We’re pleased to continue the Nonprofit Leader Spotlight with today’s guest, Brian Bishop. Brian serves as Director of Development at Turning Point, the broadcast ministry of Dr. David Jeremiah. Every week Turning Point releases 37,381 airings of Dr. Jeremiah’s daily radio program domestically and internationally. Turning Point Television reaches nearly every home in the U.S. Internationally, Turning Point Television broadcasts into Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East. Turning Points Magazine & Devotional have a consistent monthly circulation to more than 359,000 homes. Under Bishop’s leadership donations have increased to an unprecedented level. Please enjoy this conversation with Brian Bishop.
HS: Tell me about your career trajectory thus far that has taken you to Turning Point.
BB: I always had a heart for ministry. I started volunteering at my local church as a teen helping with summer camps, children’s church, and puppet ministry. I was in ministry at a church in Nashville for nine years then as Director of Ministry Sales at Thomas Nelson Publishing helping organizations raise money with our product. There was a lot to learn at Thomas Nelson. In 2011, Paul Joiner from Turning Point made a recommendation about the School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. He said that he thought I’d learn a lot and that I’d have an in-depth overview not only from the product side but the strategy and marketing, leading to my certification as a fundraising manager. In the ten years I worked for Thomas Nelson I was at Turning Point [in California] at least once a month helping them with strategy.
The biggest key to my early success was we had already established trust before I was ever an employee. When it was time for me to join the Turning Point staff, the leadership already knew me. I had been out here 120 times or more in ten years. I understood the heartbeat of the ministry, the lingo, the tempo, the unique peculiarities that live within any nonprofit. So that made the leap a lot easier. My skill set was more from an executive perspective. I understood the budgeting process, financial analysis, project management, leadership principles. I understood a lot of the things people in fundraising spend a lot of years honing. I built those skills outside of the fundraising world in ministry and then in business. I’m really grateful for that because I had the unique opportunity to build something with good core business practices but with a ministry heart. Leading with a ministry is perspective is crucial here. It affects everything: how you interact with your staff, issues the ministry is facing. Everything has more heart to it than analysis. I’ve really appreciated being back in that world. There’s what’s right to do for the bottom line or health of the ministry but then there’s what’s right to do in the lives of your people in the ministry. It’s a little more of a soulful approach to my leadership style now.
HS: Tell us more about your role at Turning Point.
BB: We’re a little bit different as a fundraising team in that a lot of development people have to be great marketers as well. They have to write the cases for support, direct mail, and build those outward facing strategies on their own. But we don’t do that here. We have a creative department here led by Paul Joiner. We work closely together every single day. We’re working on strategy in advance, so we are already well into 2017 with what will be on TV, radio, and in the mail. It helps me strategically plan. We ask ourselves, “What are the big issues we’re going to tackle with our major donors next year?” We have a lot of people who give to Turning Point. I do face to face or in person direct communication with partners. I handle the 6500 donors that meet that criteria. That’s grown from 5000 when I started two and a half years ago. I want to be a good steward.
My days are spent with my team. I have people who work in the field who I speak with most every day. There’s a lot of vision casting, strategy, discussion about what’s happening at the ministry because donors love to hear stories. If I hear something good, I disseminate it to the entire group. We have a mid-level phone team. I’m down there talking to them at least once a day making sure they know they’re part of something larger than just calling 500 donors each month. My personality style is very interactive, collaborative, inspiring, and gregarious. That’s the way I lead. I try to make sure everyone feels energized. I try to make sure people know that we love them, care for them, and we take an interest in their personal life. I work interdepartmentally with the CFO. We meet most every day and forecast. I get to use my business roots and analyze and strategize and say “Ok, if we want to tackle that then what does it look like?” Rarely does someone just hand me a number and say ok go raise “X” amount of money. I spend a lot of my time in the process determining what the “X” is and what is the best way to get there for the ministry. And I carry my own portfolio. I do call partners personally and I help make connections to other partners. I work to make those connections. The more people are talking about Turning Point the better. if there’s a “car” guy on the east coast and a “car” guy on the west coast, I want to get those guys together. They’ll talk about the cars and the ministry. They’ll talk about all those things together.
HS: What is the connection between your work in publishing and the work you are doing now?
BB: Identifying transferable skills is what the ministry saw in me, and what I saw in others. When I was working for one of Dr. Jeremiah’s publishers, they knew they were getting more than just “Here’s the books Thomas Nelson is selling. Don’t you want to raise money with them?” It was learning the needs of the ministry. This broadcast ministry is heavy with content, lots of books, audio, video. We have messages that have been on TV and radio 20 plus years.
They saw that I love the ministry, know about the product, and can help by showing what works in other parts of the industry because I’ve seen how everybody uses product to raise more money. When I came on at Turning Point, I knew I was going to be allowed to build my own team. I looked for people who didn’t necessary have a strict fundraising background but were excellent storytellers. I brought two such people on in my first year and a half. They can engage partners, make that connection and also craft a story.
HS: What is your career advice to someone who is attracted to the path that you’ve taken?
BB: The mistake I made early in ministry is that I tried to be what everyone else wanted me to be. I tried to fit the mold. Being yourself is a must. It’s how God made you. God gave me these gifts and callings. I definitely do better in an environment where I’m having fun and it’s positive. I like autonomy. I like to build trust with whoever I work for.
Also, my advice is that whatever you get involved with—if it’s not personally important to you but it’s a great opportunity and job, it’s not a pathway to success. There’s lots of fundraising jobs I could have taken. What was important to me, and what’s still important to me, is that people come to know Christ through solid Bible teaching. There’s no better place in my opinion than Turning Point. You don’t have to know it all. You have to be humble and teachable.
And read a lot. I recommend Jerold Panas. I’m a big John Maxwell fan. I recommend Keith Rosen’s book, “Coaching Sales People into Sales Champions,” which I think has many transferable lessons to the nonprofit fundraising world. I read AFP and Chronicle. It helps to read about what other organizations are doing. We’re always trying to tell a story to raise awareness and raise money. There’s so much to learn from everybody else. It takes the pressure off of me to know it all. Start somewhere. Start by doing it for free.
HS: Can you share a little about your experience working with Pursuant? Did anything surprise you? Why have you chosen to work with us?
BB: What I like about Pursuant is that it really is a one stop shop for anybody. Need a capital campaign? They have an answer for that. We’re in contracts for a major donor campaign. It’ll be over in about a year and I’m already looking for ways to engage Pursuant beyond that time frame.
I really appreciate their mentoring. You have so many people with specialized talent in education, religious institutions, and medical. These are people who have devoted their life to that. You have a broad spectrum of help available no matter the fundraiser. I appreciate that. I know I’m not getting the “religious nonprofit” viewpoint; I’m getting all of the nonprofit viewpoint. Everybody has been stellar. They’re the best of best. And I really appreciate what they bring from a strategic/analysis perspective.
We have a companion in ministry. They are always willing to jump in and help. Pursuant has definitely been one of the keys in my ability to do this job. The folks at Pursuant have taught me a lot about making connections with donors and between donors. Pursuant is a part of our team.
Our thanks to Brian Bishop at Turning Point for taking the time to share his experience and insight with us. Learn more about Turning Point at davidjeremiah.org.