Religious organizations: Align institutional value to constituent priorities

As service attendance and engagement decline in many religious institutions, faith-based organizations are seeking ways to better understand and connect with their constituents. A key strategy is linking the value of services provided to members’ interests, needs and values.

Reinforce your criticality to constituents by following four steps:
  1. Determine what is important to your constituents. Find the causes, programs and critical services that resonate. If you don’t begin by understanding what is driving your constituents’ commitment and place emphasis on what they consider important, you risk losing their commitment and engagement.

  2. Communicate the value. Don’t assume your constituents understand how their contributions are being utilized and feel their funds are being used in a way that aligns with their priorities. Instead, proactively develop a communication plan and correspond with them directly to spell out the value their contributions are creating. Constituents need to understand how their mission-related donations are being used, and the material difference they are making.

  3. Map inflows to outflows. Match the funds your constituents contribute to what you spend on programs and services that are critical to them. If their donations go toward what they believe in, they will be inherently more satisfied and more likely to increase contributions going forward. If you allocate a portion of organizational overhead/indirect costs to programs, make certain to do so in a way that is externally defensible.

  4. Shepherd your resources. If you have communicated the value of programs and services, and shown how donations fund key initiatives, but contributions are still not meeting budgeted needs, you should explore alternate sources of funding. If the donations aren’t there and alternative funding options are not viable, you will need to consider changes to your overall operating model and/or programmatic mix so that less funding is required. If you proactively and preemptively communicate your intentions in this regard, this “last ditch” approach might prove the necessary incentive for a more engaged and informed constituent base to step up as needed to prevent a loss of services.

See the full report: The State of the Not-for-Profit Sector in 2015