I’ve been adapting sections of Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerilla Marketing Excellence to church marketing. Part 1 of the series has a general introduction to Guerilla Marketing Link Part 2 talks about the “designated guerilla” Link.
This essay is about setting goals for your marketing efforts, but does not derive from Levinson’s work — it comes out of my own experience as a salesman.
When I was in sales, we all had sales goals. If you grossed a million dollars this year, next year your goal would be for 1.1 million. If your net was 25%, you’d try to raise it a couple of percentage points. Why did we have sales goals? Two reasons: (1) so the sales manager had something to talk with us about during our annual review; (2) to raise our commissions, because commissions were based on a formula using gross and net sales.
As a guerilla marketer, I still think in terms of sales goals. The whole reason you do marketing is to reach your goals. If you don’t have goals, in my opinion you don’t have a marketing plan, you just have a feel-good festival. So let’s set some goals for our guerilla marketing plans.
Goal one: raise “gross membership,” or certified members, within five years
Go check out the your religious group “as a Percentage of All Residents,” a collections of maps on a Valpariaso University site, showing religious membership in the United States: Link. If you’re a Unitarian Universalists, go here: Link. Find your county, and see what percentage of the residents of your county are in your faith group — since I’m a Unitarian Universalist, I’ll focus on that map. Let’s say your county falls in the range of 0.3%-0.6% of the total population. Now check your congregation’s certified membership (i.e., certified membership as reported to the UUA each year) as a percentage of your service area (i.e., the geographical region you serve). If your congregation’s certified membership is a lower percentage of your service area’s population than there are Unitarian Universalists in your county (e.g., in our example, less than 0.3%), your first step is to raise your percentage up to the county standard.
If you equal or better the county rate within your service area, then your goal should be to raise your percentage up into the high end of the next range (e.g., in our example, closer to 1.5%).
Example: Here in New Bedford our certified membership this year was 86. Our service area (New Bedford and the adjoining town of Dartmouth) has at least 120,000 people. The map shows that in our county, Bristol County in Massachusetts, 0.3% – 0.6 % of the population reports themselves as Unitarian Universalists. Therefore, we should have between 360 and 720 certified members. Plenty of room for growth there! –we’ll shoot for 360 to start.
Goal two: raise “net membership,” or active members, this year
Determine your active membership. Active membership is calculated by taking the average weekly number of adults and children who are in your building for worship and Sunday school each week. (I call this “net membership” because in most congregations it is a smaller number than certified membership; rule of thumb is active membership is half of certified membership.) The average should be calculated over 52 Sundays a year; but do not include Christmas eve services, if any. (Please note if you’re not within the sociological bounds of Protestant Christianity, active membership is not a valid measurement, so you’ll have to determine what measurable number you can use here isntead — be sure to choose a number that you can check at least monthly, better if you can check it weekly — and I’d love to hear from other religious groups about what metrics you might use.)
Next, determine how many new members you need just to stay even. Most congregations experience a 10% to 20% attrition rate each year, cue to deaths, relocations, people drifting away from church, etc. If you keep great records, you might be able to calculate this accurately. Otherwise, estimate based on your perceptions of attrition rate (but don’t underestimate!).
Now determine the net growth rate you are going to aim for — maybe 5% for for boring congregations in areas not experiencing population growth, up to 25% for dynamic congregations fast-growing areas. Or look at what percentage of your congregation is first-time visitors, on average, each week. Add your desired growth rate to your attrition rate, which will yield a gross growth rate anywhere between 15% and 45%.
Then multiply your active membership by your gross growth rate to yield your target number of new active members. Example: Here in New Bedford our active membership is 42 adults and children. We experience moderate attrition of about 15%. We are a moderately interesting congregation in an area with slight population growth, and our congregation averages about 5% (2 individuals) newcomers each week, which means 20% net growth over a year sounds doable. 20% + 15% = 40%; 40% x 42 = 17 new active members in the coming year.
My sample goals for First Unitarian in New Bedford:
(1) 360 certified members by 2011, from 86 in December, 2005.
(2) 17 new active members (gross) in 2006-2007 church year, yielding a net rise in active membership from 42 now, to 50 at this time next year. This rate of growth should yield 117 active members by 2011, which by our rule of thumb would mean only 234 certified members, not 360 as in the first goal. However, that only means that reaching this second goal should be a piece of cake!
What are your goals for your congregation? Why not share them in the comments below?
Next installment: “Customer” reverence Link