A few weeks ago, I was spearheading a fundraising campaign and spoke on the phone to one of our biggest donors. Apologetically, she asked me to catch her up on the campaign and how she could help. She told me that while she had seen our emails come to her inbox it had been so flooded with communications since the start of the pandemic she couldn't keep up with everything. I happily filled her in even as I made a mental note to rethink our email strategy carefully later.
If anyone was going to pay attention to our fundraising efforts, it would have, should have been this supporter. And yet, she had not been able to prioritize our messages given the increased need for communication from every organization, business, and individual in her network.
After much consideration, research, and review of our analytics, I did not end up changing our email strategy dramatically. We were already sending only purposeful and thoughtful emails, once per week. Our open and click-through rates were still strong with minimal unsubscribes. I did decide, however, to amplify our social media presence so that if our supporters weren't finding us in their inbox they may come across our messaging elsewhere.
Still, this conversation gave me reason to pause.
At a time when everything seems especially fraught, when there is so much being said already, churches would benefit from taking a similar look at their email campaigns. Is what you're communicating by email—the most valuable of communications tools—important? Is it important to your congregants and subscribers, not just important to you?
This is where I think most churches misstep. When preparing an email to send, they think only in terms of their own agenda and often utilize the format of a regular newsletter. Only those who are already deeply committed to your community will open and read your newsletter. I don't doubt that you need to communicate the updates and ongoings therein. I remain unconvinced, however, that you should only communicate those things or that they should be your first priority.
If your emails are only about what you do and not about who you are—as a community, as a church—then you will lose the opportunity to reach those who might need you most.
Instead, ask yourself this: What needs and wants are the members of my congregation expressing right now? Is there a way to respond to them—at least in part—through a digital communication? There usually is!
Consider new and engaging ways that you can communicate your response. You could send a video message from your ministry team.
You may want to email a thoughtful and encouraging letter from your lead pastor. A friend of mine works for a non-profit and has spoken many times of how meaningful it was when each individual from her organization's leadership team sent out a personal letter via email as a measure of emotional support and a point of connection.
For a few weeks, you may want to send different emails to different groups within your church based on their expressed needs.
Or perhaps you decide that you are doing exactly what you need to be doing and it's working. That's great, too!
Whatever your decision, we should all regularly assess what we are doing and ensure that we're using our time and talents in the most effective and impactful ways.