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The Power of Online Outreach and Tools to Keep Members Engaged with Your Mission
By: Jan Jasmin

Offering an electronic payment option allows members to tithe, to buy auction items, support building funds, or buy tickets to events with the wallet they use most the one on their phone, tablet, or computer. E-giving is a fantastic way to smooth-out revenue throughout the year and increase giving. But even if you have embraced electronic giving, are you utilizing every form of communication to let members know about this option?

Whether it is a call for financial support, an initiative to reach out to teenagers in your flock, or a desire to spread your message of faith beyond the pulpit, it is important to create a communication plan that includes a way to reach members while they are online and on mobile.

Here are 4 message delivery methods to put in your communications toolkit:

1. Direct Mail
There are still compelling reasons to use direct mail. Here are two:

Some churches do not have thorough or updated email addresses for members. Sending a direct mail piece can ensure that your communication is getting through to members while you work on updating your list..

A well-designed postcard with compelling images and a great message will likely get more eyes on it than it might have 5 or 10 years ago. So many people pay bills online now that postal mailboxes are on the empty side, especially compared to email boxes, which fill-up quickly each day.

2. Website
Is your church website doing these key things?

Providing a warm online refuge for members with links to a Facebook page and social media that deliver positive messages of your faith to a membership that is increasingly online for business and social reasons.
Giving an opportunity for your pastor to post a monthly or weekly column that reinforces messages from the pulpit
Posting up-to-date news about church/school closings because of weather
Promoting social events, fundraisers, and campaigns
Providing prospective members with the information they need when searching for a new place to worship
Providing a secure portal for members to make online donations or purchase tickets and other church-sponsored items

Your website is a powerful tool to keep members engaged in, and supporting, your mission. And it is a powerful tool to add new members. Most people search online before making any buying decisions. Make sure your website truly reflects the mission and vibrant community of your church.

3. Email
Email is a convenient way to keep members informed. Here are a few ways to get more out of your email efforts:

Have the email come from the pastor or a well-known member. Emails are more likely to be opened when there is a recognizable person on the other end of the communication.
Take some time when crafting a subject line! Your members are busy and are likely to be scrolling through a crowded inbox.
Include links to important pages, such as an electronic donation page on your website or school closings.

Finally, it is important to regularly update the email addresses of your members. Consider scheduling a direct mail campaign once or twice a month to capture new or changed email addresses.

4. Social Media
Setting up Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media outlets for your church can provide a safe place for members to congregate online and socialize. It is also an opportunity for you to place regular messages of faith in the path of members while they are surfing the internet. But there are some things to consider before launching social media for your church.

Setting up social media is not complicated. Maintaining and monitoring it takes some planning and manpower hours. If your church is too small to support keeping social media updated and active then it is best to concentrate efforts on your website and email, and other traditional forms of communication. 

One final communication method to consider adding is texting. People look at their texts more than their emails. Texting provides a way to share important news and it can even be used to facilitate donations.

Jan Jasmin is Senior V.P. Sales, Faith-Based Organizations, for Vanco Payment Solutions, www.vancopayments.com.

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