Missionary Secrets 3: Communicating with supporters sucks...sometimes
By Abu Daoud
So here’s the deal: I spend time writing an e-mail update about some recent encounter with a Muslim here in town, or some other observation about Islam, or something encouraging that happened with one of our Christian friends, or what have you. I send them out to about 400 people on my e-mail account. And a few people…maybe…respond. Who reads these things? I have no idea. Am I wasting half a day in doing this? I often feel like it.
Two or three times a year I Um Daoud and I put a few days into producing a high-quality newsletter, we e-mail it to out agency back in the West, and they distribute it to 500+ post addresses on THAT mailing list. Another business prints them, our mission envelopes them, and posts them. The whole project comes out of our funds to the tune of $400 or so. How many people read these things? We normally see an uptick in contributions after we send it out, so it must mean that someone reads them. But given the expenditure, are we wasting much-needed funds?
And I also keep two blogs—islaomdom.blogspot.com and abudaoud.blogspot.com.
And then, we get an e-mail from one of our churches or supporters saying that they are concerned because we do not keep them up-to-date on our work here. Sometimes this is our fault, but not usually. Also, normally these e-mails come with an apologetic e-mail saying they do not feel called to support our mission anymore. We genuinely respect people’s and churches’ responsibility to discern how they will invest their funds in the Kingdom. We also know that sometimes the Spirit really is telling people not to support our mission anymore.
But these e-mails are difficult to receive. Especially when we have done everything we could to keep in touch. Mr. X didn’t update his post address with us after moving, and then he feels he can no longer support us because we don’t stay in touch? Ouch. But it’s better than a supporter just dropping off your list with no notice. Anyway, support is a sensitive topic.
Some workers send out too many notices and people just delete them. Some workers do need to stay in touch more. In the end, missionaries are trying to balance the needs of a LOT of people. From the personal friend of many years who is fine with getting one update per year, to the church that wants a monthly story for their newsletter. Recently, we were informed by a faithful donor that he would not be supporting us anymore. He was very kind about it, but he said he wanted to support works that were more entrepreneurial (his word). I respect that because I know he is a great Christian, but I thought, in the Middle East that is precisely what we don’t need. The problem here is a lack of seasoned, Arabic-speaking folks who already have a network of relationships. (A good number of missionaries here don’t speak Arabic well at all, believe it or not.)
So with your missionaries, give them input. That’s the takeaway here. Let them know what you want to hear about if their letters are too long, short, frequent, infrequent, and so on. Also, if you don’t get what you want, remember we are generally communicating with hundreds of folks and churches, all with different desires.