Out with the Old and In with the New? Understanding “New Power”

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While most of us readily admit our culture is changing, fewer of us are certain what that means for our institutions. That lack of certainty can be paralyzing. As a result, we often find ourselves following the same course. While such an approach may not bring continued long-term success, for many, it appears safer than retooling our own skills or recreating our organizations in a changing world. Staying the same, however, is not the answer.

Recently, The Lake Institute on Faith and Giving hosted Henry Timms, the Executive Director of the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the founder of #GivingTuesday.  Timms’ focused on the notion of “new power.”  Timms notes that institutional models are shifting. Old models, such as many traditional denominations, are managed top-down, rely on professionalization and expertise, while asking for long-term affiliation without broad participation. New models, however, are more focused on transparency and co-production. They allow individuals to opt-in around mutual interests and share in leadership rather than require exclusivity and formal membership. For new power models, think Etsy and Uber versus big box stores or regulated taxis. Here is a link to his article in the Harvard Business Review

When it comes to leadership and fundraising, what might faith-based organizations learn from a new power lens?

  1.    Cultivate owners over donors. Developing a relationship is more important than securing a gift. Donors have a need to engage with our work, and our institutions need that level of engagement. Through the lens of new power, donors are often co-collaborators, not simply resources to be developed.
  2.    Focus on developing context more than content. Polished marketing materials are important, but creating space for those invested in your work to come together and share their insights might lead to greater collaboration and even better ideas than those our closed systems have to offer.
  3.    We need less superheroes and more super-conductors. Timms’ views of new power treats leadership less as a currency that some have and others do not and more as a current that others can tap into. Therefore, leadership is defined as less celebrity pastor and CEO and more shared with those inside and outside the organization in order to make social change a reality. For new power, social change is defined less by institutions and more by movements, and a movement only exists if it can move without you.

Are you willing to open our institutions to experiment with new models and values?


The Lake Institute on Faith and Giving exists to explore the relationship between faith and giving.  The Lake Institute offers programs and seminars focused on faith based giving such as:

  • Creating Congregational Cultures of Generosity
  • Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising
  • Spiritual Values and Philanthropic Discernment

David P. King is the Karen Lake Buttrey Director of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving as well as Assistant Professor of Philanthropic Studies within the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He arrived at IUPUI in 2014 after serving as Assistant Professor of Christian History at Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis,TN. He earned his Ph.D. from Emory University with a specific interest in American religious history and its intersections with the growing field of world Christianity. His recent research focuses on the rise of evangelical relief and development NGOs, religious humanitarianism, and religion’s engagement with international affairs. He is passionate about research and teaching but as an ordained minister having served local churches and national faith-based organizations, he is also fueled by facilitating conversations with faith leaders, donors, and fundraisers (of all generations) around the intersections of faith and giving. Contact the lake institute at lfi@iupui.edu or on twitter @LakeInstitute.

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