The following is a summary of Dunham + Company’s Chief Social Media and Innovation Strategist Nils Smith’s session from our 2022 Give Conference.
In today’s digital world, the way people discover and engage with churches has changed dramatically. Gone are the days when a large outdoor sign is all it takes to attract guests. Simply passing the offering plate during service is no longer enough to encourage sustainable generosity. Nowadays, people’s first impression of your church comes from a Google search or social media post. Your digital ministry is just as impactful as your physical ministry.
Your digital ministry is just as impactful as your physical ministry.
To connect with both potential and current congregants, churches must embrace new digital strategies for fostering a spirit of giving and engagement. Here are seven steps to help you drive engagement from the first impression to a committed member:
1. Start with Google
The number one way people find a church is to Google Churches in *city.* Or if they hear about your church, the first thing they’ll do to learn more is Google it. So how do you make sure someone finds your church on Google?
- Create or update your Google Business profile. This is what determines the information that is displayed in your Google results. To help people find and learn more about your church, you can change information like your address, hours, contact info, and photos.
- Include the city where your church is located. It sounds like a given, but some churches leave this off because they assume people know where they are. Including your city helps optimize your church’s local search engine results. When people search for churches in your city, your church is more likely to appear in the results if your city is mentioned on your Google page.
- Encourage your staff, volunteers, and congregants to write Google and Yelp reviews for your church. When your church receives positive reviews, it signals to Google that your church is trustworthy and relevant which improves your visibility in local search results.
- Write a meta description for your website. A meta description is a brief summary (about 150-160 characters) that describes what visitors can expect to find on your church’s website. It appears under the title of your website in search engine results. This snippet gives potential visitors a glimpse into your church’s mission, values, or services. A good meta description will help you stand out in search results and connect more deeply with your audience.
2. Optimize your website and social media content
Your website and social media presence serve as the gateway to your church for many potential visitors. Remember that your online presence is not just a marketing tool–it’s a ministry that helps people connect with your church and its values. To make a strong first impression:
- Make sure your website design is clean, easy to navigate, and responsive for all devices. A well-structured site can help visitors find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily, such as your church service times, beliefs, event details, and giving information.
- Provide multiple ways for people to get in touch with you, such as email, phone, social media, or a contact form on your website.
- Utilize your social media bios. Include the physical location of your church and the times of your services and a link to your official website where visitors can find more comprehensive information about your church.
- Give people a glimpse of your ministry on social media by sharing images and videos that showcase your worship service, sermons, events, and community involvement.
Remember that your online presence is not just a marketing tool–it’s a ministry that helps people connect with your church and its values.
3. Create a compelling invitation to visit your church
Once people find your church online, it’s crucial to encourage them to visit in person or join your online service. To do this:
- Use clear calls to action on your website and social media posts such as “Join us on Sunday” or “Watch Past Sermons.”
- Share service times and locations prominently on your website and social media profiles. If people have to hunt for information on how to attend, you increase the chances that they never visit.
- Post images and videos that offer a glimpse of what newcomers can expect when they visit your church, such as photos of people being greeted on Sunday morning or worship and sermon highlights.
4. Communicate giving opportunities in service and online
Consistently discussing giving in both physical and digital spaces is essential for fostering a culture of generosity within your congregation. To achieve this:
- Dedicate a specific time for tithes and offerings during your church service, explaining the purpose and impact of giving. This could feature a brief video or testimonial related to the positive effects of financial contributions (be sure to include this portion in your online steamed service).
- Utilize your church website and social media channels to consistently communicate ways to give and how to give. Provide clear calls to action to give, share stories of impact, and make it easy for people to donate online.
5. Create a great online giving experience
- Focus on language and messaging that emphasizes giving as an act of gratitude, reflecting God’s love for us.
- Utilize custom call-to-action buttons within your giving software to ensure the language you use in your services is reflected when someone goes to give. For example, if you invite people to give to your church, the buttons in your giving platform should say “give” instead of “donate”.
- Share a direct link or QR code that makes it easy to give directly to a specific cause. If you use SecureGive, you can do this easily through our direct category link features.
- Acknowledge and thank donors for their contributions, either through personalized thank-you messages, email receipts, or public recognition. SecureGive’s software allows for custom messaging for thank-you emails after someone gives through the platform.
- Keep donors informed about the progress of fundraising campaigns or the impact of their donations by sharing updates through email, social media, or your church website. With SecureGive’s Campaigns, donors can easily see their progress in fulfilling their pledges as well as how much has been pledged and given to the campaign as a whole.
6. Communicate uniquely with first-time givers
First-time givers present a ministry opportunity for churches. They’ve taken their first step in faithfully supporting your church, but many of them will need to be nurtured and encouraged to continue giving. First-time givers are unique and should be treated differently than regular donors. So, make sure you can find who your first-time givers are so you can communicate directly with them. For example, Within SecureGive’s dashboard, you can easily see all your first-time givers within any date range, view their transactions, and download a contact list. This makes it easy to follow up, encourage, and create a stronger connection between your church and the new giver. To communicate uniquely with them:
- Offer personalized communication through phone calls, email flows, letters, or direct mail expressing gratitude for their contribution.
- Highlight their impact by sharing specific examples of how their donations have directly impacted your church or community, giving them a clear understanding of the tangible difference they’ve made.
- Facilitate connections between church leaders or ministry coordinators, allowing first-time givers to learn more about various ministries and explore opportunities for deeper involvement.
First-time givers are unique and should be treated differently than regular donors.
7. Use email to consistently communicate
Regular email communication helps keep your congregation informed, engaged, and connected. This doesn’t mean you’re constantly emailing them asking for gifts, but that you’re continually sharing updates and encouraging your congregation. Don’t worry about over-communicating–in fact, people want to hear regularly from the organization that they financially support. Instead, focus on finding the right balance between informative and engaging content. To effectively use email:
- Send weekly emails that include a link to the previous week’s sermon, updates on church events, giving information, and ministry highlights.
- Share impact stories of what God is doing in and through your church, such as life change stories, mission trips, or service events.
You don’t have to break the bank or devote endless hours to increase engagement and foster stronger connections in your church. With these tactics, you can transform a simple Google search into a committed, full-time member of your church. And always remember to ask yourself: What’s one thing you can do better to bring people closer to your church community?
To watch Nils Smith’s full session from Give Conference 2022, click here.
Join us at Give Conference 2023 where you’ll hear from seven speakers with decades of experience, gain research-based insights, and return home with the tools to expand your ministry.