Engaging CultureStrategy & MarketingChristian Media

In a Bad Economy, Don’t Cut Back Your Marketing – Just Re-Focus

Way back in 2008 I wrote a post on how churches, ministries, and non-profits can survive an economic downturn. If you didn’t read it, check it out and pass it on to a church, ministry or nonprofit organization you know is struggling right now. Perhaps just as important would be your media strategy during difficult financial times. If you have a radio, television, web, or other media outreach, here are some things to keep in mind as we get into the summer:

1)  Re-think how your message matches the media. As media theorist Marshall McLuhan said back in the sixties – “The medium is the message.”  He meant that the medium you choose has an enormous impact on the message itself, so make sure what you’re doing is right for radio, TV or whatever media you choose.

2)  Branding is more important than ever because it’s about trust. During difficult economic times, organizations need a solid account of “brand equity” built up with donors or customers. When it’s tough, they’re more likely to give if they trust you.  So don’t let up on your brand and do even more to build up that sense of trust between you and your donors.

3)  Optimize search engines. Now’s the time to help your name rise in the rankings. When you type your organization’s (or your) name into Google or other search engines, does good or bad stuff come up?  Or nothing?  While it’s tricky, results can change. Are others blogging about you?  Are you putting out good things on the web?  If you have bloggers in your church or among your supporters, encourage them to regularly post about how your organization has impacted their lives.  Positive stuff is important. Don’t lose customers or donors searching for you on the web – work on the search results.

4)  Direct Mail still works. In fact, direct mail is still a very large industry because when done right, it’s still working.  But make sure your direct mail is driving people to the web as well.  Get more bang for the buck and focus on developing both marketing avenues together. Direct mail still works, but online is the future.

5)  Don’t be afraid to ask for financial support. Sadly, most Christian media outreaches on both radio and TV work both ends of the spectrum. Some ask for money all the time, while others don’t ask at all. Be honest. Put the need out there, cast your vision, and ask people to partner with you. If you do it with taste and class, urgency is just fine. People actually appreciate it when you’re being straight with them, and if you have a financial need, let them know it.

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  1. Fundraising is not hurt by a downturn in the economy –so be careful not to use that as an excuse if your ministry giving is down.

    Overall, all charity giving is at an all time high.

  2. Mary, I must disagree with you…common mathematics dictates if, in a recession economy, you have a decreasing amount to give out, inevitably you will give less, regardless of your loyalty to any Ministry or Missionary Outreach…hence the need for Non-Profits to get more creative and examine your field of impact and how you are effectively or ineffectively landing in the midst of it…there is a great big world out there and plenty of opportunity…even while the dollars tighten up at home, you can be building and developing a rewarding presence in countries whose economic condition is strong and responsive…the five points that Phil mentions above will work right across the board internationally…with the right team at the table working with you (did I just toot my own horn??)…The Canadian Economy is hugely strong today, the strongest it has been in over 35 years…the CDN $ is currently running at a PAR position with the USD $…the Aussie $ is not far behind being at a PAR with the USD as well…1 UK GBP is worth 2 USD…in the UK, Government paid Gift Aid nets you a further 28p per 1GBP donation you receive…in South Africa, 1 USD currently equates to R7.83 ZAR (talk about getting mileage out of your dollar!)…this is a perfect time to give consideration to what awaits your organization's growth potential outside of domestic USA… 

  3. Hi Fred… I have at my fingertips the giving records of dozens of charities and ministries across the USA.  All are our clients and the overwhelming majority –in fact a greater majority –are up over this time in '07.   Two that aren't were running capitol campaigns last year–so this year did not equal that pull.

    I have been doing this for 30+ years and have seen the cycle before.  It seems that as people feel the squeeze, they become more compassionate to others in worse shape.

    We maintain the database for these clients as well have conducted  file audits for others.  Phil's points are well taken that we need to be more creative..but more to the point…more tuned into what the donor's desires and motivations are.

    Here is a quote for you:  "Donors gave $306.39 billion to charities in the United States during 2007, the first year since 2001 that virtually every category of public charity receiving donations experienced gains. Giving is estimated to have increased last year by 3.9 percent according to the yearbook on philanthropy, released today by Giving USA FoundationTM."  (Note –this is reported annually, so 2008 is not reported yet).

  4. Hi Mary…good to hear back from you…the 2007 stats for giving are indeed very impressive…I will be even more impressed if these same stats hold steady throughout 2008…I too have been "active in the industry" for 25-30 years and have seen cycles like these before…when the economy dips and drops, it usually takes time for its impact on the street to be felt by the everyday individual…possibly a more correct way to express your statement above is "as some people feel the squeeze, they become more compassionate to others in worse shape"…and thank God for this heart-level response…yet there are certainly a number of organizations that are currently in the midst of cutting back, trimming fat and eliminating all unnecessary overhead, primarily due to a decrease in their revenues that they are currently experiencing…while your response above is very positive and definitely indicative of loyal committed donors who support your clients…these are, as stated 2007 stats…and we are now half way thru 2008…perhaps the 2008 numbers will show a much different picture, all the same, a very survivable picture…with God's help, wisdom, direction and continued blessing…it is a pleasure to meet you and interact with you…your website is outstanding and extremely creative…very nicely done…


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