How does your BAM project stack up? Rate it yourself with our guide.
As we explained in the ‘What Is Business As Mission’ article, BAM projects are evaluated in four areas. These are referred to as the multiple bottom lines of a BAM project.
As a reminder, those four areas are the:
- Profit bottom line
- Spiritual bottom line
- Social bottom line
- Environmental bottom line
As one explores the world of BAM, it can be overwhelming to evaluate projects with such a wide variety of impact. So how can we measure whether a project is maximising its missional potential or not? How can I know whether my project is delivering all it can for the Kingdom of God?
To address this, we have developed a scale and grading system so that practioners can self-evaluate what they are doing well, and where they can improve.
Furthermore, for BAM investors this tool can be used to measure prospective investments against, and compare the impact a project may have against other prospective projects.
These benchmarks are born out of over a decade’s worth of experience of being involved in, and exposed to scores of BAM projects all over the world. (Note that whilst we have been specific enough to allow the evaluator to discern between the different grades, we have also been intentional to use language that can accommodate a large variety of projects.)
As we have expanded on elsewhere, while all the bottom lines are valuable and important, we do not believe they are all of equal importance. The fundamental concept of BAM requires a project to be 1) A business and not a ministry/non-profit 2) Doing something for King Jesus. Something spiritual and explicitly Christian.
To highlight this priority, we have a slightly different rating for the primary bottom lines of Profit and Spiritual which are rated on a scale of A-F, and differentiated the secondary bottom lines of social action and environmental impact by rating them on a scale of 5-1.
How to self-score
To score the project you are evaluating—whether it be yours or you are evaluating someone else’s, simply read the description of each score, and assign the one that fits best for honest evaluation of where it is currently. (i.e. Don’t assign a score based on what it could be. Score it according to the score it receives right now.)
Each project should be evaluated against each bottom line and a grade assigned giving it two lettered grades and two numerical grades. The ratings are done in the order listed so Profit, Spiritual, Social, Environmental. For example, a perfect score across all the bottom lines would be a project with an AA55 rating.
Some things to consider before scoring:
The ratings should be treated as a current ‘snapshot‘ of the project rating. A project’s grading will change over time and this evaluation is best used to track how projects are progressing. If a project is scored based on potential instead of what is actually achieving it defeats the purpose of real-time evaluation.
This is analogous to a student who is studying towards a standardised test. Early in their studies, if they take a ‘snapshot’ test, they will not have a top grade. However, as they continue to learn their grades should get better until they receive the top grade they can possibly get.
Top grades aren’t for all
Not all projects have the capacity to score top grades in all categories. While all projects should be aiming to achieve the top score it can get, in some cases, practically speaking, the top grade a project can realisticly get is not going to be top grade listed. Not scoring a top grade does not mean the project is failing. What evaluators should be weighing is the current score vs what is a realistic top score.
This is especially true of projects that are in extreme contexts. e.g. If you’ve opened a BAM project in a militant Muslim context, it may not be practically possible to achieve an A grade in the Spiritual Bottom Line.
To follow on with the student analogy, not all students are A-students. Sometimes we are proud of students who move from an F to a C grade in a subject. The same attitude should be applied to projects evaluated with this tool.
Consider the whole eco-system
In some cases you may need to evaluate the eco-system the project works in and not just the individual BAM project. Some projects partner with outside organisations/ministries to achieve results in specific bottom lines.
For example, imagine a BAM project that is a cafe. Instead of their own staff bringing people to Jesus in the cafe, they have decided to partner with an existing outreach ministry who are active in the cafe, striking up conversations with customers, and they are seeing people come to Jesus regularly. Even though, technically, the people seeing the spiritual fruitfulness are not BAM project members, you can add that fruit into the scoring for the project’s Spiritual Bottom Line.
If you’re unsure whether to include results from partner organisations, you can ask: ‘Would these results happen if the BAM project did not exist?’ If you think ‘yes’, then do not include them in the scoring.
Profit Bottom Line
This business is generating more profit than the business plan predicts. In addition, the business gives more than 10% of it’s profit (or revenue) away and is still generating more cash flow than needed to grow the business.
This business is generating approximately the profit generated in the business plan which makes it easy for it to give 10% of its profit to Christian charitable causes.
This business is approximately breaking even. It isn’t losing money, and it’s covering its costs without trouble. However, the business isn’t able to generate any funds to give away to ministry.
This business is not profitable yet, but is trending towards profitability and expects to be break-even or better within 12 months.
This business is not profitable and is not trending to profitability within 12 months. Projects that are achieving good spiritual, social, and/or environmental results but are not close to profitability may better be classified as a ministry or a social enterprise rather than a business.
Spiritual Bottom Line
This project is successfully seeing people far from God, coming into a discipleship relationship with Jesus every month. This project has strategically found appropriate ways to share the gospel with their employees, customers, suppliers, competitors and neighbours; anyone the project touches. The communities in which this project serves knows the people working for the project as Christians who are more reliable, more honest, and more generous than other non-Christians that they know. Jesus is revered because of the way this project operates.
This project is regularly seeing people come to Christ every year. People who come into contact with the project know that it is a Christian project. There has been some work to identify where might be appropriate places to share the gospel and do bible studies with their employees, customers, and suppliers. However, more work can be done to maximise the missional potential of the project.
This project is known as Christian project by the community in which it serves. It catalyses people coming to Christ but without regularity. There are bible studies with Christian participants and the staff are held to the high moral standards of biblical behaviour that exceeds their legal requirements.
This project, run by a Christian leadership team who are serious about their faith, but has never seen someone come to Christ. Only a minority of the community in which it operates know that it is a Christian run organisation.
This project may be achieving significant social and/or environmental benefit to the community, but it is not known as a Christian project. There is little effort to ensure a Christian God centred leadership team which in time has resulted in non-Jesus-following leaders wielding significant influence over the vision and values of the organisation. No one has come to Christ through the work of the project. The surrounding community has no idea it is a Christian purpose and would not notice a difference if another non-Christian faith group took over operations.
Social Bottom Line
This project is delivering significant change to the community it serves. Every month there are stories about lives being changed by the work. The neighbourhoods in which it works are seeing material change because of the presence of this project. Others who hear about this project request it being expanded to other areas of need and the project grows into other areas every few months. The project generates the tangible reality of the ‘Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’.
This project is delivering significant change to the community it serves. Every month there are stories about lives being changed. The participants who’s lives are touched are taking that change to others but perhaps not whole neighbourhoods are changing yet. Others who hear about the project request it being expanded to other areas and the project has multiplied beyond its first site.
This project is delivering change to the community it serves and people’s lives are being changed but it takes several months for that change to occur. The wider community, even those not served directly by it, are grateful to have the project in the neighbourhood.
This project is delivering change to a handful of people’s lives. While the change in the lives of those helped is significant, it is focused on the few and not many. Consequently, it is not well known in the neighbourhood, and there are no plans to expand the work within the next 12 months.
This project is not directly making the lives of the community in which it serves better outside of providing employment and spiritual discipleship. It may be providing employment as a business function, and leading people to Christ as a spiritual function but it is not yet meeting external needs that make the community it serves a better place to live and/or work.
Environmental Bottom Line
This project is bringing renewal to the earth in multiple ways leading to the physical transformation of the community in which it serves. It is reducing the negative impact of human or natural phenomenon that is hurting the environment, and at the same time it establishing new positive impactful ways to manage the physical landscape in which it serves. (An example may be that it has removed all the waste from an areas and replaced it with life giving beautiful art or gardens changing the environment from a negative to a positive locations for those who live there.) The project is so successful that others who hear about its impact request it be expanded to new location which it does every few months.
This project is bringing renewal to the earth in multiple ways leading to the physical transformation of the community in which it serves. It is reducing the negative impact of human or natural phenomenon that is hurting the environment, and at the same time it establishing new positive and impactful ways to manage the physical landscape in which it serves. (An example may be that it has removed all the waste from an areas and replaced it with life giving beautiful art or gardens changing the environment from a negative to a positive locations for those who live there.) The project is so successful that others who hear about its impact request it be expanded to new location. It has multiplied to more than one location.
This project is bringing renewal to the earth in one or two very effective ways which is creating a significant benefit for the community in which it operates. It may be either removing a negative impact of human or natural phenomenon, or it is introducing positive ways that make the local environment better for the community. It is effective at what it does but it is only working in one community and is focused in only one or two methodologies and unlikely to expand in the near future.
This project is attempting to bring renewal to the earth with one or two good ideas, but so far they have not yet delivered the impact they had hoped. However, they hope to be fully operational within 12 months whereupon they expect to be delivering impact that makes the environment better for the community in which they serve.
This project is not delivering any environmental impact at present and is not likely to for the foreseeable future. It may be that this BAM project does not have much opportunity to deliver environmental change based on the nature of the work it does, or it hasn’t considered how it can adopt operational changes that can deliver environmental benefit.