As you can imagine, it takes a lot of money to operate Breakthrough. We have an operating budget of two and a half million each year. Since most of our revenue comes from individuals, we usually don't know for sure what our income will be. We try to get multi-year commitments, but we are dependant on people who believe in our mission and feel moved to give. We are daily counting on the Lord to provide what we need. So far we have never missed a payroll even though we have had to make difficult decisions to cut back on expenses several times. I feel the weight of the nearly fifty staff who depend on Breakthrough to pay their mortgages and rents and put food on their tables, not to mention the $15,000 a month it takes just to provide for their health insurance.
So here's the dilemma. People give for emotional reasons, so we are constantly looking for that emotional hook that will move people to unleash their donations. Many of us care deeply about social justice issues and recognize that there are overarching systemic and institutional forces that are locking our homeless guests in poverty. But talking about those issues is not going to generate the same response that we will get from talking about the transformed lives our our guests and participants. The stories that will get the greatest response in terms of donations are those where we can point to dramatic life change that happens as the result of our work. Of course, for most of our participants, the changes are quite gradual and often take years and involve numerous setbacks that would not "sell well" to donors.
So there is temptation, temptation to say what we know people want to hear for the sake of funding the ministry, temptation to tell the stories with a bit of exageration, temptation to portray our community as desperate for outside help, temptation to settle for emotional appeals rather than to do the hard work of bringing people along on the justice journey.
Anyone else feel this angst? Any suggestions?