Budgeting for External Communication
By Russ Ward
Once a ministry team or minister understands the need for improved communication strategies, the next question is, "Ok. How much is this going to cost?" The budget for every church has pressure from all sorts of directions. Salaries, office supplies, youth activities, the electric bill and dozens of other line items are in competition for dollars in the budget. Tithes and offerings only go so far and how many fundraisers, can a church do?
But, before we start throwing around dollars and cents you have to determine if your church really wants to tell others about your local ministry. Believe it or not there are a lot of satisfied churches out there. In the minds of some members, leadership and even ministry professionals there is a magic number that maintains a close to perfect harmony with little or no stress. Anything beyond that balance disrupts the church we want (not necessarily the church God wants). As an example, I sent out a press release for a church and then chastised when several homeless people showed up for food. Apparently the manners of the homeless people were below what was expected. In other words, the church in question didn't really want new people at their church unless they met a specific minimum requirement of behavior. They really didn't want more people to minister to or reach, they wanted more people like them. If your church doesn't want more people, then spending anytime or resources is a waste. Because no matter how closely you try to communicate to your target demographic, others outside of that target may show up.
Also consider the terminology. When looking at the resources you have, it should not be viewed as a cost because all of your assets can't be listed on a balance sheet or weighed like a piece of meat. Church is no business and cannot function like one. Limited thinking dwells on money and in God's Kingdom, although a consideration, money should not be the end of the discussion. We have access to more than just money. Volunteers, time and a God that has cattle on a thousand hills are just the beginning of what we can bring to the table. Instead of cost we should consider our efforts an investment and consider all we have not just the bank balance.
With the above in mind list your resources. How much time can staff members devote to telling others about Jesus, the Kingdom of God and the local church beyond current efforts? Make no mistake, increasing communication is going to cost you and tax resources. Consider how many volunteers and how much time they would like to commit. Beyond that think about their expertise and abilities. I have know lots of grandmothers that can, and do assist with promoting the church on Facebook, but I wouldn't want them to create a web page.
To recap you must first determine the following:
1. Do we want to reach people with our church's message?
2. How much time can staff devote to increasing communication?
3. How many volunteers are willing?
4. How much time can each volunteer give?
5. What is the skill set of each volunteer?
Now it is time to consider how much of a monetary investment your church needs to make. I will discuss the major parts of a reasonable marketing plan and the cost associated with each.
Communication Plan - Everything should start with a communication plan. In basic terms you need to think about the market, message, method and measurements in your plan. The plan will guide you in knowing who you are talking to, what you should say, the mediums you will use and how you can track success. In the private sector plans of this sort can mean an investment of $15,000 - $20,000 and usually an equal charge for a follow up assessment. These plans can be quite extensive and but can be accomplished with the right volunteers over several months. The downside is that hundreds of hours of staff and volunteer time will be needed. A better option is to pay a consultant hourly to lead a ministry to team develop your own plan. Meeting monthly with a team hour to guide them will be between $100 and $200 per visit plus travel if needed. The process can take 6 months to a year.
Website - There was a time when this was better left to the professionals. Websites were difficult to build, edit and maintain. Now your church may have a volunteer put together a good website. Keep in mind that this is your new church sign. For many people the only exposure they will have to your church comes from what they see online. Even if a member wants to create the site don't hesitate in asking them if they have done it before and what the sites are they have produced. Look them over before you ask them to do the work. Also just building the site is the tip of the iceberg. You will need photos, logos and content to make a website.
If you opt to have a website professionally done keep in mind that there are several levels of work that professionals may undertake. At Speiro we have constructed the structure and had the church do all of the content with support. We have also done entire websites and everything in between. the investment generally breaks down like this:
- Do it yourself with professional advice and an off the shelf program (Wix, Weebly, SnapPages, etc.) - Time is the biggest factor. If you know what you are doing it takes about 10 hours per page and that is if you have the logos in the proper formats, the content and the photos. Also even if you do it completely by yourself you still have to pay for hosting and the use of the template. It is around a $100 a year give or take. Hourly consultation may be needed with a that fee will be between $100 and $200 per hour plus travel.
- Have a working template and map created then fill in the template yourself - Time is considerable less for staff and volunteers, however you will be surprised at how long it takes to gather up all of the stuff that makes a website a website. Maybe 5 - 10 or more hours per page. The good news is the structure will be complete and you can have a more professional page without any of the coding. Also a professional will take the time to make sure the theme, colors and way that a person travels through the site matches your needs. There is a wide range of costs depending on specific requirements however the initial invest should be between $1000 to $2000. A monthly fee for tech support fee of $50 to $100 will probably be necessary for at least a year. Also annual costs for hosting will be around $100.
- Having a pro do everything - Sorry there is no magic bullet that prevents any work, even if the whole website is built for you. You still have to provide content, photos and logos. This way of website design can come with a hefty price tag of between $2500 to $5000+. Monthly support is not the issue however maintenance is. The cost of maintenance can range between $100 to $300 per month.
Social Media - Is free! That's right they say nothing is free in life but they were wrong. When it comes to cash there is no charge for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram. However, there are costs. First is time. It takes several hours a week to build and maintain a social media plan. This is a crucial area for volunteers. With the right people behind you effort you can use social media to increase community awareness of your church.
You also need to think about the infrastructure. Does your church have an up to date computer and a good internet connection in the building? These purchases maybe needed. Also, think about what you are going to be posting before hand and the time to build content.
You can buy ads on social media. These are inexpensive and although social media should be largely organic. Sometimes kicking things off with a $50 to $100 dollar campaign is helpful. Have a social Sunday. Tell people to bring their mobile devise and walk them through Facebook as a ministry tool. I have seen a Facebook likes go from 40 likes to over 300 in a couple of months with this method.
Identity Material - Logo creation, letterhead, business cards, brochures, welcome packages, ink pens, coffee mugs and everything else can lead to a lot of investment. Just the logo is an expense to itself and if done right will serve the needs of the church for years. Finding someone in the church to do this is a very difficult task and if not handled properly can lead to alienation. What if you ask a non-professional to make a logo (because they are good at crafts) and it turns out to be awful? Hurt and bruised feelings can follow. If you are going to let a person take a whack at designing a logo have it completed in a small group of three or four people with staff guidance. Open and honest discussion are needed to create the right image for the local church.
Logos require specific programs to create them in and also to make them usable in every circumstance. When we complete a logo at Speiro a church will get over 50 versions for every possible use from tee shirts to video screens. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are usually needed tools and cost between $20 and $50 dollars a month depending on whether a student version is available. A professional logo can cost between $200 and $5000 depending on quality, time and effort. That is a wide range so, if you are going to use a pro, ask to see samples of their work before you start. Some online companies will provide a logo for less but you really are rolling the dice without personal contact.
Content Creation - Often underestimated. This can take tons of time and can be the downfall of any communications effort. Ok, you are having an event, but who is going to do the press release? The flyer? The full screen for the projector? The article for the newsletter? All of this can take a significant amount of time that the church staff simply does not have. Does this mean that you hire a new person? Or find several volunteers to lighten the burden on the administrative staff? These are all consideration. Also content means photos. Volunteers with cell phones can provide the pictures and posts.
Traditional Advertisement - Lastly and briefly most churches cannot spend enough to make a difference if they advertise. Not only that, they advertise in completely the wrong places. I have no idea why churches would advertise on Christian radio or why they would place an ad in the religious section of the newspaper. Not many non-Christians turn to the religion section of the paper or tune into Christian music stations. Unless the target demographic is people already going to church why would you put money there? To really make an impact thousands per month needs to be invested for marginal results. The money in most church advertising funds would be better spent on other things.
Lastly, the above are just baseline numbers to find out solid numbers a conversation with a communications expert is needed. At Speiro all we do is help churches sow seed by improving their communication in and outside the church. We are willing to schedule a visit and sit down with a ministry or minister to help out. We are not looking to make a profit but hoping to help out. We at Speiro recognize that each church is different and have different budgetary constraints, but we also feel that money should not hinder the growth of the Kingdom. We will advise and work with you regardless of you budget. Please contact us to schedule a meeting.