Aspirin doesn’t work
Ministry “schizophrenia” and “masochism” have a variety of side–effects, and ministries that suffer from these diseases concoct a number of responses to deal with them.
There’s a strong tendency to take aspirin for the symptoms, instead of doing the hard work of transplanting the heart — getting a whole new attitude about how ministry happens.
- Ministry leaders struggle and scramble.
- They fire workers, hire others.
- Put a different person in charge of meetings.
- Design a form; make everybody fill it out.
- Et cetera, et cetera.
Many ministries take schizophrenia and masochism into the realm of accounting. They meticulously monitor each of their departments’ expenditures and income. This is fine, on the face of it. But this often leads to a wrongheaded extreme: they want each component of the marketing strategy to return at least its own cost.
- It’s schizophrenia in full bloom: Each member must carry the same weight.
- It’s masochism fully ripened: You don’t produce, I’ll cut you off!
But this approach misses the fact that God’s macro-design for our ministries also applies as a micro-design for our ministry functions.
- One friend is poor; his better–off friend helps him.
- One member is weak; the one who is strong props him up.
- The poor one has other gifts to give;
- Even the weak one has a unique role to play in God’s scheme of things.
This is how the church is designed to function.
Likewise, in the stream of impressions you make upon your donor (the entire body of communications which together make up your marketing strategy), some components will have fundraising muscle; others will be soft. Yet the soft ones can be a blessing — to the donor, and ultimately, to the ministry.
A newsletter, for example, may cost a bundle, relatively, and return virtually nothing (although we’ve found ways to make newsletters and e-newsletters profitable for ministries; ask us how here) — yet the information in that newsletter feeds the donor, deepens her sense of involvement, shows her how her investment is paying off, strengthens her loyalty to the ministry. And the return on a future appeal letter package — the muscle piece — is even stronger as a result.
We must distinguish between direct response strategy and information dissemination strategy.
- Direct response functions (phoning donors to ask for money, sending them appeal letters, emails, texts) don’t fare well as conductors of detailed information. Many ministries have discovered this the hard way.
- On the other hand, most information dissemination devices (newsletters, e-newsletters, books, brochures) don’t stand alone as effective collectors of contributions.
- Yes, the flow of information and the sequence of direct response devices coming into a donor’s life from your ministry should be integrated. Both streams should be related to each other in content.
- But no, the results of each and every item in both halves of the strategy should not be the same — because their purposes are not the same.
If you’d like to discuss this in more detail, we’d be happy to talk with you!