Ministry and marketing seem like an oil and water thing to many poeple. Can’t mix. Shouldn’t mix. WON’T mix. Marketing is the “M” word when it comes to ministry.

The problem is that even if you don’t think in marketing terms about your ministry, you will end up doing marketing things anyway, even if you call them by another name. If we didn’t have marketing, we’d have to invent it. So, let’s just make sure we are defining marketing usefully.  Continue reading Wait…what?

What do donors care about?

In a word, donors care about passion. Your passion. Their passion.

Givers want to know and feel your passion. They experience your passion when they see how you are serving. And how your serving matches your words. When it comes to giving, it’s a good thing that givers know that you give, too. Conventions around privacy limit what we can be comfortable sharing about our own giving, but the Bible helps us out by teaching about tithing—code for a level of giving that is challenging for sure, but historically and culturally meaningful and understood by most as a level that will stretch most budgets and bless the giver as well as the receiver.

Donors care even more about their own passion. Donors are compelled to believe that the causes they support with their hard-earned cash are worthy. What builds donor passion? Donor experiences.

The latest thinking in fundraising pulls together generally accepted and commonly understood knowledge about donor motivation into a cogent body of facts and principles called Donor Experience Management, or DXM. More about this in future posts.

There is no better way for ministry leaders to build donor passion that by offering them experiences that bring them closer to the objects of their stewardship and generosity. While serving as a volunteer executive leader for a leading prison ministry, I spent a day at the country’s largest federal prison for women participating in a rally, praying with inmates, and just watching Christ at work. Over eight years of involvement with that ministry, there was nothing that came close to that experience for building my passion and alignment with the mission of that group.

Later, as an executive with a ministry to military members and families, I spent an hour one Sunday morning at one of the US Armed Forces basic training centers participating in a Gospel presentation by one of our staff members. As the trainees filed out when the session was over, I stood and shook hands, gave hugs, and said thanks while several hugged back and left a wet spot on my shirt where their tears of gratitude and joy left a thank you note. Seven years of experiences with that ministry all boil down to that one wet spot as a tangible memory of my passion for the cause.

What can you do as a ministry leader to encourage life-changing experiences for your givers?

Beware of the “Ediface Complex”

C. Northcote Parkinson was the author of Parkinson’s Law back before business books became everyday fare. One of his memorable ideas was the “ediface complex” which said that a sure sign of organizational decline, no matter what other factors seemed to indicate, was the construction of a grand new headquarters.

Are you planning a capital campaign? Why? How will the resulting ediface strengthen your true mission? Be honest, now.

Should we use Twitter?

ku-xlargeThe only way to make Twitter useful for your ministry is for your ministry to have its own Twitter page and for someone to take ownership of that page and regularly post tweets and use the other Twitter tools to help create a presence for the ministry and draw people who use Twitter to your website resources or other resources you think valuable. Continue reading Should we use Twitter?

The 3 Questions

Challenge: Spend time in every staff meeting for the next year working on your answers to these three questions:

  1. How has God called us to serve?
  2. Who has God called us to serve?
  3. How will we know when we are serving according to God’s will for our ministry?

Thoughtful, detailed answers to these questions for your church or ministry will get to the heart of what you are supposed to be doing, who you are being called to reach, and how you will know when you are succeeding in God’s will. Continue reading The 3 Questions

I love to tell the story

storyhymnI love to tell the story of unseen things above,

Of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love;

I love to tell the story because I know ’tis true,

It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

This old hymn should ring true and evoke a familiar feeling for everyone involved in ministry communications. We do love to tell the story over and over of Jesus and his love. But too often, we just talk about ourselves

Telling God’s story as it plays out in lives and history of ourselves and our church and ministry is what ministry marketing communications should spend most of its energy doing. There are ever enough stories about how God has intervened in a life, transformed a spirit, changed what seemed like a destiny.

Yes, you also need to attend to the mundane: event calendars, news, resource descriptions, financial appeals and results, and  statements of beliefs. But the core of our task is to keep telling the gospel story to new ears, in new generations, in new contexts.

Remember the hymn and sing it yourself when you’re wondering about the next post to your blog.

Planning basics

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:3 (NRSV)

An empty planning template can be a scary thing. All that white space. How should I know what’s going to work or not work during the next 12-14 months?

I like starting with the end in mind, which I think is the second habit of highly effective people (7 Habits). Start planning by visualizing the report you would like to give at the end of the planning period. It’s a year from now. You’re being interviewed. What would you like to say? After all, “Where there is no vision (of the end result), the people perish….” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).

Planning is creating the roadmap for getting there, now that you’ve seen what “there” looks and sounds like.

Work backwards from the end, the goal. All the way back to the very next step.

Finally, commit your work to the Lord and tell others about your plan. Help them to see that same vision you started with. Repeat until everyone knows.

Technology: Handle with Care

dibbleThere is nothing easier than getting involved and over-involved with today’s easy-to-use technologies. And nothing potentially so damaging for your ministry. Take this from someone who has built, sold, marketed and used software technologies for more than 30 years. They can be a great blessing, or a life-threatening curse. Continue reading Technology: Handle with Care

How to increase revenue

Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.  Proverbs 11:14 (NRSV)

The wisdom of many counselors, as the Bible tells us, can be a good thing. All that counsel will be especially helpful when it boils down to some very simple ideas.

Every organization that I know of that is not fully endowed—every church, every ministry—wants to bring in more money. Much is written about increasing revenue and donations, as it should. But, actually, there are only two ways to do so:

  1. Get more customers or donors.
  2. Generate more revenue or giving per donor.

There is only one way to get more donors:

  1. Make sure you add more donors than you lose.

And finally, there are only two ways to generate more giving per donor:

  1. Increase the average gift. 
  2. Increase the frequency of the gifts.

These principles comprise all the knowledge and counsel you will ever get about increasing funding. The reason why it’s important to keep these ideas in mind is so you can test every idea, plan and program against them. If you cannot see and measure how what you or one of your counselors wants to do will get more customers or donors (net), or how it will generate more revenue per customer, then you’d better think of something else. Sounds easy? It’s not. But it is simple.

Future posts will unpack these ideas. Would love to know your reactions, and especially why you think it’s more complicated than what I’ve explained.

I sure do agree that any ministry’s spiritual leader, usually the senior pastor or executive director, should make it a priority to motivate and support development staff. Unfortunately, many leaders are unable or unwilling to provide the kind of encouragement and support that fundraisers need. This may be because leaders don’t understand the grammar or exigencies of fundraising, or harbor beliefs that fundraisers put the ministry’s image at risk by being too aggressive or crass. Leaders should equip themselves to come alongside fundraisers and reinforce clear, compelling asks that help donors make their giving decisions. This starts with projecting an inspiring vision and making sure that all stakeholders share it.

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Leveraging Ministry

It’s important for the spiritual leader of the ministry to take time to motivate and support the development team, to encourage them in their ministry of development, to share how crucial their efforts are in fulfilling the mission.

 Development workers need to understand that by going into development, they have not left “ministry.” In fact, through the money they raise, they are actually leveraging more ministry, reaching more people, making a greater impact. If indeed they have the gifts to thrive as development workers, they are making a greater contribution to the ministry than they could by other means! Raising money for a ministry that successfully spreads the Gospel means the development worker shares in a tremendous harvest — far greater than anything he could have accomplished on his own, or that the ministry could have accomplished without his development work.

* Like what you just read and…

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No Vision

Recently met the president of a small ministry that wants to get bigger. Heard several hours of explanation about their core product/service, their homegrown products, their history, and their great team. Never heard a word about their vision. This takes me by surprise because you almost always hear about the vision, even when they’ve got the wrong idea about vision. It seems everyone knows they ought to have a vision and that it’s one of the first things they talk about.

I left the meeting wondering what they were aspiring to. How big is the audience for their special way to do evangelistic outreach and disciple new believers? They don’t know. How big are they now? I don’t know. In the end, I felt they are either trying to hide how small they are, or that they really don’t have a vision for where they can go that they believe in.


Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:3 (NRSV)

An empty planning template can be a scary thing. All that white space. How should I know what’s going to work or not work during the next 12-14 months?

I like starting with the end in mind, which I think is Stephen Covey’s second habit of highly effective people. Start planning by visualizing the report you would like to give at the end of the planning period. It’s December 2012. You’re being interviewed. What would you like to say? After all, “Where there is no vision (of the end result), the people perish….” (Proverbs 29:18).

Planning is how you will get there, now that you’ve seen what “there” looks and sounds like.

Work backwards from the end, the goal. All the way back to the next steps.

Finally, commit your work to the Lord and tell others about your plan. Help them to see that same vision you started with. Repeat until everyone knows.

More details to follow.

Organizational Partnering…Why?

Organizations, including ministries and churches, love to partner. Partnering evokes community, good will, mutuality, expansion, and friendship. Maybe even ecumenicism. All good things. When your organization struggles in a fiercely competitive marketplace or crowded fundraising environment, we want to believe that good partnering will mean strength in numbers, joining forces for greater good, and joyous synergy. Continue reading Organizational Partnering…Why?

Forests and Trees

Are you a forests person or a trees person? If you don’t know what I’m getting at here, you’d better read on!

How many times has an explanation of something new to you become so confusing that you just give up try to understand? Or worse, you don’t realize until later that you don’t really have the context for the thing, and so the thing makes no sense? Forest1

Context = forest

Thing(s) = trees

Here, at M&M, we care about context, about thoughtware before software, about true understanding taking place prior to decision-making. The start of this happens when you stop and make sure you understand the context of the thing before deciding you understand the thing.

We are marketers, after all. The market is always the context for the product, or the campaign. Know your market and know your chances of success.

The most powerful word in marketing

You may be among those who have yet to hear that the most powerful word in marketing new(or really, promotion) is “new!” More powerful even than “free” and able to leap tall buildings, too. Everyone reacts to “New,” no matter what the product. But for ministry types, is this a problem? Doesn’t Ecclesiastes teach that “there is nothing new under the sun”? Are we misleading our audience when we claim “new”? No, people love new and will accept a new anything: book, newsleterr, blog, new hymn…well, maybe not that, program, etc.

Use “New” sparingly but use it.

Continue reading The most powerful word in marketing

Mis-Branded by Association

Sometimes your best branding efforts can be undermined if you are perceived a priori as part of something the reader thinks is a bad or questionable thing. The only thing to do is avoid reference to the association, even if it hurts.

This recent column in the New York Times provides insightful commentary on the problem of being an evangelical Christian in our time. Here is a secular writer lamenting the distrust between evangelicals and secular aid agencies that prevent partnerships between them.

I know from my own experience what harm the evangelical label can do even to a large ministry. Continue reading Mis-Branded by Association

The rules of marketing, part 1

Red maple leafIt was inevitable that sooner or later I’d write about marketing “rules.” Everyone else does. My instinct is to stay away from defining rules, because they usually prove you wrong down the road. Maybe the first rule of marketing is to remain adaptive. If marketing is all about how your ministry relates to its environment…at least that’s one way to look at marketing…then remaining adaptive is the only path to sustainability. If the market moves on or changes in some fundamental way, or through a kind of mutation becomes more segmented and therefore more complex, and you don’t adapt, well, you will begin to atrophy. Growth will stop and you will decline. Don’t let that happen. Approach every new season with a new curiosity about how things have changed. Not whether they’ve changed, but how they’ve changed. Take some time each year or quarter or milestone moment to look around and ask, “How are things different now from what they were before?”

Think Twice, It’s NOT Alright

A recent study indicates that fundraising works better if preceded by effective planning and surrounded by solid management. Sounds obvious when you say it like this, but what wasn’t obvious is that survey data showed that donations and grants earmarked for building fundraising capacity do not show as good a return as money aimed at good management. This is worth a thought or two….

The Limited Returns on Fundraising Support for Nonprofits | Stanford Social Innovation Review.