Creative Leadership

Why The Back End Matters for Nonprofits and Ministries

When it comes to helping media ministries, or local churches with branding and marketing issues, we’ve been very fortunate at Cooke Media Group. Over the years, we’ve seen our strategies work very well for our clients, and when it comes to media ministries, some have more than doubled their audiences under our watch. But even when we’ve achieved such unusual success, it’s often for naught when the rest of the process is flawed or doesn’t work.

For instance, a number of years ago, we worked with a client to re-brand the ministry and transform their television program.  All went very well.  We re-structured the program, designed a new set, re-thought the lighting, upgraded the look and feeling of the program.  And the response increased.  The program was going great – until we discovered discovered the ministry’s donor file was corrupted.

As a result,  John Doe in Tulsa was getting the products John Doe in Cleveland had ordered.  And people who had made sizable donations never received a thank you letter. Other mistakes were made and it began to snowball.  When we pointed out the problem, the folks inside the ministry got very defensive, and fought us for months, all the while losing potentially hundreds of thousands of important donor dollars. They refused to listen, until after an enormous amount of financial damage, brand equity, and trust were lost.

In other ministry cases, customer service needed help.  In still others, follow up was missing altogether. For instance, if you have supporters or audience members ordering a product once, but never again – that should be a red flag that you have a significant problem.

The bottom line is that no matter how great a job you’re doing increasing your audience, growing your congregation, or expanding your donor list, if they’re not staying around very long, you’ve got a problem with the back-end.  Growing your audience, congregation, or donor pool is critically important.  But ultimately, it won’t matter if you’re not creating a sense of community, valuing the donor, and giving them reasons to continue with their support.

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  1. Ouch…painful to remember this event, Phil.

    Sadly, I have seen it so often it became a chapter in my book “21 Best Ways To Raise Less Money”.

    Want to know how you are doing?

    Test the system. Don’t ask staff how long it takes to get a thank you letter or product out the door, test it yourself. Call the call center. Go online and ask a question.

    Survey the donors, ask them how you are doing. Give them an easy and safe way to complain if they need to.

    Don’t be afraid of what you learn. Once you know the truth, anything can be corrected.

  2. Wow, very true and great advice. There are so many things that need to go right to make a great TV show, but it only takes one thing in the "whole operation" to kill a response and the great show gets labeled as a "bad show" for the wrong reason and after time you don't produce the shows you really should be producing.  

  3. Reminds me of Larry Osborne's book "Sticky Church" – he talks about closing the back door. Most churches have huge masses of people leaving out the back and they can't put their finger on why their declining or stagnant. 

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