Consider the possibilities

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September 21, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 20 Issue 19
Darren Pries-Klassen,

In our transformation from Mennonite Foundation of Canada to Abundance Canada, we have received several responses from our clients and constituency. While most of the feedback has been positive, there have been others who have expressed opposition to our rebranding. The most common concern is that by changing our name we are changing our values.

Change is hard. Uncomfortable. Unsettling. Even the smallest alteration to our patterns and routines requires some rewiring. It takes energy and can affect our emotions. Likewise, changing the name of an established and trusted organization carries with it a sense of loss; something that was no longer exists.

While it is true that our name and logo are changing, requiring a little time for all of us to adjust, it would be a mistake to assume this also means that our values, and subsequently our integrity, are changing with it.

All organizations, whether for profit or not-for-profit, are guided by the values and objectives as determined by the board of directors and senior leadership. These values and objectives need to be reflected in the daily activity and service of staff and volunteers. In time, a reputation is established. An organization’s name becomes associated with the service it provides and the contribution it makes. It is not the name of the organization itself that determines what an organization will do or what it will be. It is the other way round. To believe an organization’s name has the power to determine its values and integrity is giving the name too much credit.

There is some sadness in losing the word “Mennonite” from our name. It is a word we understand. It offers comfort and familiarity. In a recent conversation, a friend described it well by using a sailing metaphor. He said, and I paraphrase, “in becoming Abundance Canada, people are feeling unmoored from the harbour that is called Mennonite. You can still dock at the harbour, and many people know this as their port of call, but in rebranding to Abundance Canada, you are declaring your love for the wider sea of generosity and stewardship.”

We would have served the wider church using the name “Mennonite Foundation of Canada,” but our research was clear. While most non-Mennonites think well of Mennonites, that does not translate into a willingness to work with an organization they perceive works only with one denominational stripe. The vast majority of people we surveyed hold the view that since “Mennonite” was in our name, then we must work exclusively with Mennonites. From a marketing and ministry standpoint, this is an enormous barrier to overcome. A name change provides space to have the conversations we would otherwise not be able to have.

Moving forward, we are building on 42 years of hard work, a solid reputation, and not least of all, God’s provision and blessing. Abundance Canada will continue to be a Christian faith-based organization that facilitates gifts for charity with an active ministry in teaching biblical stewardship. The board of directors and the staff are committed to this, just as we are committed to sharing our services with a broader constituency.

Take a moment and consider the possibilities when the wider church in Canada embraces an abundant God and shares accordingly. It would be selfish to keep the message of generosity to ourselves.

Darren Pries-Klassen is the executive director of Abundance Canada. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, visit MennoFoundation.ca.

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