Engaging with the wider community

04 August 2023

Communication is a key foundation stone in fundraising. Communicating the right message, in the right way, to the right person can pave the way to a donation now or in the future. Asking your wider community for support is no different.

Two people volunteering in cafe and serving hot drinks

Reaching outside your church to the wider community

Who are your communities?

A key first step is understanding who you are talking about when referring to the local community. Identify specific sections of the community and what might interest them about your church’s plans or project. Your community will depend on the place you live in and the sort of church you are – a Norman church in a small village may well have different communities to a Victorian church in the centre of a university city.

When defining your community, consider the following groups:

  • Local people – those living or working in your parish or neighbourhood who do not attend services but want there to be a thriving church in their area. 
  • Family connections – people with parents or relatives baptised, married or buried at the church.
  • Interested in heritage – they love local history or historical buildings.
  • Community concern – people who appreciate projects that benefit particular groups of people (for example, children, youth, older people, people with disabilities) in the community.

You can also think about other groups that might be relevant to your church and its local communities.  These could include the local civic society, ramblers’ groups, trade unions, local county council, or a student volunteering group.

Engaging with your communities is key and you may wish to undertake a community consultation to demonstrate the need for your project before asking for any donations. Engaging in a consultation will help you to demonstrate the local need to funders and give people the opportunity to contribute to something good for their neighbourhood. This is an important part of developing your message and your story.

What messages will you tell your communities?

Having identified the specific audiences within your community who might be interested in supporting your project, the next step is to develop a clear message to communicate with them.

Tell them:

  • Why you are fundraising – what is the project you want them to engage with?
  • How they can help – how can they add their support and become involved?
  • What impact their donation can make – how does the project positively impact their areas of interest?

By telling a story, you are bringing people along on a journey and enabling them to feel emotionally and spiritually invested in your project. They can feel empowered to make a difference by donating and, if you demonstrate the impact of their support, the chances are that they will want to donate again in the future.

How to get your fundraising message out

Having identified your communities and the messages to communicate to them, now you need to spread the word.

There are three main groups that can help you with this:

Supporters, ambassadors and volunteers

People are vital to the success of your campaign or project. Different people may belong to varied social groups beyond your traditional church networks and, if encouraged, they could spread your ask more widely. The personal approach can often be successful in generating support. Make sure you have a clear message that you can share with your supporters, ambassadors and volunteers, which in turn they can pass on.

Online, connected social media groups

Social media can be powerful for community fundraising. For example, Facebook Groups are communities within Facebook that users can join and participation is encouraged. Groups are built around common interests or goals, like cooking or running, or for people living in the local area. Members from within your network may be able to use these groups or other social media feeds (for example, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp groups) to help promote your ask to a wider audience – which in itself could be a mission.

This could create an opportunity to engage across the generations. Could your church utilise the expertise of social media-savvy youth groups and young people (if the necessary safeguarding considerations are put in place)?

More advice on social media can be found in Step 3 (Making the ask).

Local press, radio and TV

With a clear ask and story resonating with the wider community, the local press can help promote your message. Write press releases at critical moments in your project and circulate them to all local media. It's much easier to get in the local paper than on the radio, and TV will usually only be interested in the biggest projects. Whatever your medium, ensure that anyone reading or listening can easily find out more information by including your church’s website or details of how to make contact. Don’t limit yourself to local print press – online newspapers and local interest sites are great places to promote your project.

Benefact Trust has some helpful tips on how to get your story in the media and how you can thank donors via social media.

Denominational authorities often have social media or communication officers who may be able to provide your church with support and advice.

Ideas to attract people to your church to engage and ask for support

Drawing new people to your church building or hall for non-spiritual reasons is positive for wider engagement. If you can increase the number of people seeing your church, the more people may be drawn to support your project.

You could reach:

  • Local history and heritage enthusiasts – you could engage them through a talk/lecture or even a series of events. At the talks, make sure you have clearly displayed information about your project and provide them with the opportunity to donate to your cause, including leaflets and posters with your website and social media details.
  • Enthusiasts from further afield – it may also be possible to offer a virtual tour of the church, which will increase visibility beyond the physical constraints of travel and thus open up your church to an even wider audience.
  • Those who may want to use the church facilities – you could offer your facilities for use by local clubs and exercise classes. A poster inside your church can be a great way to spread your fundraising message and ensure new visitors can easily support your church. A poster is available for you to download and adapt for use in your church.
  • People who wanted to be involved in a volunteer activity – for example, an intergenerational community garden project, or a parent and toddler group.
    • Consider what a new person or group coming to your church will see. You may want to consider your church’s entrance and front doors – what message does it share? This is a great opportunity to demonstrate how your church engages with the community and uses the donations received in a positive way.
    • Ensure that any new person or group coming to your church, either physically or virtually, is given the opportunity to see or hear your story and how they can support the church. Make sure that there is a brochure with a phone number or website so visitors can make a donation or find out more information.