agency sites, social media was still in its infancy and dialogue with prospects was much less prevalent—so getting actionable feedback from the target audience was more difficult.

Today future missionaries have more channels to offer ideas—the challenge is getting them to take time to look closely and consider how their input can help.

Next month, the Agency Web Review will provide incentives to those considering cross-cultural service to spend several minutes observing agency websites—and then offering their opinions about them.  In addition to numeric ratings, respondents will provide open-ended feedback on their initial impressions, the website’s strengths, and elements that can be improved.

Here are some of the verbatim quotes from future missionaries.  Would any of these apply to your site?

It was attractive, but it wasn’t obvious what they did.

 

It was a little cluttered with things and I really didn’t know what I should click on. But it was VERY informative.

 

Really liked the home page and the different pictures that come up when you point at the options to enter.

 

Opportunities— list was hugely long—I had no idea which ones to select.  Perhaps narrow the categories a bit for a first selection.

 

They recommended books which would be helpful for someone looking for more resources and help in a particular area.

 

I liked the opportunity boxes that popped up over the world and then I could click on them.

 

Include more stories about past missionaries’ experiences.

 

I love the emphasis on prayer. I think that it probably points to a good orientation.

 

Things weren’t hidden in fine print from what I could tell in my brief study. Everything seemed very up-front.

 

Give more detail about service opportunities without requiring a person to receive mailings.

 

I could not find a belief statement.

 

It is impressive they have the site in a different language.

 

Increase the size of the font, I can barely read it.

 

Visually a bit sparse, but seemed spiritually grounded.

 

There is a lot going on, visually creative. I wanted to learn more.

 

Seemed to be more focused on their organization than on the people they were serving, kind of a turn off.

 

Mission and values were clearly stated and inspiring.

 

The global map links on the home page didn’t all work.  I couldn’t find a webmaster link to report it.

 

How do I actually work for (agency)!? I have no idea how to apply or what to do if I want to work with them!

 

Present more ‘in your face’ opportunities to serve or donate.

 

I really liked that one of the first things I saw invited me to pray with the group.  It gave me a way to get involved right now.

At the agency level, this kind of feedback is especially valuable for designers.  Collectively, comments about dozens of sites can be coded and analyzed for helpful trends.  Comments in the 2004 study most frequently related to the following:

  • Ease of Navigation
  • Quantity of Information
  • Organization of Site
  • Design / Layout / Color
  • Graphics / Photos

The most-frequently-mentioned opportunities for improvement fell into these categories:

  • Information about Opportunities
  • Visual Style / Layout
  • Information About the Agency
  • Text / Font
  • Verbal Style

What kinds of ideas has your agency implemented on its website based on the suggestions of visitors?  Add a comment and let us know!

 

When Your Decisions Fall Apart

What happens when the decisions you think are made bathed in prayer and the Holy Spirit’s guidance fall apart? It does happen . . . and for many reasons too numerous to list here in this blog. What do you do?

This weekend CNN released an extensive story of the dramatic events around Charles and Andy Stanely’s relationship, falling out and reconciliation. It is quite story. One that I was not aware of. As I read it and think about the dynamics at work in the Stanley home and in their public ministry, I thought, “I bet they wondered why things fell apart as God seemed to be blessing so much of their work.”

This is an important question as we consider what it means to make Spirit-led decisions. It is important because our assumption is that a decision bathed in prayer is guaranteed to succeed. But that simply is not true.

A Kingdom decision is not so much a moment of accomplishment as a step in a process. And like any step, it can come right before a fall. We can make an excellent decision in one area and then find ourselves stumbling in another. We can feel God’s hand of blessing in one area and his hand of discipline in another.

That is because God is using our decisions as tools to shape our lives. He is highlighting His work through us and also the sin in our lives that must be dealt with. Each decision is part of that process of seeing God at work in exalting His name.

So as you look at the decisions in front of you this week and the situations that seem to be unraveling, don’t question God’s work through what you decide. Simply know that as you seek to ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, there will be some decisions that have wildly successful outcomes and others that look like failure. But God is using each one to mold you into His servant on His mission in this world. And His mission is what truly matters

Applied research helps donors, implementers to be better partners

Research provides a needed listening function for the mission community.  Listening well results in better understanding, and better understanding usually leads to better ministry.

A great example of the way that research increases understanding and leads to practical action in ministry is the Lausanne Standards project that fosters dialogue and collaboration among ministry implementers and funders about the giving and receiving of money in mission.

Check out this entertaining whiteboard video that illustrates (literally) how the Lausanne Standards were developed and the role that research played.

GMI is honored to have conducted the first round of research (mentioned in the presentation) that supported the development of the Lausanne Standards.   Rob Martin, Lausanne Senior Associate for Global Philanthropy, whose voice (and likeness) feature prominently in the video, graciously gave us permission to discuss some of that research here on this blog.

A survey of 147 mission leaders – divided roughly 55/45 between ministry implementers and ministry donors – revealed that both groups agreed that positive funding partnerships are almost always an important issue.  However, the leaders were divided on whether partnerships were problematic, and what the nature of the problems (if any) and solutions were.

Cluster analysis led to the identification and description of four “attitude segments” among ministry donors and implementers.  This enabled the research sponsors to understand the likely objections to developing a set of guidelines for philanthropic partnerships.

 

Each of these groups believes that funders and implementers want to partner well with one another.  However, each could pose a significant objection to the process of developing standards for effective funding partnerships.  Proceeding clockwise around the grid, from top left:

  1. Standards aren’t enough to fix the problems of dependence and power in philanthropy!  We need to overhaul the system and create new structures for working together.
  2. There isn’t a problem to address – the perceived conflicts in philanthropic partnerships are exaggerated.  Just because the work is hard doesn’t mean the system is broken.
  3. You can’t engineer a policy-based solution to a spiritual problem.  Partnership issues will dissolve when people focus more on the Lord and recognize their common dependence on God.
  4. Codes and policies are no substitute for deeper relationships with one another.  Making a greater effort to understand our neighbor will lead to more effective partnership, with or without a set of standards.

The Lausanne working group’s responses to these objections are:

  1. Yes, we can benefit from creating new forms.  Finding points of affirmation is a perfect starting point.
  2. Yes, the work is challenging, and good communication will help us to address challenges more effectively.
  3. Yes, human-centered solutions are insufficient.  Agreements must be developed and implemented in reliance on the Spirit.
  4. Yes, we must grow in understanding – and agreed-upon standards reflect an increasing level of understanding.

Watch the video again to see how some of these messages are communicated clearly and effectively.  That’s research in action!  Here, segmentation is not a tool to create or emphasize division but a means of addressing concerns to develop consensus and discover unity among varied perspectives.

Research for the sake of knowledge puffs up, but research for the sake of love builds up (variation on 1 Corinthians 8:1).  How are you are seeing research applied in your area of ministry?

Four rewards, four challenges in rebranding

 

 

 

 

A few days ago I participated in a panel discussion at the Evangelical Press Association conference here in Colorado.  Moderator Jon Hirst of Generous Mind was the moderator; other panelists included Keith Brock of The CSK Group design firm and Phil O’Day, who is less than two weeks away from the public launch of CAM International’s rebranding to Camino Global.

My fellow panelists offered some great ideas for the audience – and the audience did its share, too, with some great questions and comments.  Here are four rewards and four challenges of the rebranding process I’ll remember from the session:

Reward of Rebranding 1: When everyone buys in.  Keith told a story of working with a hotel chain on its rebranding process.  Several months later, while staying at one of the hotels, he asked a desk clerk about what the brand meant to him.  Keith was delighted to hear the clerk enthusiastically talk about the hotel’s emphasis on making memorable moments for guests – demonstrating a core objective identified in the rebranding process.

Reward of Rebranding 2: Better “elevator conversations.”  Phil mentioned how quickly people – including prospective missionaries – assess their interest in an organization.  Representatives of CAM International typically had to begin discussions by talking about the past (by answering “What does CAM stand for?”) rather than describing the agency’s vision for the future.  With the rebranding, reps can make much better use of their first 30 seconds.

Reward of Rebranding 3: Alignment between internal identity and external image.  Some people feel that emphasizing marketing communications is inappropriate for those doing God’s work.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Effective communication is about people receiving a message in the way that the sender intended.  Rebranding requires a commitment to knowing what your message is – and to understanding (and measuring) how audiences receive that message.  It’s not about flash and cool; rather, it’s about others sharing our understanding of ourselves.

Reward of Rebranding 4: While mission organizations do compete with one another for recruits, in the end they are working toward the same purposes and therefore often cooperate.  Phil mentioned that he spoke to several organizations that shared their experiences about rebranding: Crossworld, WorldVenture, Christar and others.  I also spoke to other organizations when GMI was first considering rebranding, and what they shared was very helpful.

Challenge of Rebranding 1: Considering what to do with valuable elements of the existing brand.  Keith mentioned this, which resonated with me.  A key GMI asset has always been the www.gmi.org website, which has always had strong search engine optimization due to links from many other mission sites.  GMI’s consideration of a name change revolved around options that would enable retention of the acronym.  In the end, we opted not to change the name, but instead to emphasize a new tagline that elevates research alongside mapping – and to feature gmi.org as a secondary logo.

Challenge of Rebranding 2: How – and how long – to engage in dialogue with those who oppose the change.  Phil mentioned that it is important to allow constituents to express their views and to let them know that they are being heard.  You can’t ignore or dismiss them.  (I know of a mission organization that fully reversed its brand change because the field staff refused to use it.)  However, at some point you have to agree to disagree and move on, working to sell the majority on the concept.

Challenge of Rebranding 3: How to address sub-brands.  One question came from someone who manages a sub-brand of a large organization that is phasing in a new brand.  Keith responded by talking about the importance of having an intentional strategy for how – and how much – to tie sub-brands together.  Depending on your needs and objectives, you may want much, little or no unifying elements across sub-brands.  He mentioned his work with Focus on the Family and its spinoff organization CitizenLink (formerly Focus on the Family Action).  Both organizations are tied to the same mission, but the original brand is functionally nurturing and the newer brand is functionally confrontational (my word, not Keith’s).  In Focus’ case, decreasing the perceived association between the two brands was useful for both.

Challenge of Rebranding 4: How to Communicate Effectively, not Extravagantly.  Getting the word out to constituents about the change is important.  However, non-profits, and especially mission organizations, run the risk of overdoing communications.  Most people understand that brands have value, but that value only ties indirectly to mission fulfillment.  I mentioned a conversation this week with a woman who supports a missionary through an organization that recently rebranded.  After receiving multiple letters and glossy brochures from the agency, she began to wonder about how well the administrative portion of her gifts were being spent.

If your mission agency is looking to rebrand, I recommend that you connect with Jon or Phil about their experiences (Jon helped direct HCJB’s rebranding to HCJB Global a few years ago); contact Keith about full-service strategy and creative; or contact GMI for ideas on researching your identity and image.

Meanwhile, let us know: What challenges and rewards have you experienced in rebranding?