Friday, September 4, 2015

The Headache of Promotional Items

How many ink pens can you possibly need? Many churches give them away like candy and other churches hang on to them like they are solid gold. Some churches have a large budget for coffee mugs, tee shirts, key chains and bumper stickers, all with the church logo emblazoned on the item. Other churches don't waste the money on such items. So where is the line between getting the name of the church out with promotional material to the community, and finding another use for the tithes and offerings? Just trying to figure all of this out can give you a headache that aspirin can't cure.

Ministers and ministry volunteers are often faced with a difficult choice of how to best spend the promotional budget. Some church leaders now are thinking, "Promotional budget, what promotional budget?" But if you have one  figuring out what to do with it can be difficult and if you don't have one should you?

Finding the knick-knack or tactic that will give you the biggest bang for your buck is not only difficult to anticipate, but for many churches it seems a lot like "casting lots" instead of a coherent plan. Will a coffee mug or ink pen really remind people to come to church on Sunday? Would a logo-printed flash drive help them choose your church instead of one down the road? Will a fancy tee shirt in the churches colors in the latest design pull in the curious that see it?

Maybe all this junk is just junk and a more traditional advertising plan would be better?  TV, radio, magazines, billboards and direct mail pieces have all been tried but that can be even more costly than coozies or flashlight key chains. Any promotion can fail to generate interest and not matter what you try it will be expensive.

While every church is different, at Speiro in general we recommend that you think long and hard before you invest in a lot of knick-knacks and thing-a-ma-bobs. However there is a place for them.

1. Pens - If you currently buy pens as office supplies you should just order some with your name on them and put them in the pews for people to use. If you get them in lots of 700 or greater they are less expensive than ones from the store in many cases. Don't go cheap! A pen that doesn't write makes your church look bad.
2. Sticky Notes - Same as ink pens. If you are already buying them, get them with your logo on them and give them away in visitor packages. Stick notes are useful and will "stick" around (pun intended) for a long time.
3. Coffee Mugs - Mugs can be used for visitor packages or to celebrate an event as a keep sake. Know how many you need over a long period of time and make sure you have a place to store the surplus. Look at attendance figures and visitor numbers over a two-year period to give you a good idea of how many to order.
4. Tee Shirts and Apparel - These are getting less expensive all the time. Again know how many you need and get a wide variety of sizes. Always use the church logo or theme on the design. Remember some people just don't like tee shirts,  the same with hats. For events (parades, community night out, festivals, etc.) always make sure everyone has a tee shirt to wear and ask them to put it on. Always have a plan to get rid of the surplus as give-a-ways and prizes. These should not be given as a welcome gift in most circumstances, unless they ask for one.
5. Magnets - First of all if possible make your own. You can save lots of money by producing only what you need. Also make it useful like Spiritual Emergency Phone Numbers. Magnets come in different strengths so test them out before you produce them in mass qualities. You test them by taking a pizza delivery menu and sticking it on a fridge door with the magnet. Slam the fridge door a few times. If it holds it is strong enough. If not try again. A magnet that doesn't hold a menu will get tossed in the trash.
6. Other items - Be creative and find fun things that are useful and will stick around for a long time or things that will help you make a point. Think about what you are trying to tell people. For instance luggage tags can be used to promote missions giving. You want to memorable.  

One thing for sure only order what you need and always have a plan for distributing whatever you order. The biggest waste of money is for there to be shelves of all sorts of items that just sit. If you think through the items, make plans and wisely order then they will be a reminder of your church to people.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Church Secretary Under Fire

By Russ Ward
For years we have been driving our church secretaries closer and closer to the edge as the job expands and more demands are made. Even the title "Church Secretary" is an old out of date term. They are no longer keepers of secrets, efficient wordsmiths and typists. They are quite often the backbone of the functioning church and wear more hats than a mannequin in a haberdashery.

My grandmother was a church secretary for years and worked hard everyday to further God's Kingdom in the era of the typewriter, the mimeograph and phones with dials. Even her always pleasant demeanor would be challenged by the requirements of the job today.

Quite often these servants of the church are called to be graphic designers, social media experts, computer technicians and the person in charge of the impossible task of keeping the minister on track. Each in itself a thankless task that no one really understands or appreciates. In reality, they are no longer just secretaries, but they are now communication specialists. Communication specialist that need all the help they can get.

The question quickly becomes how can we help them with a nearly impossible task. Here are some tips to help one of your churches most important people:

  1. Identify Weaknesses - This is hard to do. No one likes to admit they are not "all things to all people". However, if help is to arrive then shortcomings must be understood.   
  2. Find Help within the Church - Once you know where you need help, look at church roster to fill any of the weak spots with committed members. Be careful in assigning these tasks because more harm can be caused than good if it is the wrong person.
  3. Get the right tools. Churches, too often expect, too much while providing, too little support. It turns out that computers and programs are costly, but they are needed for the church to function in today's world. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to paint a Rembrandt with crayons.  
  4. Allow the administrative assistant the opportunity to get some training. If you don't have a graphic designer in your congregation, think about sending them to a course or two. Most colleges have classes you can audit for a very low fee or even free. Check out your local community college for options. 
  5. If you really have no one available and training is out of the question, think about what tasks you could hire to be done. Maybe a pro can create a new template for the newsletter or update the website. Keep in mind, you may have to pay a pretty penny in most circumstances, but that is usually better than finding a new secretary.
  6. Don't get in the way. Believe it or not you are not that easy to work with. Lots of difficulties come from an over involved staff that try to help but ultimately slow up the whole process. I have seen a minister try to help and make changes to the bulletin without mentioning it and when they were printed, the help turned out to be a typo and poor quality photo. Ask before you dive in. 
  7. Get young people or a youth group to help with social media. Many church administrative assistants struggle with social media. Pick some responsible college or high school students to pick up the slack. Set goals. Meet monthly to talk about purpose. 
  8. Show your appreciation. Church secretaries are under appreciated. Be an encouragement.    
These are just some examples to think about. Let's help each other a bit and post other suggestions.