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?We?ve got to do a lot more with a whole lot less budget??

I?m sure I?m not the first one to receive those marching orders. They?re the ones I received last fall, as our Executive Team was deep into the throws of the budgeting process. It would be nice to have unlimited resources at our disposal, but the reality of most teams (especially in the ministry world) is a shoestring budget that?s stretched as thin as dental floss.

Something has to give, but what can you afford to cut? Here?s some crucial advice I?ve learned over the years (sometimes the hard way).

Don?t Skimp on a Solid Foundation

Identify the assets that will be foundational to your ministry?s success and invest heavily in those things. Spend the time and thought to build a great website; hire an excellent designer for your logo; get a high-octane creative on staff (even if they have dual responsibilities at first). These may feel optional at first glance, but they?re crucial building blocks for your ministry.[quote]Cut whatever you can, to leave budget for foundational assets in tact.[/quote]

I?ve seen a lot of ministries wince at funding these assets in their early years, only to spend much more down the road compensating for cheap alternatives. Cut whatever you can, to leave budget for foundational assets in tact.

The Most Obvious Tools Aren?t Always the Best Ones

Once or twice a year, set aside some time to ask, ?Why are we doing it this way?? In the communication world, it?s easy to do a lot of things out of habit instead of necessity.[quote]It?s easy to do a lot of things out of habit instead of necessity.[/quote]

For years, our church had the same marketing plan for Easter Sunday and other big events: send a mailer, announce from stage, and hope for the best. It?s a fine plan. But when I sat down to examine our options, it was actually a poor use of our resources.

In 2012, we cut the mailer out of the plan and decided to try something a little outside the box. For less than half of the money spent on one mailer, we were able to buy…

  • 3 highway billboards
  • 4 bus bench ads
  • 500 yard signs
  • 10,000 invite cards
  • 3 weeks of newspaper ads
  • hundreds of posters
  • an attractive microsite

? and much more. Sure, all of those mediums were outside the norm for us (and our audience), but it made for an exciting campaign that was much more effective than the simple mailer had ever been.

Learn the Most Efficient Approach

Remember those foundational assets I mentioned earlier? They?re crucial because of how much of your communication strategy you can build on top of them (for little, if any, additional cost).

A request for a detailed microsite can be filled with a nicely designed landing page on your existing site. That expensive booklet the Women?s Ministry wants can shift to an attractive flyer that points to the web for additional details. Need to send out giving statements for tax season? Email all givers with a download link instead.[quote]Try to spend less on the little projects to give yourself latitude for the heavy hitters.[/quote]

Try to spend less on the little projects to give yourself latitude for the heavy hitters.

Good Planning is Free

Telling a creative to get organized is like telling a hipster to shave their mustache; they know they probably should, but it?s strongly against their nature.

Nevertheless, it?s amazing how much more you can do when you plan weeks ahead, keep good notes, and know where you are in your budget. I finally gave in to the cult of Evernote last summer, and it has had a dramatic impact on my ability to get stuff done. It?s easy to talk about stewardship in relation to money, but don?t forget to manage your time just as well.

Once you?ve been in ministry long enough (especially on the communications side of the team), you?ll realize there?s never enough budget to feel comfortable; you will always have to resort to creativity? And maybe that?s not such a bad thing.

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