Helping a global charity find its local voice
joyce meyer ministries
"David Saint has been around a long time and knows the industry very well. I like his thoroughness – he goes deeper than others to get to the root of a problem – and I knew that the Americans would trust him."
JENS LEWELING, MANAGEMENT – MEDIA AND NONPROFIT, JOYCE MEYER MINISTRIES, GERMANY
Joyce Meyer Ministries is an American Christian charity with offices around the world. It seeks to transform people’s lives through Joyce’s blessings, administered via daily TV broadcasts, podcasts, conferences and regular printed newsletters. The UK office had been running as something of an offshoot of the US operation and there was a feeling that it was underperforming. Jens Leweling was drafted in from the high-performing German office to see if he could identify the necessary changes to enable the UK office to increase its reach and impact. Jens was well versed in the UK charity environment, having worked for 12 years at God TV, where he first encountered David Saint and Action Planning. He felt it was important to begin with an external review carried out by an independent third party with local expertise. Having approached a few UK based consultants, he chose Action Planning.
We were asked to begin with a ‘first cut’ fundraising review to see if we could identify what steps might be taken to increase income and impact within the UK. This would encompass both the fundraising strategy and the communications strategy, with particular attention paid to the cultural differences between the US and the UK and how they might affect the fundraising message for the UK audience.
We put two people on the case, David Saint and Kate Nicholas. David carried out briefing conversations by phone with members of the US and German management teams, including Jens and his MD David Wessler, and then met the UK team at their headquarters in Windsor to gather information. Further conversations with Jens and David helped to put together a picture of how the German office was achieving its success and how those principles might apply in the UK. Meanwhile, Kate reviewed the content and design of the existing UK comms (including the website and social media), and the way the televised content is presented and comes across in the UK.
The conclusion from our research was that the tone of the fundraising communications was unpalatably American for the UK audience. This observation really challenged the US administration at first but, having digested the detail of our report, they understood the reasoning behind it and were pleased to have identified a way forward. They decided to adopt our recommendations in three stages, starting with a revision of the tone and design of the monthly communications. This would be created by the German office with Action Planning having editorial oversight. Stephen Bailey was promoted internally to UK Office Manager and we provided ad hoc advice to Stephen as he set about re-staffing and implementing the fundraising strategy.
Famously “two countries divided by a common language”, Britain and America present very different fundraising environments – although it has to be said that much good fundraising practice was ‘birthed’ in America, before being transferred (and, crucially, translated) into the UK environment. This was an interesting challenge, to take something which clearly works in America (and, differently, in Germany) and adapt it to suit a UK audience without losing the very personal essence of the message. That’s why Jens’ kind comment about trust (above) is so pertinent. We didn’t just have to come up with the ‘right’ answer – we had to do so in a way that was palatable, and practical.