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Relationship Marketing: God's Plan For The Ages And Your Center

October 2002
By: Patrick McLaughlin
I have been consulting with Christian ministries since 1981. Since then, I have served well over 1,000 different ministry organizations, in a number of countries.

Some of the hardest working servants in the kingdom today are directors of pregnancy centers throughout the USA and Canada. They write, speak, recruit, manage, direct, lead, raise money, counsel, and even clean the restrooms and sweep the parking lot. They are mission driven people with a real passion to educate their communities and, with great compassion, they protect the rights of mothers and unborn children.

Most have taken their ministry a step further, serving the moms after the birth of their babies, either through adoption or basic parenting skills and nursery supplies (beds, diapers, formula, etc.). They work long hours for compensation that is sometimes a bit short or low or both.

So why, if they are working this hard, doing all these commendable deeds, are they struggling to meet payroll and grow their centers? Here are a few key thoughts based upon years of experience.
Too often directors of
centers work unbelievable
hours and carry the
entire burden of the
ministry because they are
afraid to ask for help or
to utilize a relationship.

Networking is not a Naughty Word
In our society and culture, we are afraid to recruit, ask, and hold people accountable for anything. Key words: "recruit" and "hold accountable." They are volunteers and we may offend them if we are not careful. Networking is not a new concept with the multi-level companies like Amway and Shaklee and a multitude of other such organizations. Jesus started a multi-level organization that most of us are a part of today — the church. Jesus recruited and trained the most unlikely bunch and with them impacted the world. He gave them assignments, held them accountable, loved them, and even chastised them; but He accomplished His mission (the establishment of the NT Church). Think of His down line or immediate team. It was Jesus, then Peter, James and John — a pretty effective group that worked together and got the job done.

While Jesus carried the load, many times He also delegated responsibility to others around him and held them accountable. The Apostle Paul was a classic example of how to network by recruiting others to serve. They both realized more could be accomplished by networking and delegating, simple "Relationship Marketing." Guess what! So can every one who is active in centers around this nation.

It's Relationships...Not Rocket Science
Psychologists suggest that most times in our lives we have the ability to impact or network with 250 people at work, at home, in our neighborhoods, school, sports teams, at church, family and extended family, old friends, in-laws, etc. You get the idea. Think of your board, your volunteers, and in some instances your donors as your center family. Great families communicate and work together to sustain a home, automobiles, shopping, recreation, worship, meals, and many other daily and weekly activities. You pass along assignments to each member like I do to my 17-year old. "Hey Matt, can you mow the grass this week?" Then I hold him accountable to get the mower out and get after it. Matt has three days to mow the grass from the point of request. If he does it, I pay him $10.00. If I end up doing it on the fourth day, Matt pays me $10.00. Now, I don't want or need his money; I need him to realize his place in the family structure and to be responsible, be accountable to help out. Volunteers can do the same if we ask them and hold them accountable. Keep in mind, most people do what we inspect, not what we expect.

Too often directors of centers work unbelievable hours and carry the entire burden of the ministry because they are afraid to ask for help or to utilize a relationship. Remember, we all have the ability to impact others. Recruit, ask, and help people understand their responsibility within your ministry structure at the center. Mowing the grass is a ministry if the grass needs mowing. So, who are these family members at your center and how do we get them to invest themselves to accomplish your mission?

Who's on First at Your Center?
Let's get real. You need two resources to be effective in your organization: human resources and dollar resources. To be crass, you need bodies and bucks. By utilizing their existing relationships, staff, board, and volunteers need to help you work and network at your center. How do you get the right mix of staff and volunteers (bodies) and how do you get others to help you raise the necessary funds to support your cause (bucks)? Who, what, and where are these existing relationships you can put to work? Every board and staff member becomes a center of influence. They help you open doors of opportunity; they become networkers. You build a plan to ask everyone connected with your organization to become an effective "Friend Raiser."

When we ask our family to do a task, they do it. When we invite our close friends to help, they step up and do so as well. Somehow we have missed this concept in building our networking teams at our centers. Instead of asking others and holding them accountable for the outcome, many of you just step up and do it yourselves, creating more work for already overworked center staff and directors. More frustration, more burnout, less effective management, and too few to do everything that makes your center function.

Here's the Plan... For the Ages and Now
It is not more direct mail. It is more effective relationship marketing through personal contact. Won by one is the timeless strategy for reaching out to others. Ask each board, staff, and key volunteer to reproduce themselves over the next 30-60-90 days by recruiting another person like themselves to plug into your center's ministry. As your volunteers increase (bodies) so will your gift income (bucks). Volunteers can and do share their time, their talent, and their treasure with their favorite ministries. Many hands and additional checkbooks lighten the load (the need: for human and dollar resources to help your center grow).

Your best recruiter for your ministry is someone who already believes in you, who gives to you and prays for you. This month don't ask for more money (just yet), ask each board member to help you recruit a volunteer. Do the same with your staff and key volunteers. See if some effective "Relationship Marketing" can help surface another Peter, James, or John.

Provide a job description and share expectations with each and every volunteer. Tell them what it costs (time, talent, and treasure) to join your team at the center. As staff, board and directors, you will love your mission and be more effective in fulfilling your mission. Networking is not a naughty word; it is all about relationships.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick McLaughlin, President and Founder of The Timothy Group, is a specialist in relational fundraising. He can be reached at 616-224-4060 or at

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