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web hosting upgrades

3 Ways We Are Improving Web Hosting

On the morning of Wednesday, May 30, we received an email from one of our long-time customers stating her site was down.

After confirming that, yes, it was down for us too (sometimes people just get locked out due to misbehaving browsers or too many failed login attempts), we tested a couple other sites. Two out of three sites we tested showed an “internal server error 500” which is tech jargon for “we don’t know what’s wrong but something is really wrong.”

We immediately called the datacenter where it was revealed a virtual memory shortage had taken down a majority of our customers’ websites. We believe the issue was corrected within 15-30 minutes for most customers.

While we’ve been hosting websites a long time, we’ve never run across this one.

The immediate fix was to simply raise the virtual memory allocations over the default 1GB for the affected sites whereby they were able to load.

Still, how to keep this from happening in the future? More on what the long-term fixes look like in a moment.

First, a brief-yet-morbid snapshot of three other oh-man moments we’ve seen in past years:

  1. We once had a server administrator attempt to adjust user permissions on a single website, however he accidently blew out user permissions across an entire server. All sites went down. I can still remember the last keystroke before the moment of silence punctuated with a quiet, “Oh no.” Permissions had to be reconstructed by hand, taking the entire night and halfway into the next day to restore. To make timing worse, the client who had the unfortunate honor of being “patient zero” had a paid ad campaign funneling traffic to their extinct site, making the temperature in the server room a few degrees hotter. No pressure.
  2. Our datacenter once had an internal router go down within their network. Fortunately, they had a backup router waiting in the wings for just such a moment. Unfortunately, the routing table on the replacement router was out-of-date, which wreaked havoc on that segment of the network. Fortunately, the issue was corrected within a few hours and procedures have been put into place to ensure routing tables are kept current.
  3. A client called once about slow web performance. When we tested our sites, we found indeed, sites were slow to respond; really slow. Turns out one of the datacenter’s major telco carriers was under a massive DDoS attack (I believe it was AT&T under fire at the time.) The only reason sites were able to load at all was because the datacenter also had two other fiber optic connections to two other carriers leading into their facility. (More carriers have been added since.)

This is all to say we know the unforeseen happens. It’s kind of an occupational hazard in the web hosting industry.

Now, about those long-term fixes..

Fix #1: Site Monitoring

It’s never a good feeling to find out a client’s site is down, but it’s even worse when the client is the first to notice. In fact, it’s an awful feeling.

Servers can send out email notifications to raise the alarm when services stop working, however there are no server-side monitors to report whether webpages are actually being served.

Seems like a big gap, right? It is.

logo site uptime

To counter this, we are partnering with site monitoring company, SiteUptime, to monitor all Platinum (now marketed as Revelation) web hosting plans. Customers on smaller hosting accounts benefit by proxy since server-wide problems experienced by their larger neighbors will alert us on their behalf.

Of course, a problem experienced by one site doesn’t mean a problem will be experienced by all sites, but this goes a long way toward ensuring a fire in town is noticed quickly.

Smaller accounts have the option of having site monitoring added for an extra $2.00/month.

Fix #2: Offsite Backups

As our web hosting customer, you’ve always had a pretty robust backup routine supporting you, whether you knew it or not. We have nightly, weekly and monthly backup routines for every web hosting account we carry. The next level in maintaining your data integrity is to ensure a higher degree of safety for those backups.

95% of the time, your current backups are enough, but if the whole server died in some dramatic, fiery way, you (and we) would be sorely out of luck. Such destruction is rare, but the potential exists.

By next week, we will have an additional layer of redundancy in place. That extra protection is called Guardian Backup & Recovery. Essentially, additional snapshots of the server are made and securely stored at a completely different datacenter facility.

We figure this should close the risk gap another 4%, leaving the last 1% up to catastrophic acts of God and nuclear strikes. If these events happen, we have other things to worry about besides our websites.

Fix #3: Server Upgrade

This is probably the most attractive, most meaningful adjustment we’re making. While the server affected by this outage was only four years old, that’s something like 28 years old in tech years.

Sparing you the techno-babble specifics, suffice it to say we’re moving to solid-state drives (really fast) and quadrupling the memory (really, really fast) while upgrading the entire server to something more current and cutting-edge.

With this server upgrade, we should also be able to safely double the virtual memory limits for all sites.

Sorry

So, this has been a long way of saying, “Sorry about that.” Again, it never feels good to get those “site down” calls and I hope you can accept my personal apology.

It is my hope and plan that this extra investment in infrastructure will ensure solid, steady performance for your digital marketing storefront for many years moving forward.

P.S. There will be no increase in your regular hosting bill as a result of these advancements—in case you were wondering. (We’ll just need to adopt a few additional hosting customers, that’s all.)

Please contact us if you have any questions.

matt signature

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digital evangelism

Digital Evangelism: Tips for Extending Your Church’s Digital Outreach

If you’re a church pastor, chances are you use a computer on a daily basis. There’s also a 39% chance you access the Internet with that computer. (After all, how else would you be reading this?)

But you’re not the only one that needs a digital presence; your church needs a solid digital presence in this modern world too. Your church needs to do more than reach people by announcing church events, listing prayer requests and providing an online worship experience.

These days you must also consider appealing to the younger generation within your congregation. But you need to balance any shifts in culture against the older generation who may be comfortable with the way things are.

And then there’s the youth ministry.

Juggling all this sounds simple, right?

Well, maybe not.

It’s not as easy as opening a bunch of social media accounts. Fruit from this effort takes both prayer and meticulous planning; kinda like your last road trip!

The strategies you use in your digital outreach program are as important as plugging in proper coordinates before you begin any road trip. It may feel daunting at first (and maybe a little technical too) but I assure you; it’s much easier than it looks. Mostly.

Am I prophesin’ or prophe-lyin’? You be the judge. A few tips to get you on your way:

Decide What You Want Out of Your Digital Evangelism

Everything has a purpose (in theory). A church that decides to dive into the Internet and establish a digital presence is trying to solve a problem. Are you trying to broaden communication with your existing congregation? Are you trying to extend your church’s reach to the wider community, e.g. millennials?

A well-defined purpose will help anchor you when you run into hurdles later on, reminding you about why you started. It also helps to actually write those goals down. Your digital strategy bears as much importance as other kinds of business at your church and writing your purpose down helps to cement the commitment you are making.

In other words, before you engage in any church web design, stand up a single social media channel or contact a Christian web hosting service, make sure you have a solid reason to start.

Remember, not every church requires a digital presence. If your church is a small church in a small community, it might not be a priority to have strong digital presence just yet. Maybe using a Facebook Page would be enough?

On the other hand, a larger church (or one that is rapidly growing) will benefit immensely from having an online presence. For the moment, let’s assume this means you..

Pick Your Web Channels Carefully

There’s a lot more to your church’s Internet marketing than just setting up a Facebook channel and letting the office manager give it a go. You need to have a clear idea what kind of audience you’re dealing with and what kind of engagement they would prefer from their church.

For most of us, social media has become a major part of our lives (a blessing and a curse!) So, at first blush, it might seem like a good idea to have an account for your church on all the major social media platforms. (Yes, even Instagram.)

However, this can be counter-productive in the long run. For starters, you might not have the bandwidth or manpower to manage all of those accounts effectively.

Second, your congregation might not even want to engage with their church on social media. They might simply prefer regular emails through the church email service, or even a blog they can read from time to time.

Survey Your Flock

There’s no magic bullet here; you’ll have to conduct a survey of your congregation to figure out what usage demographic makes up the majority. Are they a Facebook crowd or a Pinterest crowd? Are they willing to share their email addresses with their church? What age demographic are you targeting? If you’re targeting millennials in the wider community, you’ll need to understand what kind of digital outreach they engage with most.

Your Spiritual Cornerstone is Jesus. Your Digital Cornerstone is Your Website.

When laying your digital evangelism foundation, the best place to start is a simple website. Unlike using a Facebook Page or some other social media channel, this is actually Internet real estate you control. The best church websites are not an intrusion but an extension of what’s already on the ground.

From your church website, you can post sermon transcripts, a church calendar and run a regular blog where you post spiritually-edifying Christian material. For the camera-brave, you may also test the YouTube waters by posting videos of your sermons and impromptu lessons on hot topics in today’s culture.

If the response is good, you can advance your marketing blitz from there and create accounts on social media channels relevant to your audience (and—now that you’ve surveyed them—you know what those channels will be.)

Have Growth Goals

How do you know if your church’s digital outreach efforts are successful? Is the number of visitors to your website growing? Are you gaining followers and seeing more engagement on your social media accounts? You need to set clear goals to know where your strategy is working and where it needs improvement.

Don’t worry about getting great results at first. There’s no need to set lofty goals in the beginning. If you’re new to cyberspace, I recommend you just start small by looking at the engagement you get on social media and the visits you get to your website, and then set greater goals as you develop your voice and content.

Oh.. about that content..

Content Jesus is King

It doesn’t matter whether you are a church or a corporation, content is still king (lowercase “k”). This is as true for a church’s digital evangelism as it is for anyone else.

As you begin developing and posting your content, you’ll notice some content will do far better than other content. You’ll see some social media posts get more engagement; more likes, comments, and attention. Maybe you’ll notice you have certain blog articles accounting for a majority of your traffic.

This is the content you should study closely. You may want to regularly rinse and repeat this type of content to strike a chord with your audience.

Remember, different people are looking for different things in their church, especially when they’re considering the prospect of joining a new church.

Promoting Your Content

When it comes to SEO for churches, it helps to categorize your content. (SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is a practice of positioning content to show up in search results.)

Categorizing your content will give you a better idea about your audience’s interests: church matters, Scripture teaching, youth ministry, general announcements, spiritual advice, etc. Clear categories will give you insight into what is working and what isn’t.

Tip: Once you’ve developed a reliable cheat sheet of content topics, you’ll find it much easier to generate well-performing content on a regular basis.

Deliberately Delegate Digital Evangelism Duties

While it may be tempting to give away the keys to the Kingdom and have everyone on your staff submit articles, you may want to reconsider. What you’ll likely end up with is a mess: Lots of different writing styles, conflicting answers to audience questions, and a badly coordinated digital marketing campaign.

Recommendation: Have a single point person (or a small team of people) managing your digital outreach. Meet with them and tell them and document your expectations (remember those goals you settled at the beginning of this article?)

Since you have your digital outreach strategy documented already (ehem), provide it to your team for their feedback.

With planning and prayer, your entire online presence will be consistent and your work in advancing the Gospel beyond the digital divide will bear Kingdom fruit.

Go forth and conquer.

In support of your efforts,

matt signature

Matthew

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ways to improve annual report

22 Ways to Make Your Annual Report Remarkable

Ah, annual reports.

Awful things.

Full of stale, self-aggrandizing copy, dry pie charts, confusing bar graphs and committee-selected stock photos. This is 4-color, full-page bleed shredder-fodder at its finest.

Your annual report probably even has an opening letter from your Supreme Poobah, doesn’t it? And there they are, smiling away with that plastic, you-can-take-the-picture-anytime-now grin, their stiff image stuffed onto an entire page no one is ever going to read. Maybe even a chicken-scratch signature added for flair.

In fact—due to all the sub-par letters-from-the-chief we’ve seen over the years—you and I have actually been conditioned to skip that page entirely.

Tsk.

Oh, wait. Did I just describe your last year’s annual report?

I’m not asking you to feel condemned. I want you convicted. I’m trying to convert you.

What’s your plan to get people to actually read this typo-riddled train-wreck?

That is your intention, isn’t it? It should be.

Or are you just checking a box to please your board and trying to spend down this year’s print budget? (Now that’s stewardship. I see why they’re paying you the big bucks.)

What do you plan on doing about this year’s annual report, Sparky? I want you to consider turning over a new leaf. Or maybe not even printing any leaves at all. (Going completely digital is an option, you know.)

Here’s a not-so-novel concept: Your annual report is not a report; it’s a marketing piece.

I think it’s the word “report” that trips us up. When we hear the word “report”, we often think of things like driver’s license applications, tax forms and rows of numbers on spreadsheets with one-meeting lifespans.

If your annual report is a little slice of annual drudgery to produce, it’s time for a revolution.

In fact, your annual report can actually be leveraged as a springboard for your entire year’s marketing and outreach efforts. Sit with that for a moment.

The Annual Report 2-Step: Produce. Promote.

In this article, I’ve listed several ideas for improving your typical-fare annual report. My goal is to get you thinking out of the box.

Beyond that, you’ll find several fun ways you might deliver key information from your annual report to your anxiously awaiting audience.

Remember: You don’t have to stuff the whole report down their throats; just the important, most striking reveals.

Note: For these annual report ideas, I am targeting an industry we serve: homeless and humanitarian aid organizations. Obviously, if you are working in a different space, brainstorm on ways to adopt these ideas to your own niche.

Ways to Improve Your Annual Report

If you must print (and some do, appeasing federal, state or board requirements), here are 10 ideas for getting creative with your annual report format, design and content.

  1. Produce the annual report as a newspaper. One of the smaller “articles” will be titled “Newspaper is Not a Blanket”.
  2. Produce the annual report as a fold-out state map. Begin with a template provided by your state’s Department of Transportation.
  3. Use the familiar. If the conventional booklet format is used, design one of the pages after the PIT count sheets provided by HUD (https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/Model-Service-Based-Count-PIT-Survey.pdf). As a subtle nod, this will be recognized by industry professionals but will pass unnoticed by most in the public square.
  4. Show maps of declining/inclining numbers across the state or country. Compare against 10-year averages.
  5. Illustrate the numbers. For key statistics, give real-world examples to give concepts of population sizes and impact as illustrative equivalents.
  6. Use comparisons. While providing state-based statistics, contrast against national numbers for larger context.
  7. Provide testimonials, case studies and success stories. Point to your website for additional stories.
  8. Interview your partners. Conduct an interview and highlight best practices from service partners. Ask them to speak to the impact those efforts have made in their communities.
  9. Include ways for the public to get involved at the local level (CTA). Ideas for getting more involved may include recurring volunteer opportunities like serving meals, fundraising, event support, board participation, lending creative services (photo, video, design, web), setting up recurring donations, etc.
  10. Ask for commitment. Perforated tear-out sheet containing homeless veterans pledge card or some other “get involved” or “get connected” message, form or survey. (If the newspaper format was used, this could simply be an insert.)

Ways to Promote Your Annual Report

As you may have guessed (or experienced), though you have produced this glowing gem of a report, there is still work to do. This is where you can allow all the work that went into your annual report to inform your ongoing marketing. If you did your homework in producing a thoughtful report, you should now be well-positioned to broadcast those golden nuggets of wisdom uncovered by your research. Here are some promotional ideas to consider:

  1. Public Service Announcements. Launch a PSA campaign, sharing vital stats with illustrative equivalents.
  2. Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs. Use paid graffiti, stencil or reverse graffiti, or stickers to raise awareness around key stats. (Secure permission from local authorities.) Deliver on the sides of buildings or across high-traffic sidewalks. Develop and deliver yard signs. Ask local shops and restaurants with foot-traffic to display sandwich boards. Buy billboards. Scale to budget.
  3. Blogger/influencer outreach. Offer influencers advance copies of the annual report so they can scoop to their audiences on the day the report is released. Engage whatever positive or negative commentary comes your way.
  4. Make it into a video. Create a short video telling select pieces of the annual report story. Promote the video across the website and social media channels. Link back to your website.
  5. Use maps. Is there a way to illustrate the impact on a map? Would it make sense in a GIS application?
  6. Undercover marketing. Pay actors to approach people, strike up conversation and eventually deliver key stats and invitations to get involved. Caution: When revealed, this one could be seen as deceptive. It may be better to conduct a…
  7. Street survey. Less “undercover” than undercover marketing, street-level, face-to-face surveys across the state could be conducted to poll minds and hearts toward the homeless issue while educating participants at the same time.
  8. Road rally. Construct a road rally treasure hunt where participants are led across participating cities with clues that educate on key homeless issues as they go. The finish line ends with a meal in a soup kitchen and a brief interview to collect experiences and revelations.
  9. Youth poster contest. Conduct a poster or infographic contest across high schools and/or colleges zeroing in on key report takeaways. Posters are reproduced and posted across cities to raise awareness. Winning designs earn students a monetary award and bragging rights.
  10. Gamify the experience of becoming homeless. Players select their characters who are becoming homeless (financial instability, drugs, mental health, domestic violence, etc.) The game moves players through several scenarios in choose-your-path manner, forcing decisions on what to do, where to go, how to take care of children (or losing children into the system), how to find meals, lack of safety on the streets, bureaucracy, etc. Players are exposed to real-life accounts, testimonies and/or key statistics along the way. At the end of the game, players are presented with a brief message/video along the lines of “Homelessness is not a game. Get involved.” and ideas for getting involved locally.
  11. Shareable graphics. Develop and employ simple, shareable social media graphics and infographics containing key stats and a link back to your website. Use #(your state), #(your city), #(state-cause), #(country-cause), #homeless and other popular, relevant hashtags across social media channels.
  12. Make it easy for the media. Establish a media kit for housing the report, shareable graphics, quotes, links to new releases and all other pertinent marketing assets. Send to media outlets.

Conclusion

Well there you have it: 22 ways to revive your annual report experience, with a dash of guerilla marketing to taste. I encourage you to press in on your next annual report. Why settle for the standard, blasé, check-the-box annual report when you can enjoy the whole process from start to finish and come away with a much better product and a much bigger impact.

In support of your efforts,

matt signature


References

Marrs, Megan. December 18, 2017. 20+ Jaw-Dropping Guerilla Marketing Examples. WordStream. Retrieved from https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/09/22/guerrilla-marketing-examples .

McCauley, Jim. January 30, 2018. 10 beautiful paper portfolios to inspire you. Creative Bloq. Retrieved from https://www.creativebloq.com/portfolios/paper-portfolios-5132559 .

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what is digital evangelism

What is Digital Evangelism?

If you’ve been in the Church for more than a week, you’ve likely run across the term “evangelism”. While the word evangelism has been around since the 1100’s, secular marketing and other industries have been busy expanding its definition over the past 50 years. These days, there are evangelists for pretty much everything. We have

  • Brand evangelists
  • Technology evangelists
  • Platform evangelists (has nothing to do with shoes)
  • Customer evangelists
  • Software evangelists
  • Product evangelists
  • Marketing evangelists
  • Behavioral evangelists
  • Internal evangelists
  • Food evangelists

There are even “chief evangelist officers”. No kidding.

Well today, Church, we’re stealing evangelism back.

Can I Get a Witness?

At its very basest definition, evangelism is sharing good news.

For we Christians, this means sharing thee Good News.

That’s it.

You thought you were going to get a Wikipedia definition, didn’t you?

Well, honestly, you almost did.

But truth doesn’t need to be as dusty as an encyclopedia entry. The Gospel is simple, so let’s keep ourselves simple. Jesus came to set us free. Though He continues to intercede on our behalf to the Father (and on the Father’s behalf to us,) the work of the Cross has been completed. That redemptive, restorative power has been made available to us if we yield to it.

It’s in that yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives—in not loving our own lives (agendas, calendars, possessions, ambitions, relationships and yes, even our physical lives) over Him—that allows for the transformation. From this intimate place, evangelism is born. It’s not something we have to force. As we see in the Apostles and many others since, the Good News can become so large in us it becomes something we can’t contain.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:11)

WWW Love (Web Witnessing With Love)

Now let’s talk about the digital part. There are three means by which evangelism flows, whether offline or on.

identity evangelism

Identity Evangelism

The expression of our lives testifies to Holy Spirit indwelling—not just through our conscious effort—but through Kingdom identity and the spiritual buoyancy right identity brings, even in the face of crisis. Our right living (or supernatural conversion to right living) witnesses to family, friends and coworkers around us. Through identity evangelism, observers watch from a distance and are drawn (or repelled) by the Father’s growing light within us. While too passive to really be called a “method,” this form of evangelism is more about being the Father’s expression of love (2 Corinthians 3) than actively proclaiming the Word (though that may be present).

Eyes Wide Open

Especially in cases where the heart-shift of regeneration is quick and dramatic, those witnessing the transformation may feel uncomfortable, confused and repulsed. (Remember, Jesus did not come to bring harmony, but a sword, Matthew 10:34.) Still, we are being recast in His image and He is love. As conflict arises (and it certainly will), old ways may try to resurface (anger, pride, willfulness, etc.) If you don’t see it in Jesus, you’re not to see it in yourself. When an expression of the old flesh presents itself, don’t lose your identity to self-condemnation; press into Him more (prayer, fasting, worship) and grace will meet you there.

Digital Expression (Organic Sharing)

What does identity evangelism look like in the digital world? Well, what do your social media posts look like? What does your personal blog speak to? If people have no idea you’re a Christian, you may look too much like the world. I’ve actually seen church leaders promote violent action and horror movies on their social media channels. As in, they were excited to go and support some dark, demonic thriller with their time, money and attention and then disconnected enough from the concepts of holiness and righteousness to promote that fallen movie to their social network.

“If people have no idea you’re a Christian, you may look too much like the world.”

Are you sold enough on the Gospel to share encouraging Bible quotes with your social media followers? Do you share Bible lessons, praise music or spiritual insights currently feeding you? Do you share your church and volunteer activities online? Or are you a closeted, weekend warrior for God? We are called to be salt. We are called to be light to a darkened world. What good does it do if a person lights a candle and places the candle under a basket? (Luke 11:33)

intentional evangelism

Intentional Evangelism

If identity evangelism is passive evangelism, intentional evangelism is active outreach. Traditionally, intentional evangelism uses signs, tracts and personal testimonies through conversation. This form of evangelism tends to be more interruptive. Breaking into a person’s trance as they pass you on the sidewalk may or may not be welcomed.

Digital Expression (Paid Promotion)

If the digital expression for identity evangelism is simply sharing your reasons for the hope inside you (along with pictures of your children and the evening’s dinner), digitized intentional evangelism is actively promoting those posts. This means paying to promote the Gospel message (or content that leads to the Gospel message) across television, radio, email and Internet marketing channels (blogs, social media, email, forums). That messaging may take the form of shareable graphics, instructional videos, podcast interviews, blog articles and other brilliant, Life-giving content.

Simply sharing your love for God in comments or images on your channels is the first step, as seen in identity evangelism. However, on some social media channels, as little as 7-13% of your followers see your posts. (Open rates for email blasts can be even lower.) This means very few of your channel subscribers are seeing your content. Most channels allow you to boost your content (for a fee, of course). Just as you would buy tracts, print flyers or take your time to street evangelize, here you simply put dollars behind Kingdom messages you produce or discover.

platform evangelism

Platform Evangelism

Platform evangelism is preaching the Gospel message from the platform you’re given, whether from the pulpit at church, the office boardroom, on the playing field or in the classroom; wherever your influence lies. Essentially, you are leveraging your authority or position in a given setting to influence thinking and culture. You have the observer’s captive attention. Now deliver the message with love, respect and wisdom.

Digital Expression (Influencer Marketing)

Yes, platform evangelism is similar to intentional evangelism in its digital expression, however there are a couple distinct differences.

First, platform evangelism leverages your social currency (your influence) or that of another, while in intentional evangelism, your audience may not even know you.

Second, platform evangelism may or may not be paid by you. An itinerant preacher who gives a powerful message while visiting a church may be recorded and promoted by that church years after their actual visit. (No pressure!)

Where and When to Evangelize

If you have concluded it’s possible to operate in different stages of evangelism at the same time, you are right. These forms of evangelism overlap considerably in places.

Well? Which form of evangelism do you think is the greatest? Is platform evangelism best, where you have the potential to reach millions? Or maybe it’s the more intimate path of intentional evangelism?

I feel the greatest of these is identity evangelism. Surprised? Without first becoming love, we’re taught we become “a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13). Even if you were the last person on earth, your identity in Him would still be the most important thing to press into.

The Christian walk is one of transformation. It is a walk of spiritual restoration, not by our hands or efforts, but of His. He is the Master Potter; we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8). When we charge ahead of Him and His plan for us, we risk doing damage to ourselves and others. I’m sure you’ve heard stories about evangelists who—being short on character—make very public mistakes, only to lose their position and their flock’s respect. We are refined by Him and made ready for more and more responsibility, in His time.

Final Thought: How Not to Evangelize

Is everyone going to be an evangelist? Well, no. And there is a danger in that, unfortunately. Not only is there that whole “spew you out of my mouth” message to the lukewarm church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), but we are also counseled by Jesus that “whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

Is every Christian called to evangelism though? Yes. This is the Great Commission, after all. Jesus told us to go forth to all nations. (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, Luke 9:2) Indeed, He modeled this His entire itinerant ministry.

As mentioned earlier, you may be relieved (or slightly convicted) to hear that evangelism is actually a natural by-product of Christ within you. That means you’re not biting your lip, trying to evangelize. You’re not putting a checkmark in your proclamation box.

In fact, it may be more elegant to say we don’t evangelize (verb) as much as we become evangelists (transformation). Your evangelism will be a result of your over-the-bar heart position for the Gospel to the extent it lives in you. If you’re yielding to the Holy Spirit, dying to the Cross daily, the ensuing love affair that takes you over simply bears good fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes:

You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NKJV)

So there we have it. We become living epistles. It all begins with identity evangelism, the fruit of His artistry in us.

Now go spread the news about the joy you have found.

matt signature


References

Wilson, Ross. November 26, 2012. How to Build Brand Evangelists with 3 Winning Examples. Ignite Social Media. Retrieved from https://www.ignitesocialmedia.com/social-media-strategy/how-to-build-brand-evangelists-with-3-winning-examples/.

 

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fundraising ideas

Fundraising Ideas

After working with non-profits for years, I have seen plenty of wins on the fundraising front… and plenty of fails. Many organizations struggle with fundraising unless they’ve placed a real focus on it. You have two goals in any fundraising activity:

  1. Raise awareness and build community for a cause by drawing attention to the problem and presenting your organization as part of the solution.
  2. Make money. (Yes, it’s an unfortunate fact: Even humanity’s most noble causes require time, effort and resources to support.)

The downside: It often feels disingenuous to be seeking out money when our mission is so big in our hearts.

Yet, without the time, energy and resources of others, we’re often quite limited in the impact we can have for our cause.

So, raise funds we must. Cultivating donors, sponsors and supporters takes time, just as with any audience. And now you’re not just looking for an audience; you’re looking for an activated audience. You’re looking for folks who will invest in you and your cause; folks who will join you in putting some skin in the game.

In “maximum information per square inch” style, here is a list of fundraising activities you can use to advance your efforts:

Online Fundraising

  1. Register with larger retailers to receive a kickback for your audience’s purchases (e.g. Amazon Smile).
  2. Use Facebook and Qgiv ‘Donate Now’ buttons. (Not in a position to take donations online? Ask us. It’s free to get set up.)
  3. Text donations.
  4. Online auctions.
  5. Peer-to-peer fundraising.

Don’t forget to include in your messaging contact details for inquiries and links to your donation and volunteer web pages.

Most event and sponsorship activities can be promoted online, either sporadically or in a concentrated blitz (think “telethon” but across social media and your email list.) Treat the campaign as an event of its own. This means you’ll send out notices a few months in advance, you’ll be releasing images, infographics, videos and stories to pull on heart strings, etc., leading up to the big day. Can you involve the press? Are you reaching your fundraising goal? Be sure to regularly communicate your progress to your audience along the way.

fundraisers polar plunge

Sponsorships

This fundraising category includes

  1. growing beards,
  2. shaving heads,
  3. skydiving,
  4. running races,
  5. bidding to name a beer or dish,
  6. wacky costumes and
  7. generally making good on outrageous dares so nay-sayers can put their money where their mouths are. Physical challenges (check with a doctor first) may include
  8. bzillion step challenges or
  9. workout challenges,
  10. cold water plunges or
  11. hunger challenges (water-only fast for a day or weekend).
  12. Company-matches-employee-donation campaigns.
  13. Local restaurants may help underwrite events or your organization in return for sharing their logo.
  14. Executive lock-ups (where people call everyone in their contact lists until they post their fundraising goal as “bail”.)
  15. Ask businesses to assist in underwriting your next event and work with them to design their own sponsorship package.

fundraisers donations

Donations

  1. Vehicle donations,
  2. prime parking spot exchange,
  3. employee jean days,
  4. change drive (think ‘tip jars’ at numerous businesses across your city,) and
  5. giving trees.
  6. Skip-a-meal campaigns (lunch money saved goes to cause.)
  7. Work with bottle-deposit locations to ask bottle/can collectors if they would like to give their bottle returns as a donation to your cause.
  8. You can even donate babysitting money.

Events

Most events will make their money at admission, however there are other opportunities to advance sponsorships, raffles, product sales, etc., at the event. Are local clearances, additional insurance or personal waivers needed? Begin advertising your events with save-the-date messaging around four to five months in advance. Remember to schedule the venue, catering, staff and volunteers, videographer or photographer well in advance (sometimes a year or more in advance.) Is there an opportunity to get a public service announcement (PSA) to the local news outlets? More ideas for marketing your event..

best event marketing ideas

On with the download..

  1. Photo booths (rented or make-shift),
  2. dunk tanks,
  3. celebrity appearances,
  4. karaoke,
  5. face-painting,
  6. ice cream socials,
  7. soup dinners (where local artists donate bowls patrons purchase and receive their soup in),
  8. talent shows,
  9. craft fairs,
  10. car washes,
  11. movie nights,
  12. silent auctions,
  13. lunch ‘n’ learns and
  14. pool parties.
  15. Work out a deal with a local restaurant for a breakfast or dinner ‘mob’ where so many plates translates into x% donated by the restaurant.
  16. 50/50 raffles for packages donated by local businesses,
  17. pancake breakfasts,
  18. community restoration projects,
  19. concerts and
  20. open-mic story-hours.

Events: Informational and Classes

  1. Music lessons,
  2. art classes,
  3. dance lessons,
  4. cooking classes,
  5. guided city or forest tours,
  6. after-hours museum, zoo or aquarium dinner tours; all can be a wonderful time for networking and giving.

fundraisers 5k races

Events: Competitions and Tournaments

  1. Adult spelling-bees,
  2. “Are You Smarter than a 4th Grader” adult vs kid trivia face-offs,
  3. oratory contests,
  4. photo contests,
  5. baking, chili or BBQ contests,
  6. golf, croquet or softball matches,
  7. fantasy football leagues,
  8. 5K runs (with or without obstacle courses),
  9. marathons, bi- and triathlons (really anything with “thon” at the end),
  10. ping pong, darts, bowling,
  11. scavenger hunts (entry fee plus pay extra to unlock short-cuts),
  12. corn hole, volleyball,
  13. design competitions and
  14. board games.

Events: Holiday Themes

  1. Ornament swaps,
  2. cookie swaps,
  3. not-so-spooky haunted houses (better: house of blessings),
  4. corn mazes,
  5. egg hunts, or
  6. a visit from Santa Claus.

Sell Something

Sales can happen anywhere. High school games, fairs and festivals, farmer’s markets—even through a food-truck in a parking lot.

fundraisers bake sales

  1. Cookbooks,
  2. household items,
  3. clothing,
  4. baked goods,
  5. art,
  6. candles,
  7. candy,
  8. popcorn,
  9. book swaps,
  10. tree saplings,
  11. lapel pins, or
  12. club memberships.
  13. Talent auctions (accounting, housekeeping, photography, etc.)
  14. Awareness bracelets.
  15. Hot chocolate booth (borrow machine from local restaurant or catering company in exchange for advertising them at the event.)
  16. Hold a community yard sale.

Sell Something: Holiday Themes

  1. Sell singing telegrams/carols,
  2. chocolates/candy,
  3. flowers or
  4. cards.
  5. Work with a local retailer to provide holiday gift-wrapping.

Gaming

At risk of being told this was forgotten, I want to acknowledge, that yes, there are opportunities to go Las Vegas-style in order to advance your cause. However, a word of caution: Is gambling on basketball brackets, Bingo, or Poker how you want your organization to be associated with your cause? In some areas, gambling or betting on sports games is even illegal, so best check with local authorities if you think this is something you want to explore.

Wrap Up

Hopefully, if you made it to the end of the list, you have realized that you can layer several of these ideas together at any given time. Yes, you can have an absolute fundraising feast. Just be sure you don’t get so busy chasing sustainability that you lose sight of the cause you’re sustaining.

Go forth and conquer.

matt signature

Have more fundraising ideas you would like to see added to this list? Leave a comment below!

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christian web hosting

Christian Web Hosting

It is a fact that technology has become an integral part of our lives. Spreading the gospel in the modern world cannot be effectively done without taking advantage of the many tools that technology has given to us.

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