Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Saying “No” to the wrong kind of money

I’ve just finished reading Jim Collins’ excellent book, Good to Great and the Social Sectors. The only problem I have with the book is that it is a bit overpriced, costing me around $14, for 35 pages! (People in the USA could get it for $10 plus shipping – which is still expensive.) But for anyone involved in the social sector, this book is a must-read. Actually, it would be worthwhile to read his previous book – Good to Great – first and then follow it up with the reading of this book.
The previous book was aimed at people in the corporate world, looking at ways in which a business could be run better. I learnt tremendously from this book, as I read it just before we started with out home-based caring project. It helped me with many leadership skills (I’ve never considered myself to be a “natural” leader), choosing the right people for the job and helping people to remain motivated and focussed on the task. But at the same time I realised that not everything from the corporate world could be duplicated in the social sector, which is the reason why I purchased the follow-up.
In, what Jim Collins describes as the Hedgehog concept, he wrote that in a business three principles are important to produce the best long-term results. You have to determine:

  • What you are deeply passionate about
  • What you can be the best in the world at
  • What best drives your economic engine

When writing his book aimed at the social sector, he got stuck when writing about the Hedgehog concept. The first two principles were still valid, but bodies within the social sector are not aimed at making a profit. We don’t make money, we give out money. And therefore, he had to re-think and re-write the Hedgehog concept. Eventually, after discussing this with people in the social sector, he came up with the following three principles:

  • Passion: Understanding what your organisation stands for (its core values) and why it exists (its mission or core purpose)
  • Best at: Understanding what your organisation can uniquely contribute to the people it touches, better than any other organisation on the planet
  • Resource Engine: Understanding what best drives your resource engine, broken into three parts: time, money and brand

In simple terms, what it boils down to, is to begin with that which you are passionate about (let’s say, in our case, doing something about the AIDS problem in Swaziland), then you decide how you can best contribute to the communities you touch (in our case it would be home-based caring) and then you tie your resource engine to the first two principles, in other words, whatever is received must be used to help you reach your goal. But then Collins ends this part of the discussion by saying something which I firmly believe in but which I have never found anyone else saying: “Those who have the discipline to attract and channel resources directed solely at their Hedgehog Concept, and to reject resources that drive them away from the center of their three circles, will be of greater value to the world.”
How I understand it, is that one will always be tempted to get as much money as possible for the church, welfare organisation or whatever other non-profitable program one is involved in, but money may come at a price. Therefore, when anything is offered which may jeopardise my vision or goal, then I need to be able to say “No” for what is offered, knowing that the vision is of greater value than the resources offered. Only if I am convinced that what is given will really be to the benefit of promoting the vision, may I receive it. Which means to me, that not only do we need to pray about how money is spent, but we also need to pray about how money is received.
Does this make sense?


Thursday, October 25, 2007 - Posted by | Giving, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Jim Collins, Mission, Prayer, Social issues, Support teams, Swaziland


  1. This is hilarious! I am reading Good to Great right now and had the same concerns you did about how it transfers (or not) to the social sector. I’ll be buying the follow up book on the social sector once I finish this. What I love about this book is that it is based on real research rather than ideology. I am still trying to wrap my mind around some things, but over all I completely agree with this author. So funny we’re basically working on the same things! LOL

    Comment by Maya | Friday, October 26, 2007 | Reply

  2. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Let me know how you think it can help us in practice once you’re through.
    I just want to check: Have you read Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Andre Solshenitsyn yet 😉

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, October 26, 2007 | Reply

  3. “I just want to check: Have you read Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Andre Solshenitsyn yet”

    Uh…I don’t quite follow. 😀

    Comment by Maya | Friday, October 26, 2007 | Reply

  4. Just joking! I thought you were reading the same stuff I’m reading. I’m hooked on the Russian authors. But I was just pulling you’re leg 😉

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, October 26, 2007 | Reply

  5. Oh! You know, my husband was reading some of the Russian authors, but to my shame, I haven’t. I wish I had much more time to read!

    Comment by Maya | Friday, October 26, 2007 | Reply

  6. Paul Yancey mentions in one of his books that he visited Russia shortly after glasnost and perastroyka were implemented. He then spoke to some Christians about how they had kept their faith during communist times, especially since they were not allowed to have Bible where they could read the gospel. The man answered him that the government had indeed forbidden them to own a Bible, but they forgot to tell them not to read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and that is where they learnt about the gospel.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, October 26, 2007 | Reply

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