Pastor's PropositionBy Kim S. Nash | Posted 2005-12-07 Email Print
Megachurches like the 25,000-member World Changers of Atlanta can teach corporations the true meaning of customer relationship management. How? They can look at their data and identify members, determine who could be volunteering more, contribute how much
On this July morning, Dollar calls for healing through the laying on of hands and praying in tongues. Then he solicits "first fruits." The first increase in pay for anyone who has gotten a raise should go to God, he explains. Then he asks for regular offerings and tithes. Tithers donate 10 percent of their pay to the church.
Dollar likes to call this early part of the service "prosperity time," assuring the congregation that by giving, they will see returns both spiritual and physical. Dollar praises givers, making them feel good and satisfied that they're doing right.
"What you sow is what you harvest," he says. Thousands of people pass forward white contribution envelopes.
Like most compelling speakers, Dollar is a master salesman. He holds forth about how to love God, citing Matthew 22:34, which talks about loving God with heart, soul and mind. He paces remarks to build momentum, being serious or funny, sometimes colloquial. At one point, he urges the congregation to accept their human limits.
"You ain't all that," he admonishes. "But with Him in your life, you're all that, plus a cup o' sugar—you understand what I'm sayin'?"
He will raise a fist and furrow a brow to thunder a point home, then resettle the crowd with a grin and his signature punctuating chuckle, "Heh, heh, heh—hallelujah." Rows of heads bob appreciatively.
Like any CEO, Dollar has something to sell. As Larry Ellison pitches software and Donald Trump sells himself, Dollar promotes biblically based self-improvement, emotional, marital and spiritual fulfillment, and, too, financial gain.
That's the core service World Changers offers, along with dozens of peripheral goods and services. Some are free—food pantries, apartment finders, live Webcasts of Dollar's Sunday sermons.
Others have a price tag—$27 for CDs of Dollar's teachings on prosperity, $23 for cassette tapes of wife Taffi Dollar's advice to women, $1,300 for subscriptions to a year's worth of sermons on DVD.
"People tend to think churches are different because we have a different product," says Karen Hosey, director of the 11-member marketing staff at World Changers. "But our product is the word of God. People buy because you [as a supplier] meet a need. Same here."
Buy they do. Last year, Hosey says, World Changers sold 287,460 books, CDs and other items through multiple outlets—online, through its toll-free number, at the bookstore inside the World Dome and at Christian bookstores generally.
Product sales are typically one-fourth of a megachurch's revenue; donations account for the rest. The $80 million World Changers sells an estimated $20 million in products. As an untaxed, nonprofit religious institution, World Changers funnels income back into services and products for its community. Those sales, along with about $60 million in donations, enrich the church to expand and reach out to even more people.
That's symbiosis. And it's driven by World Changers' approach to CRM, which amounts to four basic steps: attract new visitors, get people involved, meet their needs, and clinch their loyalty.
Done right, the work yields thousands of faithful, active devotees who also support the church financially. Technology assists at every turn.
- The Principle and Practice of Prosperity:Pastor Creflo A. Dollar Jr. built a congregation on a message of prosperity and conservatism; he built an organization on the practical application of those principles.
- Megamodel:The size of megachurches seems impersonal, but the customer-relationship model is as high-touch as you get.
- Pastor's Proposition:Give to the church and you'll prosper; buy a CD and you'll learn.
- Using Technology to Minister:Live Webcasts of sermons, Bibles on handhelds, daily e-mail blasts, online donations, and—everywhere—collect data to know who your congregants are and what they need from you.
- Keep Attendees Involved:Getting them to services and into volunteering is only the start of an effective member-loyalty program.
- Quick Member Integration:Right after first contact, the church reaches out to potential members with packets of prayers and information tailored to their interests and even their proximity to the church.
- Meet Customer Needs:Give 'em what they want and they'll keep coming back for more.
- Keeping Customer Contacts In-House:Running call centers and other contact mechanisms is tough, but World Changers keeps the core contacts in-house to keep the services focused.
- Preventing Churn:Spotting the members who might be ready to decamp and bring them back to into the fold.
- Mixed Blessings:The Rev. Dollar's methods and success—not to mention his last name—raise hackles.
- Base Case:Snapshot of World Changers' business, size and growth.
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