Iceberg Ahead
by John and Sue Staff*

Our support, while serving overseas, had been strong, and we had a sizeable reserve. Our tracking report, being an indicator of what has been and not what is coming, showed us to be in great shape. Yet, out in the waters before us, the “tip of an iceberg” bobbed. We could see the warning signs of a funding problem, and unless we changed course, we’d sail straight into a crisis.
 
Our family served overseas for nearly a decade. When we returned to the U.S., some of our support dropped off, as is prone to happen, and a major supporting church informed us they would be reallocating their support in a few months as well. Our reserve would sustain us for a while, but it would soon be gone. The fear of deficit loomed.
 
We buckled down. Our goal was to raise $2,500 in additional monthly support. For a solid year, we did no other projects—no gardening, no house repairs, nothing. All of our discretionary time went to phone calls, appointments, and MPD trips. We reconnected with people we hadn’t seen in the years we spent overseas, and we worked to network new relationships. Since many of our donors were in their 80s, we also focused on developing a new, younger donor base.
 
Even while working as hard as we could on MPD, our account slipped deeper each month into deficit. We finally hit an all-time low of $-9,000. We felt discouraged and wondered whether this might be the end of our missionary career.
 
Then, 11 months after we started the process, the situation finally began to turn around. The MPD seeds we had planted began to grow and produce fruit. And bolstered by the turn-around, we kept going.
 
For 18 months we focused on MPD while (with our supervisor’s permission) cutting back on our regular responsibilities. In that time, we held 112 face-to-face or phone presentation (67 in person, 45 on the phone). Fifty-four people joined our team or increased their giving.
 
Here are a few points from our experience:

- We were proactive and took steps before we were in trouble.
- We never told donors we were in deficit.
- Several times, we had to adjust our expectations on how long reaching our goal would take.
- MPD takes great persistence. Nearly half of the people who made decisions to give required at least 10 phone calls to complete the cycle.
- It was exhausting, even for Sue who is a high extrovert and enjoys MPD.
- The hard work is worth it!
 
We reached our goal, but we’re not “done” with MPD. Now we’re hoping to connect with one donor a day, on average. This might be lofty, but even so, if we talk with, write to, or text even three ministry partners a week, that will keep us in a good place with our team. In two years when we need to do another big appeal (attrition is coming), we will feel more confident in asking because we have been in contact with people consistently.
 
We feel encouraged by God’s faithfulness to honor and bless our efforts, and the financial stability gives our family security. We pray other staff will benefit from our experience.
 
* “John and Sue” wish to remain anonymous to protect the ministries and people they could be linked to in sensitive countries abroad.