AGRM Conference Preview: Building a successful rescue mission digital presence

Today we’ll be sharing a lesson from an upcoming presentation on how Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission has achieved outstanding growth digitally for the past eight years.

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission is an industry leader in effective digital marketing for rescue missions. The pioneering work that has been done sets an example for rescue missions around the country to follow.

SUGM Internet Income YOY

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission has achieved significant growth through a number of lessons we’ll share at AGRM this month.

I have the honor of teaching alongside Heidi Matthews, Digital Marketing Specialist at UGM, at the upcoming Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM) Convention in Seattle (Friday May 29 at 3:15p).

Heidi and I have put our heads together to uncover what lessons we can share from growing web revenue by 331.9% over the last eight years – and 109% over the past three years alone.

Among the lessons, I want to highlight one in particular:

Content matters (and gets results too!)

My favorite insights are the ones that on the surface seem simple and straight forward. Content matters — no duh, right?

But think about it — have you ever been a part of a website redesign? Which gets more attention — design or copy/content? If your experience is like many others, you sweat over every detail related to getting the design and feel just right. And a few weeks before launch, someone ventures “hey, we should probably take a look at the copy beyond the home page.” Addressing the actual content of the site is often an afterthought. After all, who wants to rewrite an entire website? It’s called a website redesign after all — it’s too easy to focus on design at the expense of forgetting about a serious effort to overhaul content.

Instead, most organizations push content to the back burner, simply bringing over the same tired, uninspiring content from website redesign to website redesign.


Focusing exclusively on design at the expense of content is like fretting over a beautiful stage with no play. Content is what moves people!

Here’s the problem with that — content is what is actually moving users to action. Not design. Not an easy-to-use experience. Both of those are important, but content is what does the heavy lifting.

Think of it this way. Developing your digital communications focusing primarily on design is like in theatre spending all your effort on getting the stage just right. Fretting over every detail related to seating, curtains, house lighting.

But what about the play? It’s the content that moves people! Sure, the mood that the theater sets is important. But without content that moves people, the theater is little more than an empty room.

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission revamps website, content first

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission recognized the importance of great website content several years ago. So, at a time when arguably the website design needed attention, we recommended that first we work together to do a complete overhaul of the content on the site. Literally hundreds of hours went into getting strategic about what the content needed to accomplish, clarity on audiences and desired actions, eliminating content, and re-writing and designing content graphics for 100% of the website.

We launched all new content for, with virtually no changes to design.

Quality, strategic content drives 47% lift in online revenue

In the months that followed the content realignment, unsourced online revenue was up 47%.

Why was revenue up? Because the reality is this: over time, the content on all websites loses impact. Content gets old, collects dust and can even become irrelevant or outdated. But more than that, it’s a good practice to regularly get clear about your digital goals and audiences. By reviewing your content, you get a clear picture of whether it really is doing what it needs to — move people to action. Some content needs to go. Other content needs to be revamped.

Next step — take stock of your current content

I would recommend once a year stepping back and taking stock of your current content. First get clear on your site goals, audiences and actions you want people to take. Then dive in and do something about it. List every page on the site and rate it’s effectiveness to accomplish the stated goals, relevance to your audience and likelihood of moving people to action. Get rid of irrelevant or outdated content, and consider what your most visited content is and how it can better move people to action.

Stop by if you’re at AGRM 2015

If you’re at the AGRM 2015 conference this month in Seattle, stop by booth 115. Or come to the session and learn the other 10 lessons we’ve learned in building a successful digital program — the session is on Friday, May 29 from  3:15-4:30pm.

As always, feel free to drop me any questions or comments at, or tweet me at @daveraley. And if you want to talk to a real content guru, contact Josh Dougherty, our Lead Content Strategist at


Theatre photo by batmoo / licensed under CC BY 2.0 / modified from original