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Making Digital Communication Work

Making Digital Communication Work

Using technology to communicate vision and maximize fundraising success and how to make it work for you.

Looking to maximize your church's effectiveness in raising funds for its missions? Communicate your vision through the right channels to reach the right audiences. Create visual and audio environments that inform, inspire, and call to action and follow it all up by making the process of giving as near-effortless as possible.

Sounds challenging? It is. To make things a bit easier, however, we've put together some advice, both from experts and people like you.

Making Social Media Work

Done right, Web-based communication whether via a church website or through social media outlets can be an excellent way to get your message in front of the right people, according to Jim Sheppard, CEO and principal of Generis, an Atlanta-based church fundraising/capital campaign consultant.

"If your church has 1,291 Facebook Likes,' then you know there are 1,291 people who want to hear from your church," he says, "and who need to hear from you during an initiative to build generosity or anything else."

"The important thing is to get the pastor's vision out," Sheppard adds, "bearing in mind that you have to keep it interesting and that you can't just throw a bunch of words and pictures out there. You have to tell your story."

Smart churches, Sheppard says, are making their messaging personal in the social media realm by putting the pastor's voice front and center. "The more you incorporate the pastor's voice, the more traction your message is going to get," he explains. "People are not interested in just hearing from the church. They want to hear what it is the pastor has to say."

A church can choose to simply tweet or post to its Facebook page a note that states, "We have a great message this Sunday, and we want you to be there." Or, Sheppard explains, "The pastor can post, I've stumbled onto one of the biggest Aha!' moments I've had in ten years, and I will be sharing that with you this Sunday.'" The latter approach is much more likely to generate increased attendance, according to Sheppard.

"This would be an example of a church that has figured out how to be effective with social media," he says, "as opposed to those who are just throwing stuff against the wall.'"

Leveraging the Website

Using your church website to communicate your church's vision takes careful planning, advises Allen Cotton, information technology director at Lakeside Presbyterian Church in Brandon, Miss.

"The most important thing is to communicate your message in a way that is simple yet effective," Cotton says. "Much of the time, websites will have everything crammed into the homepage, which makes people have to do a lot of sifting to find what they are looking for."

In addition to conveying its vision via the Web, Lakeside Presbyterian is also one of many churches that have adopted online-giving technology. The church recently adopted the platform of Irving, Tex.-based Easy Tithe that, among other features, enables users to make one-time donations, designate specific destinations for their funds, and make recurring contributions.

Enabling an on-line channel makes giving especially easier for "Millennials," the demographic cohort comprised of individuals born after between roughly 1980 and 1995. "One of the biggest things about our age group is that we hardly ever carry cash money," Cotton says. "So, if we are at an event and asked to make a contribution, we don't have cash, but we typically would have a credit or a debit card.

Meanwhile, at Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Salisbury, Md., approximately 5 percent of total offerings came through a newly implemented (2008) online giving system. According to business pastor Mark Reynolds, that number grew in 2013 to some 42 percent.

Through the "giving" section of the church's website, members with profiles established through database software from Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Church Community Builder can sign in and give, be it on a one-time basis or through regularly scheduled giving. "We encourage direct debit through banks," notes Reynolds.

Those without a profile/account, meanwhile, simply enter the site and give via PayPal and credit/debit cards.

What accounts for the success of online giving at Oak Ridge Baptist Church? "You've got to use the right communications channels," Reynolds says.

A culture of giving at Oak Ridge has long been well established. With the advent of the online system, information about the new (and the old) ways of giving were communicated through the church's various discipleship, leadership, and membership classes. Additionally, as part of a recent "90-day challenge" for people who had never before tithed, Lead Pastor Brian Moss outlined the best ways in which to give, with an emphasis on online giving and direct debit.

Creating Effective Visual Presentations

Adam Friesen, pastor of communications at Oasis Community Church, a nondenominational church in Winnipeg, Canada, works with a team of volunteers "on the media side of things."

"Most of our services revolve around providing people with an inside view on what exactly is life-changing as well as what is changing lives at Oasis," Friesen says.

"A lot of people have a distorted impression of churches," he adds. "So, we use video, photography, Facebook, Twitter, and other communications strategies to simply tell people what we do and telling our story through video seems to work the best."

In 2013, Friesen and his team used video extensively during a fundraising campaign, featuring the various charitable organizations that partner with the church in serving the community. Friesen says they focused on "what they need, what they did with their money the prior year, and what they are planning to do this year." A different video with a different focus was shown each week during December, both as part of Sunday morning services and in the church's "life groups," which are small groups that meet regularly for Bible study and support.

Meanwhile, throughout the campaign, Friesen and his team posted still pictures from these videos onto the church Facebook page and added them to its Twitter stream as well, reinforcing what the church was doing "as well as the generosity of the community in general," Friesen says.

Friesen notes that this is an example of using multiple platforms in an effective manner, "not where each platform is presenting the exact same thing, but instead something tailored to the platform itself all with the same goal of getting our message across."

Having a clear picture of what it is you wish to communicate is essential to preparing effective visual presentations, according to Friesen. "You can go out and shoot [video] and come back with a lot of good stuff, but if you don't have your end-goal in mind, your final product can wind up not having a proper call to action,' which is very necessary for actually getting the viewer to do what you have been trying to convince them to."

Setting the Audio/Visual Environment

When it comes to creating audio and visual environments, there is some good news: commercial technology providers are now listening to the church market, and taking its needs into account, reports Lakeside Presbyterian Church's Cotton.

"In the past, the major manufacturers would listen pretty much only to the professional-artist community," Cotton explains. "Today, many of these companies are embracing churches by adapting and evolving their technologies to fit their needs."

Media presentation companies, like Alpharetta, Ga.-based Renewed Vision, are "adding more options to their software, such as support for triple-wide displays," Cotton says.

Hardware-wise, the cost of triple-wide display projectors has dropped dramatically over the last several years and the quality has greatly increased. These changes have enabled some smaller churches to employ them as part of their designs designs Cotton says weren't previously seen in "churches with fewer than 1,500 attendees."

 

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