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How A Ministry Can Know When to Adopt New Technology - John Schwartz from Truth for Life

This week on the Ministry at Scale Podcast, our CEO, Chad Williams interviewed John Schwartz, the Digital Communications Manager at Truth for Life. John walked us through his wide experience in the digital space and told us about some of the most important digital trends for nonprofits — and how to know which trends are worth your time and budget.

Who is John Schwartz?
John Schwartz is the Digital Communications Manager at Truth for Life, the teaching ministry of Alistair Begg. His interest in digital began when he built a website for fun as a youth pastor in the mid-90’s. In the early 2000s, he got a job in the digital ministry space for the first time. And since then, he has worked for various nonprofits, focusing on leadership management and keeping up with digital trends.

As an early adopter of digital — before Google even existed — John has seen the highs and lows of digital trends over the years. He said that it was clear early on that digital communication would be a must-have for any organization. Sadly, nonprofits of every kind have been careful to adopt the latest trends, and are often stuck in “catch-up mode.” John’s dream is for nonprofits to become the ‘leading edge’ of digital.

When to Jump on the Digital Trend Bandwagon
So when should an organization adopt a new digital trend? John’s answer is simple: nonprofits don’t want to be the first, but they also shouldn’t be last. He suggests asking a few questions to know if it’s time to try a new technology:

Is the current/new technology meeting a need within the organization?

Is it adding more profit?

Is it saving your team time?

Is it possible to test it out for a short period?

Chad mentioned the 10% rule that we follow at Five Q. Simply put, if 10% of our audience is using a tool, we should be, too. Alternatively, if less than 10% of the audience is using a tool (like Internet Explorer, for example) we should not be spending our resources to support that tool.

3 Vital Pieces to Nonprofit Digital Strategy
The 10% rule is helpful to follow for trends that will keep your organization on the ‘leading edge’ instead of the ‘bleeding edge,’ but what are some of the core technologies nonprofits should be using?

John explained that he views nonprofits as a stool supported by three digital ‘legs’. The three legs are email, consistent content, and social media.

Leg #1: Email
People often describe email as the dying digital trend, but John disagrees (and so do we). A solid email strategy takes time and dedication. But email is also an easy way to drive people to your content, gather subscribers, and communicate with new visitors. It is crucial to build and manage a list of people that are interested in your ministry and the work you do. In the age of digital censorship, email lists are a way to maintain a list of your fans, especially if your organization is faith-based.

Leg #2: Consistent Content
Content is a clear necessity for any digital strategy, even making its way into the other ‘legs’ of email and social media. The important part of creating content is consistency. Regularly posting, sharing, and building content gives people a reason to keep coming back and learn more about your organization. John noted that video content is growing rapidly in popularity, especially on Youtube, so this is a space that nonprofits should be stepping into.

Leg #3: Social Media
Social media is a constantly changing space, so it may be confusing to know which platforms to focus on. How do you know when to jump into a new one (e.g. TikTok)? John says, “Listen to the demand of your users.” The most useful platforms for nonprofits right now are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.

The 5 Multipliers of Digital Impact
The 5 Multipliers of Digital Impact can be thought of as the 5 foundational pillars of growth. Over our decades of working with ministries to help them drive growth and impact, we’ve seen that these areas of focus are universal in their effect. The 5 Multipliers are: Awareness, Engagement, Conversions, Average Value, and Retention.

John told us that the most important Multiplier to his team right now is Retention. It is often quite challenging for nonprofits to gather retention data like the average lifetime gift of a donor, for example. Even John expressed that his team has had a hard time getting the right metrics without enough staff to work on donor reporting. But, they see the value in knowing retention data: it ultimately gives visibility into the success of marketing efforts.

Additional Resources
John’s favorite book right now: Live Not by Lies by Rod Dreher

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