Social Media is here to stay!  It’s everywhere and has changed the way that we communicate.  A tool that began as a fun way to connect with friends has become big business. Nearly 70% of people use some form of social media, with Facebook having the largest following.  How can parishes, schools and dioceses use social media for effective ministry and to increase participation in development efforts?

Social Media and Development

Development is an ongoing process of cultivating and inviting donors to participate more fully in the mission of our organizations.  The day a gift or a pledge is made to an annual appeal or capital campaign is only the beginning of a new phase of constituent/donor relations. It is therefore imperative to keep donors informed about how their money is being used throughout the redemption period and beyond.  This transparency will ensure a higher rate of redemption of pledges while maintaining a sense of trust and loyalty with your organization’s donors.

Social media can play a very effective role in your development efforts. Regular updates bring awareness and build community with parishioners. In addition, real-time photos and videos are fresh and low-to-no-cost methods to update and inform your diocese, parish or school.

Another potential use for social media is to actively connect donors with those individuals that are directly benefiting from their financial generosity. What if your parish or school could host a site where donors to your school scholarship fund can receive thank you notes or academic updates from the students or families that are benefiting from their gift?  What if your donors were the first to know when a milestone in the campaign was met before it was made public on Sunday?  What if donors could receive individual messages from their pastor, directly on their phone by name, thanking them for sharing their time, talents and treasure?  Many diocesan appeals and campaigns address and support multiple needs and worthy programs.  Social Media updates are easy ways to highlight all of these ministries and keep the various constituents who support them “in the know”.

Getting Started
The following are some simple steps your parish, diocese or school can take to begin realizing the good fruits that come from this medium of communication.

Decide that Social Media, as a means of communication and engagement, is important to the growth and bottom line of your organization. 
Make a conscious decision that this is now one of the ways your organization will reach out to your base of constituents, parishioners, donors and families.

Set Up a Committee of Volunteers Who Love Social Media
Tap into constituents and parishioners that may already be doing marketing at their jobs.  Be open to their suggestions even if they seem a bit far-fetched at first.

Determine your goals and priorities for your social media efforts
Are you trying to develop better relationships?  Raise more money?  Get more families to come to church?  Minister to the homebound?  Reach out to Millennials and gen X’ers?  Is your goal to connect families in your church with the larger community or connect the larger community with the activities and efforts of your church? There is a difference.

Divide and Conquer
Once your committee has selected the two or three areas of focus for using Social Media, have the team divide into those areas and come up with a plan of attack that utilizes that proper social media vehicle.  For example, if the parish is trying to reach out to families who cannot come to church, then the parish may decide to record their family Mass and post it on YouTube for families to watch and participate at home.  Yes, there are other Masses on EWTN, but none are like the family Mass at your parish.

Set your goals and make them measurable
Set larger goals, over the course of an entire year but shorter milestone goals.  For example:

  1. Over the next 6 months, our goal is to grow the following on our Facebook page to over 250 people with at least 20 weekly posts from parishioners at our church and at least 2 weekly posts from our pastor.
  2. Over the next 6 months, our goal is to post bi-weekly updates on the redemption of our capital campaign funds, with details about how the money is being used. In between, if construction or renovation is taking place, we will post photos and/or videos of the updates.
  3. Our goal over the next 3 months is to conduct a census at our church that will secure at least 60 percent of the parishioner’s cell phone numbers.  Our intention is to reach out to our families once a week with a blessing, a prayer, a thank you or an important parish bulletin from our pastor that will remind them of their spiritual connection to our parish family.
  4. Evaluate the Progress and change your approach, but remain faithful to your initial goals.
  5. Emulate success!  Who is doing a great job at this already?  Use social media to become better at social media.