Developing a successful nonprofit communication strategy takes some work. But when it improves your ability to inform, invite and involve those you are trying to reach – the work is well worth it.
Since his first day as pastor of St. John Berchmans Parish in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, Fr. Wayne Watts’ motto has been: “Great things are happening at St. John Berchmans!.” From the beginning, Fr. Watts has focused on communication and community to celebrate a shared faith life. He is what I call “respectfully relentless” in his use of personal visits, phone calls, email and even Twitter to regularly engage with parish members in a very meaningful way.
In addition to regular bulletin articles, the church sends monthly emails to their faith community, and Fr. Watts personally sends regular messages on social media. By doing so, he lets the community know about how the people of their parish are working together to help each other. The impact has been amazing. Today, both the parish and school are thriving.
Due to Fr. Watts’ communication, mass attendance and school enrolment continue to increase. Both having a significant effect on their giving. In 2010, the first year the church began using the GiveCentral online communication and giving platform, they were receiving an average of $5,000 per month in online donations. Today, the church processes an average of $22,000 online each month, an increase of 440%. Fr. Watts and his church understand that parishioners want to have an ongoing dialog, and that they are more fulfilled when they see leaders like Fr. Watts initiating and maintaining those communications.
And more engaged members are almost always more loyal donors. In fact, Joe D’Arco, the parish’s Director of Operations, has found that community members and school families now give more year-round, preventing the normal dips in giving caused by summer vacations, school breaks, and homebound parishioners who can’t always drop an envelope in the basket each Sunday.
Pro tip: Commit to using plain language in your communications. For example, not everyone knows what catechetical instruction means, but most would understand what formation in the Catholic faith means.
It began with reaching out to build community and monthly email communication. “Great things are happening at St. John Berchmans.” Fr. Watts and his team have done an amazing job that can help us see the possibility for all our parishes and schools.
In conclusion, the first and most important element of a parish or a nonprofit communication strategy is having a plan in place. Developing a parish communications strategy seems like a time-consuming task. But in reality, having a strategy to guide all of your parish communications efforts will save you time and make your communications more effective in the long run.
For more information on GiveCentral’s communication feature that helps in achieving a targeted, measurable nonprofit fundraising results, follow the link.