Recruit strong ministry and marketing leaders who play as a team.

Move #1 in a series of “9 Best Moves” to achieve development goals and maximize fundraising success.

Getting the right people on the “bus” is a well-accepted benchmark for management success in any organization.  But sometimes, recruiting the strongest people means assembling a group of “superstars” who don’t really know how to, or see the importance of, playing as a team.  That is especially true across functions or departments within an organization.

Based on your God-given vision of mission, your first responsibility is to recruit strong players in both ministry and marketing who are more concerned about moving the ministry forward than chalking up “points” for their particular unit.

Yet traditionally, in the Christian arena, there has been a false dichotomy between ministry and marketing.  The age-old question is:

 “Does ministry drive marketing or is it the other way around?”

Ministry “purists” demand that ministry drives marketing.  But my question is always the same:

 “Is your vision for ministry really from God if no one will fund it?”

Those are hard words.  But more than once, I’ve seen vital ministries jeopardized by leaders who ignore what God has placed in the hearts of donors to fund.

This was played out early in my career.  I served in marketing for 12 years at World Vision, ultimately as Vice President.  Near the beginning of my tenure, overseas field leaders wanted to eliminate the highly successful child sponsorship program.  They saw it as paternalistic and inefficient because of all the demands on ministry staff.  Those included keeping track of hundreds of thousands of children, taking new photos of the kids every year and relaying letters between sponsors and sponsored children.  All that detail seemed overwhelming to staff in the field.

WV leadership made the decision in 1985 to cease acquiring new sponsors and allow the program to shrink by attrition.  It was made because it was “the right thing to do” for the ministry.

Within a year, we realized that our second best fundraising offer (behind child sponsorship) didn’t even produce half the return on investment that child sponsorship produced.  Quickly, we restarted sponsorship.  We also formed a team including ministry and marketing staff that spent one year visiting every region to create the best ministry possible within the child sponsorship framework.

The result was Area Development Programs which take child sponsorship funding and use it throughout an entire region for the benefit of both sponsored and unsponsored children.  This remains the dominant ministry model for World Vision today.  And, with annual income of more than $1 billion, World Vision ranks among the world’s top Christian nonprofit organizations.

This same need for collaboration between ministry and marketing has surfaced across many of our clients over the years.  Just recently, Prison Fellowship revised their ministry model in a way that eliminated many of their most effective fundraising offers.  Our staff was graciously allowed to engage with the new leadership to refine some of the ministry decisions so that Prison Fellowship could continue to attract and motivate donors while developing a more efficient field operation and ministry.

 Lead as the captain of one, unified team.

Continually remind and demonstrate to your ministry and marketing staff that we are truly all on the same team.  Ministry and marketing must work in close partnership to be most effective.  If you ignore marketing considerations in ministry decisions, donor support will shrink and in turn, ministry impact will be diminished, often drastically.  Marketing is not a necessary evil.  It’s an essential part of accomplishing God’s work, and it is also, may I dare say, a ministry to the donors.

Build a solid, cross-disciplinary team that capitalizes on the strengths of both ministry and marketing staff members.  And treat your agency as part of your team.  It’s a win-win scenario for both ministry and marketing, and most importantly, for the success and effectiveness of your ministry.

Check back next week to learn about Move #2: Welcome your agency into the locker room. Or enter your email address above to get updates delivered directly to your inbox.