I think you know I enjoy reading Dan Pallotta‘s columns in the Harvard Business Review, though he and I could hardly approach the topic of fundraising from more different backgrounds and orientations and in an effort to achieve more diametrically opposite ends. But the guy is smart, funny, and interesting, which is more than one can say about most fundraising writing on the Internet, even, oddly, the stuff I tend to agree with.
Anyway, Pallotta engaged in a rare moment of church envy the other day in his column (typically he is, um, not praiseworthy of Christians or Christian morality or much of anything Christian for that matter) that made me want to switch my membership to whatever church he went to when he wrote the following:
Religious services are a form of marketing. What else would you call being held captive to a rehearsed one-hour message repeated once a week, every week, week after week after week? It’s a particularly productive form of marketing — rich, experiential, and communal. It’s much more powerful than a website banner ad that your retina can filter out before reaching your brain, or a TV commercial you can make disappear with TIVO. You have to sit there and listen. The message is simple: Be charitable, both to your religious institution and to humanity in general. And it works.
I’ve taught and trained hundreds of churches, and I can count on one hand the ones that week in and week out share the simple message, “Be charitable”. Even the ones that share that simple message rarely do so in a way that is “rich, experiential, and communal.”
I wish sincerely that churches were indeed far more guilty of what Pallotta accuses us of and envies so greatly. We ought to be. He’s exactly right: What an opportunity we’re missing! Instead of using each week to share the simple call to generosity, we’re scared even to talk about it. We hope people catch it from the ventilation system, to be sure, but to our shame we are hardly making rich, experiential, communal appeals for charity every week.
In the end, my question remains the same as always, namely:
If the Church’s opportunities to build generosity are so coveted by secular marketers, why are we the ones consistently trying to imitate them?