Developing an Effective Community Outreach Plan
Community outreach is the lifeblood of every church. Organizations that master it are more likely to grow, innovate, and sustain themselves over time. Not only does community outreach provide opportunities to grow your donor base and share your mission with a wider audience, but it also gives current members meaningful projects to engage in.
However, developing an outreach plan that actually works is easier said than done. Post-COVID-19, churches are being challenged to rethink fellowship and establish new ways to connect in their fragmented communities. For this reason, an outreach plan is absolutely vital for churches to move beyond their baseline of success.
Choose a Goal
While there are likely many priorities tugging on your mind, it’s important to work sequentially, and this means one focus at a time. Choose a simple, measurable objective to jumpstart your community outreach plan. You may have 1–3 mini goals under the umbrella of your main objective, or you may choose to hyper-focus on achieving one thing (e.g., increase church attendance of young families by 20%).
Make sure your goal isn’t so lofty that you set yourself up for failure (e.g., a plan that requires too much labor or more volunteers than you actually have.) Similarly, don’t aim too low or assume you can’t achieve much with the resources you currently have. An objective that is a bit challenging but possible is ideal.
Craft Your Communications
This is the step where church leaders or staff get to exercise their creativity, getting to the heart of what you really want to say. Crafting new content that aligns with your outreach plan will help it come alive and inspire your team. Communication is the element that moves your community outreach plan from an idea to a concrete reality. This may include newsletter ideas, social posts, videos, new types of blog posts/write-ups from pastors, or even in-person communications on Sundays. Once again, aim for the path of least resistance, using only those content mediums that are most effective and require the least time and effort for your unique team.
Rich communication is the central driver of any committed donor base. DonorWerx consultants can assist you in the process of mapping out your message and reaching donors more effectively and consistently than you ever have before.
Reach New Channels
Once your objective and message are crystal clear, it’s time to seek out new channels of communication. Even churches with the greatest message in the world won’t get far without reaching a consistently wider audience. This is the crux of an effective community outreach plan — and also the most difficult part. Brainstorm which local channels you have yet to tap into — whether it’s a table at a community event, hosting a monthly workshop, or submitting news to a local online publication.
This step will highly depend on where you live and what community activities are prevalent in that area. The most successful churches find ways to integrate naturally with their communities and attract new members as a by-product. The more organic the process, the easier it will be to sustain.
Perhaps one of the most satisfying aspects of a new outreach plan is seeing the progress you make. Sit down with your team to assess your effectiveness, celebrate small wins, and iterate for future improvement. To truly measure success, you’ll need some kind of tool to provide objective feedback and clear up any biases or assumptions you have about your outreach process. When there are many opposing voices about what should be done next, your data will save you from analysis paralysis. Depending on your project, data collection can be as simple as a spreadsheet that a staff member updates, or as thorough as church-specific software that does much of the heavy lifting for you. In any case, make sure you have a way of acquiring feedback with your donors and prospective members.
It is becoming clear in faith communities that a church’s ability to adapt to the changing times is the single biggest determinant of longevity. People have different expectations and want to participate in their faith communities in novel ways. For churches around the world, this is a challenging time of transition, and doing it all perfectly is unlikely. When faith-based communities develop and shift, adopting a “fail forward” perspective is better than trying to maintain business as usual.
Church leaders who expect obstacles and unforeseen circumstances can better buffer themselves against disappointment. Reviewing your outreach plan and seeing what didn’t work can be a catalyst for major improvement and eventual success. The plans that didn’t work are often the very things that help your team realize what will work.
How DonorWerx Can Help
Do you need help to implement the right outreach plan or find the right online giving solution for your church size and budget? DonorWerx online coaching helps church leaders increase tithes by improving their communication strategy and leadership. DonorWerx assists you in setting up key performance metrics and outreach channels so you can hit your funding goals and track your progress better. Talk to one of our experts today.