Strengthening Internal Communications to Expand Your Appeal
Building awareness of the benefits of your diocesan appeal is essential to success. One important ingredient is leadership. Empowering leaders to be strong advocates is the key. Building bottom-up energy – grassroots leadership – will increase awareness of and generate enthusiasm for the mission of the local Church. Grassroots leaders can help advance the pastoral vision of the bishop and encourage people to consider the needs of others beyond their parish community.
Pastors and other ministry leaders play a critical role in promoting the appeal. When they are actively involved, people notice – participation spikes and giving levels can increase significantly. But it’s not always easy.
How you communicate with pastors and diocesan leaders can be as important as what you communicate. A strong and consistent internal communications strategy is the cornerstone of any solid marketing strategy. Tapping into the energy and dedication of those on the front lines of pastoral care will make a big difference.
Engaging Pastors and Diocesan Leaders
After years of developing strategic communications for corporations, nonprofits and Catholic dioceses across the country, we have compiled five tips for encouraging leadership support. You can use these insights to tailor messages for internal audiences, encourage buy-in among clergy and inspire leaders to be champions of the annual appeal.
1. Pastors are busy. You are there to help.
We know how busy pastors and diocesan leaders can be. Clear, timely communications make their lives easier, leading to a more effective appeal effort at every level.
2. Make it about stewardship.
If the appeal is seen only as a fundraising initiative, many pastors and parish leaders will disengage. Remind them to focus on cultivating generosity as a stewardship lifestyle and reinforce the impact gifts have, both in their parish and throughout the diocese.
3. Provide everything parish staff will need – in one place, at one time.
Keep it simple and well-organized. Parish offices are hubs of activity. With so much going on, it is important to provide everything needed for the parish appeal in one shipment, at one time and on time.
4. Engage pastors before and after the appeal.
Ongoing communications from your office will help keep pastors and diocesan leaders engaged throughout the year. It’s important that they hear from you at times other than when you need them to do something to support the appeal. Simple messages of appreciation go a long way in strengthening relationships and cultivating their leadership in the appeal.
5. Ask for their input.
Pastors and diocesan leaders already do a lot to serve their people and support the local Church. Acknowledge their unique contributions to the diocesan mission. Ask them how you can better support their efforts – then be sure to listen to their feedback and incorporate their suggestions into your action plan.
Developing Your Toolkit
If you’re ready to build out your internal communications toolkit, here are a few ideas to get you started. The items listed below are meant to provide an overview of an internal communications plan. Specific channels and messages will vary, based on your situation and your priority audiences.
- Letter from the Bishop (In advance of the appeal)
- Introductory Appeal Packet (Prior to appeal kickoff)
- Letter from Development Director (Prior to in-parish appeal)
- Results-Focused Mailer (As active phase concludes)
- Social Media Messages (Ongoing)
- Targeted Email Updates (Monthly)
Start by preparing a mission awareness packet with digital support communications. Include in the introductory packet a personalized letter, a benefits-oriented fact sheet, news stories from across the diocese and targeted information about how the appeal will benefit both parishes and the local community.
Use this packet to advise members of the curia, to gain buy-in from newly appointed pastors and to build awareness among diocesan leadership audiences. Incorporate social media and targeted email communications to reinforce appeal messages and to update pastors and diocesan leaders throughout the year.
Expanding the Reach of Your Appeal
Internal communications are perhaps the most underutilized tool to engage leadership audiences, preview the case for support and strengthen awareness for the appeal – locally, within the parish, and regionally, across the diocese. If you’re looking for ways to expand your reach and boost appeal participation, create and implement a robust internal communications strategy as part of your appeal action plan.