Church Communications resources and tips from Justin Dean

Breaking the Bank

How do you get the decision makers to free up money for new gear?

Upgrade time is always one of those bittersweet things. On one hand, excitement builds as you dream of all the new and exciting ways you?ll be able to do ministry with new gear. On the other hand, when a large amount of money is involved someone is bound to get squirrely and try to help you trade excitement for frustration. It?s not necessarily that people want to kill your dream for technology, but people often get weird when money is involved.

I?ve worked on both sides of upgrades over the years as both a Technical Director and as a consultant, and I?ve learned a few things that have helped me be more effective when asking decision makers for money. More importantly, these tips have helped us enjoy the process more because there was buy-in from everyone involved. And as my track record for successful upgrades grew, leaders knew they could trust both my motives and that the solution proposed would benefit the ministry. I believe that buy-in and trust are two of the biggest challenges people experience when asking for upgrade funds, and I want to share some tips I?ve learned to get both.

1. Don?t ?sell? upgrades your leaders don?t want.

[quote]Don?t ?sell? upgrades your leaders don?t want.[/quote]What I could do if I had intelligent lights at my church! I would use haze and paint the air with beams. I would aim them at surfaces and create texture with gobos. I would use them to spot people for special occasions. And that?s only the beginning. The problem is, my pastor doesn?t care about those things. The only way I?m going to get intelligent lights right now is if I somehow convinced him we need them. The problem? At some point he?s going to go back to his previous opinion and be frustrated that we ?wasted? the money. You think he?ll remember who convinced him it was the right thing to do? You betcha! You think he?ll listen to me next time I want something? Not so much.

2. Don?t sell gear; show the ministry benefit.

[quote]Don?t sell gear; show the ministry benefit.[/quote]In my experience, the decision makers aren?t the folks in line for the next iPhone the day it comes out. They aren?t the ones jumping at the opportunity to upgrade for the sake of upgrading. Trying to sell them on a cool new piece of gear likely won?t get you far. But casting vision for the impact technology can have on their ministry will get you much farther. Notice I said their ministry, and not yours? The lens your average leader uses is ?how does this affect me and my team??? Don?t assume they?ll figure out how it?ll benefit them. Connect the dots for them and they?ll be a lot more excited about it.

3. Document failing gear.

Most people that ask for money use more of an emotional, theoretical plea based on hopes and dreams for the future. Most people who get asked for money approach it from a rational, data-driven perspective. If you need to replace gear because something is failing, nothing is more powerful in backing up your claims than a list of times the gear has failed and how it impacted ministry. For example, who?s going to forget an entry like this?

December 2, 2012 ? Amps 1-3 failed ? We lost half the house PA during service.

People are going to remember that day and how they felt at the time the speakers went out ? which likely wasn?t good. That will mean more to them than anything you have to say about it. If for whatever reason they deny the upgrade, next year when you ask again your list will be longer and it will prove the need still exists.? And, if the technology fails during a critical moment before then, you?re leadership made the choice to risk it. You won?t even have to tell them, ?I told you so.?

4. Making noticeable changes.

The only thing as bad as an upgrade-gone-wrong is an upgrade that no one notices. [quote]The only thing as bad as an upgrade-gone-wrong is an upgrade that no one notices.[/quote] ?I once knew a Tech Director who fought for new speakers, spent tens of thousands of dollars on them, and when his pastor came in for service after installation, he mentioned that he actually liked the sound of the old speakers better. My friend wasn?t allowed to do any more upgrades in the two years following, and finally left the staff because he felt he wasn?t trusted. In most churches, if you?re asking for a decent amount of money, be sure it will bring noticeable impact to the average person. Even in large churches with higher needs and budgets, a reasonable amount of people should be able to see the benefit of the upgrade ? even if it?s more behind-the-scenes. If the results aren?t visible, regret soon will be.

5. Protect your trust.

Trust and benefit-of-the-doubt are tough to come by. It takes hard work and consistency to earn those from people. But you can lose them with one or two bad decisions. Don?t recommend solutions if you don?t have the expertise, haven?t done your homework, or don?t have an expert on your side. Consultants exist for a number of legitimate reasons. Having a great relationship with an Audio, Video and Lighting consultant can save your bacon when you?re making upgrades. For one, these people typically have a much broader perspective because they see hundreds of products and facilities every year. Their experience of working with 100 different churches last year should help you make great choices for your ministry. If you don?t have the expertise, find someone who does.

6. Honor the big picture.

[quote]Love covers a multitude of sins, and a multitude of large financial requests.[/quote]The first time I was denied an upgrade, I felt rejected ? like I was letting down the people who would have benefitted from a new digital audio console. The decision-making board was gracious, but I felt like I should have fought harder or made a better case. A few months later I found out we needed to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars on the parking lot just so people could safely get into the church. Getting people into the facility was way more important than us getting a digital console, and had I known I would?ve totally agreed with them. The point is there are often five to ten large priorities that your leadership is dealing with at any given time. It?s a tough gig deciding what?s most important. Understand that there may be ?bigger picture? things happening, and bring the request back later when it?s appropriate.

When you start looking at things from the decision-maker?s perspective, it helps them start looking at things from your perspective. Love covers a multitude of sins, and a multitude of large financial requests. Make sure all of your requests for gear are covered in love and grace.

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