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King math

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Several years ago, I named the nonprofit donor retention platform Bloomerang, and then I spent a couple of years working with leaders from the company and from professional fundraising associations asking the question, "Why has charity been stuck at 2% of GNP for years, and what would happen if we could bump it to 3%?"

The issue, from my perspective, is that the world was lacking "king math." King math takes a resource and makes it work to achieve an end, and in the processes risks losing the resource. 

THE King taught king math.

Matthew 14-30 (ESV) “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

King math shows up in businesses that spend $1 in marketing if it'll earn $1.05 in return ... where the appetite for the spend isn't tied to a budget, but to an outcome.  Anything less than this is not only self-limiting, it's poor stewardship. Damnably poor. 

But king math isn't how nonprofits work. Nor is it how most people work. Especially people who learn about money from sermons from priests. 

We need both kings and priests, but they're meant to be complements to one another, and it should be no surprise that their abilities to disciple, lead, or exposit Scripture are likewise complementary based on the areas to which the Kingdom calls them. 

King math, compared to non-king math, tends to be:

  • less focused on personal expressions of integrity, and more on active obedience
  • less tortured or ambivalent about engaging resources and outcomes
  • more active in the moment, but focused on a far longer time horizon for outcomes
  • less anxious and more oriented on "the problem" rather than "the problem in that person right now"

The last point before I drop in the video that sparked this post: king math knows and names a good return on the investment. 

A couple years ago, a highly successful young client was interested in doing something for the world that would address three key impact areas they'd named.

  1. The American Dream
  2. Racial Equality 
  3. Better Law Enforcement and Justice System

One of the challenges we recognized was this person had enough resources that they were going to need to engage their effort carefully. I think we used the phrase "rockets on the Kitty Hawk" if the approach was too aggressive for the nonprofit partners they considered. So I asked about this person's relationship with money and what performance they'd come to expect from their investments. At the time, this person was leading a very large investment that was generating a 41 percent return. So that was the ROI we specified for the social impact effort they would pursue. If the idea couldn't generate that sort of result, the effort wasn't up to par for the baseline relationship and definition of stewardship this person was experiencing elsewhere.

Not only did the 41 percent baseline prompt a more creative plan, we found that we could nearly double the impact, and that we could grow the return even more with scale and as the flywheel spun up. I believe the King – Jesus – really likes king math and that He is eager to engage kings who choose king math even when the rest of the world refuses it. 

Sadly, the client faced a major tragedy that tabled our plans, for now. But the lesson was learned, and the invitation to king math persists for those who will trust it.

Now, to the video...