In 2016, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was used by 16 percent of South Carolina residents. More than 72 percent of the state’s SNAP participants were families with children. Across the nation, the average monthly SNAP benefit per person in 2016 was $127, or $1.41 per meal.
Economic forecasts are pointing to a rocky 2019 and 2020 for the global economy due to a variety of causes. Pre-2007, the thinking was that nonprofits, charities, and churches were more “Recession Proof” than enterprise or commercial ventures due to the patterns of previous economic downturns and market corrections. While giving from individuals and foundations dipped, they didn’t suffer dramatic drops and tended to hold steady in giving amounts compared to previous years.
However, the Great Recession of 2008-2010 taught us a different lesson as outlined in the report below. We’re seeing a global remapping of the economic system towards software and algorithms that defies previous statistics and models about the severity of downturns. If we do see an economic slow down or correction, I’m sure we’ll see a troubling situation for many charities, nonprofits and especially churches more kin to 2008 than 1972.
Not only is the economy itself transforming globally, but the religious landscape in the United States is certainly seeing a complete transformation such as the decline of traditional denomination membership numbers, fewer giving dollars from individuals and foundations, and the rise of the “Nones” the correlates with the decline of the perceived role of the church in American society.
Now is the time to start planning for the eventual economic downturn, whether it happens in 2019 or 2021. Churches of all sizes and shapes and histories need to be prepping and planning ahead with concrete fundraising and marketing strategies and are certainly not “too big to fail.”
“Even if so, though, what’s good for the industry as a whole is going to be bad for a whole lot of individual companies. Enterprises will tighten their belts, and experimental initiatives with potential long-term value but no immediate bottom-line benefit will be among the first on the chopping block. Consumers will guard their wallets more carefully, and will be ever less likely to pay for your app and/or click on your ad. And everyone will deleverage and/or hoard their cash reserves like dragons, just in case, which means less money for new or struggling companies.”
Nonprofits have faced a two-fold dilemma. On the one hand, they are facing high and growing levels of demand from individuals and families who are struggling in this down economy and in need of their services. On the other hand, the nonprofits find themselves with decreased resources as individual and corporate giving and federal and state funding decline. Who is affected the most? Service-based and Faith-based organizations.
Every morning, Flatt wakes up compelled by that simple mission: He has to save a dog—especially ones that everyone else has given up as lost. June received reconstructive surgery for her injuries and joined the ranks of damaged creatures salvaged by Friends to the Forlorn (FTTF), Flatt’s Dallas, Georgia–based animal rescue operation, which has worked with every canine breed from Chihuahuas to Mastiffs but specializes in pit bulls. He takes on the fighters and the biters, the blind and the deaf, and any other special-needs case rejected by other organizations or sentenced to death row at the pound. One dog had been frozen to the ground during an ice storm; another had more than 60 puncture wounds; one had been tortured with a shock collar. Flatt even offers a sort of hospice care, taking in dying dogs and easing their final days with steak and ice cream.
“Failure to comply with Section 508 of the Department of Justice’s ADA (American with Disabilities Act) Standards for Accessible Design could expose your company to hefty fines, the risk of expensive criminal and civil litigation as well as a reputation for being unfriendly to the disabled.” https://userway.org/
I’m going to make a rant here. Forgive me (or just don’t read if you’re not up for a Sam Rant™).
Cheap website builders really upset me. For a number of reasons.
We’re working on a couple of large church website revisions for clients this week. These are content-heavy sites with numerous pages that are all info-dense with text, video, audio, podcasts, galleries, and just about every measure of content you can imagine. They are both complicated builds with lots of moving parts. So, we are constantly doing checks and QA (quality assurance) tests to make sure everything is working. Building websites of this scale might be sold as an easy thing to do on Super Bowl ads, but they are definitely not easy or “quick” things to do if you want to do them right.
One of the pitches I make to clients like this when they want to know what Harrelson Agency does differently that they couldn’t get done if they just used Wix or Squarespace or Weebly or one of the many other “website builder” apps is the care and attention we give to details such as Search Engine Optimization, mobile user experiences, payments and online giving (those %’s really do add up when you start receiving online donations), and security. It’s not that the website builder apps don’t offer those services, but items like SEO or mobile experience and especially website security tend to be the last things that someone volunteering to build your site checks (if at all). Plus, there are just better tools that last longer if you know what you’re doing, which is a cost saver over time. That’s especially true of security in 2018 and 2019.
However, one of the newer pitch items I’ve been including out of my own interests and passion is accessibility. I’ve always been interested in the subject, but that became especially true during my time in the classroom as a teacher. I frequently became frustrated with books or apps or computers or websites that students were forced to use but designed specifically with no regard to accessibility or usage issues. Over the last few years running Harrelson Agency and working heavily on website builds and designs with companies, individuals, churches, and nonprofits I’ve noticed that accessibility definitely takes a back seat to other concerns. That’s ESPECIALLY true with resource-strapped and budget limited churches and nonprofits.
However, that should not be the case. In my mind (that’s admittedly full of “too much righteous indignation” as a mentor once chided me), churches and nonprofits should be leading the way to make their websites true open doors to the public in a way that does not discriminate against anyone, including those who need usage, visual, or auditory accommodation to participate in that invitation.
- 1 in 5 Americans experience permanent or temporary usage, auditory, or visual disability
- 7.6 million Americans are auditory impaired
- 8.1 million Americans are visually impaired
- 2.2 million Americans suffer seizures and epilepsy
- 2 million Americans are blind
- 19.9 million Americans are motor impaired and cannot use a computer mouse
Technology is most powerful when it empowers everyone.
Apple is one of the most forward thinking and acting tech companies when it comes to raising awareness of accessibility issues for users. It’s one of the reasons I truly love that tools such as iPad are available for students and all people who seek to participate in the global experience that is the world wide web.
Why aren’t churches talking the similar language and instead forcing everyone to fit through a very narrow door and definition of visitor abilities? We wouldn’t do that in the physical world. It’s time to take the digital world just as seriously and stop passively discriminating because of poor website build decisions.
Take your website’s functionality seriously and allow it to empower and welcome ALL. It’s a matter of mixing philosophy with theology with technical know how. And the trick is that it won’t even cost you that much, but you’ll gain so much more and perhaps share the love of God with someone who is looking for a real open door.
More and more of my clients on the nonprofit and church side are asking about Instagram Stories and experimenting with them in some form to help with outreach. Like anything on the web or mobile, it’s always fun to dive in and try things out. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel if you’re looking to make the most of your time (especially given that most nonprofit marketing is done on a volunteer basis!).
Here’s a handy guide that makes some of the same points that I do with clients… shoot vertically, don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t be afraid of stickers, be afraid of hashtags, and (most importantly!) PLAN PLAN PLAN with a calendar that you’ll stick to…
Consider treating your Story like a TV network with scheduled programming for the week, or even recurring “episodes” that happen on certain days. Thinking in advance about what kind of content you’ll be sharing and how your Story will flow will help you craft a more addictive and consistent experience for your viewers.
The average person thinks, “Of course philanthropy is about helping the poor.” In fact, just one out of every three dollars is intended to benefit underserved or marginalized communities. Even with a very broad definition—low-income communities, communities of color, women and girls, LGBT communities, people with disabilities, the elderly—it’s a small percentage of philanthropic dollars.
In our last analysis, 90% of the 1,000 biggest foundations in the country direct less than half of their dollars to benefit underserved communities. It’s shocking.
American churches and nonprofits are in for an even louder wake-up call in 2018 and beyond. It’s definitely time to start planning for the near future to keep your church or nonprofit solvent, especially if you are smaller in size and rely on donors who make less than $75,000 yearly.
Churches must begin to explore income alternatives with an expected decline in individual giving in 2018 from the pending tax reform plan, along with year-over-year declining church attendance in all mainline Protestant denominations and increasing numbers of individuals with no reported religious affiliation.
The source of concern is how the tax bill is expected to sharply reduce the number of taxpayers who qualify for the charitable tax deduction — a big driver of gifts to nonprofits. One study predicts that donations will fall by at least $13 billion, about 4.5 percent, next year. That decline is expected to be concentrated among gifts from the middle of the income scale. The richest Americans will mostly keep their ability to take the tax break.
The tax reform legislation that was just passed by Congress and signed into law by the President will present an unprecedented challenge to churches and nonprofits in light of charitable tax exemptions. In short, because of changes to the standard deductions, far fewer taxpayers and households (particularly those making less than $75,000) will itemize. That’s now the only way to take advantage of the charitable contributions deduction.
So unless your church or nonprofit relies heavily on donors in the top tax brackets, you need to diversify income sources.
If you rely on a large number of smaller donations from members or patrons who are in “the middle class,” you need to diversify income sources.
“To use your charitable contributions against your taxes, you must itemize your deductions. This means for it to make financial sense, the combined value of all your deductions would need to exceed the standard deductions for 2017: $12,700 for married couples, $9,350 for heads of households and $6,350 for single filers and married couples filing separately.”
We work with churches and nonprofits to help identify and engage with alternative income sources. Get in touch if you need help.
Interesting thoughts here from the NY Times CEO on how they are shifting focus in relationship to Facebook and Google due to the smartphone revolution … much of this applies to how nonprofits and churches can do better marketing as well:
It’s about how you think about the product and what you’re trying to do and what is the value you’re giving to users. The areas of weakness in the publishing industry have been not having an audience strategy or sufficient brain space to think about how you serve your audience. It’s very easy to get tracked into assumptions about who your audience is. In legacy media, journalistic parameters were set by the geographical limitations. [The smartphone] changes everything. You need to reinvent journalism from the ground up with this device in mind, and then try and figure out what you’re going to do on a laptop and the physical newspaper.
Whether you’re starting your own business or non-profit or trying to make an existing one feasible as a “job,” the fear that you encounter at 4am as you do the week’s invoicing and receipts in your head can be staggering. I know, I’ve definitely been there in the low tides of “working for yourself.”
Our mind tries to trick us into being more cautious and avoiding the risk associated with such endeavors (often for good reasons). But if you can step outside of your own mind and observe the fears associated with “starting up,” you can make powerful realizations about your own abilities and potential.
We can limit and hold ourselves back with our beliefs. In my case, I really believed I would be judged for what I was doing. For a while, I operated almost entirely on referrals. While I did excellent work, I didn’t have an active lead generation plan in place because that would mean showing up on social media and letting my friends and family know what I was up to. I convinced myself that people would make fun of me and my business, and I allowed that fear to hold me back to the point that while I was home for Thanksgiving last year, I even considered taking a family friend’s advice to leave Bali and “get a real job.”
Thank goodness I found a way to work through my fears and stick to my guns! There will always be haters, but at the end of the day, the people who matter will support you: between my social media and email list, I now have over 10,000 business owners following my work.
One of my favorite clients had this question on our weekly call this morning.
I excitedly said “YES!” which feels a little odd. Going back through my blog archives here, you’ll see lots of instances over the last 10 years where I’ve written that LinkedIn “sucks” is “terrible” and “should not be used.”
However, LinkedIn can be a fabulous tool for groups and nonprofits looking to make an impact within a certain influencer group. I offered a couple of different thoughts on how to do that in our call this morning, but the highlights are that you should be posting updates and your posts should be “mobile-first” (short, narrative, and text). Secondly, use their native video feature to share QUICK and focused updates via mobile video, especially if you’re doing outreach or looking to connect with parties in your community.
There’s a great list of other ideas here from Social Media Examiner that I found while doing some research:
Keep it short. No one wants to read walls of text. Also, on LinkedIn mobile, a See More link appears on text updates longer than five lines. On the desktop version, your post is cut off after only three lines. With these limits in mind, if you use a storytelling approach, put a compelling hook in the first line to encourage people to read the whole post.