Around this time of year Salvation Army Officers all over Australia are either engaging or avoiding the mammoth task of organising the annual Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal Doorknock in their local community, which is held at the end of May each year. While the Red Shield Appeal is still widely supported by very generous Australians it tends to evoke a love/hate relationship from those tasked with the responsibility to recruit and mobilise an army of volunteer collectors. This is largely due to competing demands on the Officer's time, complacency by a growing number of Salvationists and community fatigue from a continuous stream of fundraising events by other worthy charities.
Still, the necessity of the Red Shield Appeal to funding the mission of The Salvation Army is inescapable and deserves the very best effort from ALL who consider themselves as "Salvos".
As somebody who shadowed my parents from my earliest memory as a collector, who graduated to an area captain at age 14 and as a colleague who has coordinated the Red Shield Appeal as a Corps Officer for the past 20 years in four very different communities, I offer these five principles to recalibrate our collective attitude and approach to the Red Shield Appeal...
- The Red Shield Appeal is EVERYBODY'S responsibility.Irrespective of rank, appointment or position in The Salvation Army we all have a vital part to play. Even if you do not have a direct role in organising the appeal you need to ask yourself, "Am I a servant or steward of the mission of The Salvation Army?" A servant of the mission will do their bit to participate in a good cause but a steward of the mission will take ownership of the same cause. The difference between the two is the degree of resolve you have to do whatever it takes for the mission to succeed! As a servant, the overall success of the appeal is not my responsibility, but as a steward I am a stakeholder in its success.
- The Red Shield Appeal is an OPPORTUNITY not a distraction.I don't know of any Salvation Army Officer who doesn't want to engage their community to advance the kingdom of God through their respective appointments. The Red Shield Appeal provides a powerful platform for this type of engagement with community groups, local businesses and other organisations. Despite recent challenges for The Salvation Army we are still blessed with a high level of community acceptance that provides an open door to build relationships and invite the public to participate in our mission. Once people step through that door, we have an opportunity to cast a 'grander vision' of the 'why' behind the 'what', which can provide life changing pathways for further dialogue and volunteerism beyond the Red Shield Appeal.
- The Red Shield Appeal begins BEFORE it starts!I cannot overstate the importance of networking and nurturing community relationships ALL year round. Waiting until these relationships are needed diminishes the level of engagement that comes from more reciprocal relationships formed before they are necessary. Also, there is a significant difference between approaching warm contacts for assistance than cold canvassing strangers. The energy you invest in this space before the Red Shield Appeal will pay dividends during and after the appeal. You indeed 'reap what you sow' when it comes to building community relationships.
- The Red Shield Appeal MOBILISES an army.
There is no other time of year when large numbers of Salvationists and supporters are united around a common cause and mobilised to saturate the community of a local Corps, with the backing of a PR driven media campaign. Even though the goal of the Red Shield Appeal is to collect money the motivation is to resource mission; and our mission is ultimately to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. The Red Shield Appeal gets us out of our Corps buildings and into the community with an extraordinary message of hope that is manifested through our social programs that serve the most vulnerable people in Australia. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?!
- The Red Shield Appeal rises and falls on YOU.
Leadership expert John Maxwell is often quoted as saying, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." A brief overview of biblical and church history, corporate successes and failures, and social and political revolutions, prove this statement to be true! The uncomfortable truth is your attitude towards the Red Shield Appeal will set the tone for the engagement of others. While there is much about the Red Shield Appeal you cannot control, your attitude is on you. It is a choice. It's a choice that will influence the participation of your congregation and community.
I get the tiredness that comes from coordinating such a large fundraising campaign and I understand the frustration of not having enough collectors. But I cannot help to remain optimistic about the possibilities! It is my genuine hope that these five principles will serve as a challenge and motivator to harness all the opportunities that come with organising and participating in the Red Shield Appeal.