They have numerophobia. Alexas Fotos @pixabay
Many of you know about my numerophobia – fear of numbers. Ah, if only I had been self-diagnosed in high school, I could have skipped algebra. However, if I practice my mindfulness and take a lot of deep breaths, I know that numbers – for the right purpose – can be very useful.
The right purpose? Reminding people about their Return on Investment, or ROI as it’s known in the biz. Some of you may recoil at the use of that term. Too business-oriented. Too reminiscent of Wall-Street. Too numbers-oriented. And some of you might be right – if there’s a slavish devotion to data and a lack of storytelling that goes with it.
But numbers can tell a story. Right now, I’m completing a report to a foundation for a grant they provided last year. They want to know if the money they invested in my organization did any good. I could tell them a lot of individual stories – and I will do just that as much as possible. But they also want to know numerically just how many lives were touched because of their grant. They want to know if their money made a difference – and if it didn’t, how we will change course to keep improving.
I have been a part of many church meetings where we discussed the need to collect data – and I have felt the resistance. But I’m here to say (shockingly from someone who is afflicted with numerophobia), that collecting data can be a positive and good thing:
How many families were provided shelter through your involvement with Family Promise?
How many hours did volunteers give to Habitat for Humanity?
How many tons of food were collected for the local food pantry?
How many sets of underwear were donated during one worship service (kudos to Bend UMC, see p.8)?
How many people came to AA meetings in your building?
Here’s another way to calculate your importance: Social Return on Investment. In an excellent article, Heather Stombaugh outlines the benefit of determining the cost of what would happen to your community if your organization or congregation didn’t exist.
For example: How much does it cost for your congregation to host four families for one week for Family Promise? If your congregation wasn’t there to fill that need, what would be the social and financial cost to the community? Here’s how one Family Promise organization reports on its ROI.
Here’s another example of how the Homeless Hub visualized the SROI for their program. Family Building Blocks, a child abuse prevention program, has an entire web page dedicated to “impact” – both in personal stories and in SROI. Take a look at their “Community” and “Economic” SROI infographs.
This may sound like a lot of work but it doesn’t have to be:
1. Find the one person in your congregation who loves collecting data. That person can be the keeper of the numbers.
2. Once the numbers are amassed, find the other person in your congregation who can tell your church’s story using those numbers.
3. Then share the good news about the phenomenal “ROI” and “SROI” your congregation – because of its generosity – is providing to your church and, perhaps more importantly, your community and the world.
Face your fears and your resistance to collecting data. If I can overcome numerophobia, you can too. The benefits will have you knowing how you are making a difference and living out what it means to be lights of the world. Numerophobia be banished!