WORKING WITH THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY

(a seminar given by Jerry Trecek, Executive Director of the Peoria Rescue Mission, Peoria Illinois, at the Midwestern District Meeting, October 16, 1987 in Indianapolis, Indiana.)

The beginning of knowledge in working with the business community starts with the board of directors of your ministry. Those who sit on your board are usually members of the business community. Your relationship with other businessmen will be affected by the caliber of men on your board. Therefore it is imperative to put considerable thought into the process of choosing a men to serve on your board.

To assist in selecting new members for the board of directors, develop a list of questions to ask about and of a potential board member. Suggested starting questions are:

In Peoria, we strive to have no more than two members from any specific denomination on our board. We find that this gives great balance to overall composition of the board. We look for business men who are not overloaded with other obligations to churches, organizations and clubs. We try to diversify our selection, looking for businessmen from various professions. Some of types of professionals we look for are Lawyer, accountant, farmers, professional management, law enforcement professionals, social service workers , city hall, pastor, supervisory positions, layworker contractors, and engineers.

However, we use professionals outside of the board of directors for business in order to avoid conflict of interest. An example of this would be having a lawyer on your board, but hiring a lawyer from an outside firm to represent you in a legal case.

You very much need a board that has an understanding of the mission program and can relate it to the community. You don’t necessarily want a "yes" board, but one which collectively can make good decisions. You want a group who can disagree agreeably and are able to work together. The ministry benefits from board members who not only invest themselves but also their money in the ministry.

We look for men who are basically active in their local church. A good businessman is a good church member.

You need a board that is well organized and has business people on it. You don’t need a board of preachers!

Use the board in the community. Let the board members contact the businesses that they are familiar with. Use the bankers to approach the other banks in your community. Ask the accountants for financial advice, the farmers for food, and so on, using the board members to the best advantage in their field of expertise.

There is a little saying about the requirements for a good board member. A good board member is one who has Wealth, Wisdom and Works. Just one of these does not guarantee a person will be a good board member. Even two are not enough. And, less we get off base, it is important to remember that the wealthiest man is the one with a strong relationship with God, through Christ Jesus.

Only one person reports to the board, that is the Executive Director.

Two types of businesses

  1. Those whom you do direct services with. These are the suppliers, the service contractors and the retail businesses whom you go to to purchase the items needed to carry out the ministry of your mission.
  2. Those whom you desire to give you items. This group encompasses (really) almost everyone who is in business in your city. You may not always go to this businessman asking for something free, but the potential is always there.

Always leave a positive image with the businessman. They will do more PR for you than any other thing you can do. If you want people on the street to know what you are doing, just put the word out...gossip will do the rest.

Therefore, keep a good rapport with the businessmen. Be up front and honest in all of your purchases and dealings.

 

DIRECT PURCHASES

Always purchase just what you need, an no more. The businessman appreciates your wise use of donated money. It is good, in following this reasoning, to purchase what you need for right now rather than by the case. This is especially true for electrical and plumbing parts that are used infrequently. This is not true in regard to consummable items such as paper, tissue, light bulbs, etc. Remember that the storeowner is watching what you are doing with your donated money. Don’t stock pile items that are not frequently used.

Pay cash if possible! Especially with a new business. This builds up a tremendous rapport with the gives your ministry very good credibility in the community. Never purchase anything in the company’s name for your personal use. (The storekeeper knows...Ungody people are watching what you do.)

Pay by check if you charge anything. Pay your bills, it builds confidence in the business community. Pay within 30 days. When you do this, you lift up the name of Jesus in your community. (You are also building enormous amounts of good will for the possible day [God forbid] when funds run behind and you need credit to operate.)

The Health department may be your best friend when you score higher than the restaurants.

 

DONATED SERVICE

Be reasonable when you ask for donations. Don't ask for airplanes if you don’t have an air strip, or any other reason for an airplane. Ask people what you really need and invite people to come down to the mission and see for themselves.

Respond to donated items immediately. Peoria Rescue Mission picks up donuts daily for bake shops, because another agency was approached but did not think it worth enough to make do stops, and we are blessed with fresh donuts daily.

Set up a route for picking up donations that are given on a regular basis. Use a driver on the truck that will foster these relations. This is one job that you do not what to be done by new clients. You do not want to risk a client insulting a donor, or running away with the donations - or even the truck!

Always have a listening ear for things that a business might be giving away. (Here in Peoria I recently received a load of garage doors, which we bartered with to get other items that were needed.) Take anything that anyone wants to give you. If you can’t use, perhaps some other mission can. You took it, the businessman has a receipt, and perhaps someone else can use it.

Taking anything that anyone wants to give is not in opposition to asking only for what you need. If I ask for a speedboat, and have no ministry use for one, I am not being faithful to the purposes of the ministry where I serve. However, if a businessman wants to give me a speedboat with no strings attached as to its use, I can take that boat and trade it, or sell it for items that are needed in my ministry.

Businesses are almost always willing to give. You must always be willing to respond to gifts in kind with a thank you letter. Remember to get the name and address of the donor. Go over board on getting the name. Insist that you must have it. This not only allows you to thank the person personally for the gift, but gives a very good accounting for items that suddenly "appear" at your ministry. It is true that "God supplied the television", but he used a person to channel the gift through.

Don’t be shiftless and lazy. If you are, a businessman probably won’t want anythong to do with you . They like nonprofits that serve the community. So be active in serving the community.

Be up on the tax laws governing charitable donations.

 

REMEMBER

Get to know the owner of the business. Build an ongoing relationship with him. Invite businessmen down to the mission for a tour. Don’t be a beggar —— don’t ride a gift horse to death. Know when not to ask for a item for free...when to just turn around and leave and wait for a different time.

 

CAPITAL FUND CAMPAIGN: an example of how this can work

  1. Local contractor agreed to build for cost of materials and time. He called in subs and got them to agree to the same thing.
  2. Getting businessman to come down and see what is going on.
  3. Negotiate deals on your property, not down at their office. You have an opportunity to explain what you are doing. Remember to close on the sale!
  4. Suggest that he goes back to his supplier and ask what they would be willing to give.