You’ve been accepted to an STM program, you have a departure date and you have one more thing to do… get the word out. This is no small thing… in fact it’s down right MAJOR! How you get the word out to supporters or potential supporters is crucial. Here are my thoughts…
Creative or Cringe-worthy?
There are a good many things I don’t do well… but I’ve been told repeatedly that one of the things I do do well is create eye-catching promotional pieces to get the word out about our missions involvement in France. On the other hand I have also worked as church administrator and been on the receiving end of poorly crafted communication tools and there is a world of difference.
“Hi …it’s me!”
When you send out initial communication to pastors or interested individuals, your promotional materials represent you… so pieces that are visually pleasing and with attention to detail will represent you well. That’s what you want.
Not only do they represent you, but they also represent the degree of seriousness with which you are approaching the call that God has placed on your life with regards to a particular STM venture.
Below are the three major formats that you can choose from when crafting communication tools.
Mail or Traditional Communication
Some would maintain that “snail mail” is dead and that electronic is the way to go and while that may be true in terms of minimizing your costs, there is an up side to snail mail as well, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
In preparing for our STM involvement in France, I prepared an initial mail-out containing:
- A letter of introduction
Besides pastors I knew personally, my packet would also go to some pastors I’d not yet met. The form letter was a way to introduce my family, my ministry experience and the work in France. Keep this to one page. Presenting detail with brevity is an art-form and with many things vying for their attention, many pastors and administrators don’t have the time to read even a 2-page description of your project.
- A copy of my Support Pledge Card
(or Partner in Missions -PIM- form).
You must tell potential supporters HOW to get financial support to you. Is it through a local church, a sending organization, a GoFundMe project (I don’t prefer this, but many do it), or a PayPal account? Whatever the mechanism, you must make it very clear. Any complication, question or hesitation is a reason for them to put your packet down, and it getting buried in a pile.
- A bookmark with our key information on it.
This included our names, our photo (people want to put a face to the name), our website and our Global Missions account number (again, to facilitate their ability to give). The purpose was to put something in their hands that, if it found a home in their bible or on their bulletin board, would remind them of us long after the Intro Letter and envelope had been discarded.
- A handwritten note on a customized post-card.
Last but not least, this piece had perhaps the biggest impact. I’d made up personalized long-format glossy postcards (again, with our name, photo, website and account# on it – yet another reminder that had less chance of being discarded) on the back of which I included a handwritten personalized note for each of the nearly 200 packets. In a world where form letters abound, I was counting on the personalized note standing out.
With tools like PrintSafari.com and VistaPrint, it is very possible to have great looking items printed at a reasonable price point. Check them out. If you are unable to design something yourself you probably know someone who can use Photoshop or another similar graphic design software. If not, contact me. I’d be willing to help for a reasonable fee… remember, I’m in STM myself so not only do I need to support our ministry in France, but I understand your financial limits as well.
Your electronic communication can take on a number of formats including:
- A Blog / Website:
We combined both into one site – the one you’re currently reading, AIMLong.ca – with a two-fold purpose:
- Potential Supporters:
For those who, after receiving the mail-out packet, wished to know a bit more, they could visit the website where I had more detailed information about our ministry experience, our call to France, etc.
- Confirmed Supporters:
For those supporters who had already signed on, it gave me a central location to publish my weekly updates, so that they could stay on top of what the Lord was doing in and through us… and by extension, through their financial involvement in the work in France.
- Potential Supporters:
(I highly recommend WordPress.com as a blogging / website platform. It has worked well and is easy to use. Again, if you need help with an initial set-up, I’d be glad to help you out for a small fee.)
- Email Communication:
Some use a monthly email as their primary method of communicating with their supporters. They simply maintain a group email list and send to the group regularly. Associate Missionary Daniel Patterson (Romania) is exemplary at communicating with supporters via a monthly email…. he is On Time… EVERY Time and I wish I was as regular as him in this area! Daniel also blogs on the subject of missions over at The Navigation Desk. I’d highly recommend connecting to his blog as well.
- Automated EMail tools:
For those that want a more tech-involved solution to regular correspondence with supporters, there are online providers like Mail Chimp and Constant Contact that allow you the possiblity to craft HTML formatted “emails” that will not only send your info to subscribers, but will track open rates, click rates, etc. They have the advantage of automation, but beware, these are normally opt-in programs, so you need to ensure that you have people’s permission to include their names on your initial bulk mailing list in order to be in accordance to spam legislation.
The more things progress, the more your ability to use video in your communication will be important. Don’t be alarmed though, I’m not suggesting that you must hire a videographer to produce something professional. There are a number of tools out there that can help you shoot a 1-2 minute video using a stable iPhone and a bluetooth microphone for example, or a digital camera combination as well. AIMer to the Netherlands Barron Carson is as good with video as Daniel Patterson is with email correspondence. Connect with Barron via his website or on Facebook. Here’s one of his video updates.
In Person Communication
When I talk about In Person communication it would imply that you are physically present with the people you are presenting to. That could be sitting around a table with, sitting across a desk from or standing in a church sanctuary or lobby, presenting your the vision that God has placed on your heart.
You will be able to re-use some of the printed tools that I mentioned above in this context, and perhaps even some video content if you’ve produced some, but you may want to have other things as well:
- A vertical stand-alone banner
- A “vision sheet” or “infograph” explaining either your task or your financial need.
*Hint* we are increasingly a visual society so the more you can put in an easily digestible visual format, the better prepared you will be to answer questions.
If you’ve made it to the end of this post and thought… “It’s too much! There’s no way I could do all of that.” then don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all, and you certainly don’t have to do it all at once.
The amount of material that you have to prepare will be determined in part by the length of your overall STM venture and the budget that you’ll need to raise.
I began designing our graphic supports and building our website roughly a year before our planned departure date (we were coming for a minimum of two years) so the amount of things I put together grew gradually.
In the short term, I’d suggest picking one or two things that seem reasonable to you and focus on doing them well. If other things grow out of that afterward, fine, but in the short term… focus on a small manageable goal and do it well.
Next Post: STM Can be Frustrating!
Your planning to serve the Lord and you’ve made certain sacrifices to do so. For that reason, it can catch you off guard to experience frustration on the field & while on assignment. If all things “work together for good” … then why am I frustrated?