Communication Basics

Getting your message through all the noise.

  • Let the Congregations in your state know what you are doing. The district office can be a good resource for contact information for the churches in their district. Begin to develop relationships at various levels in the church including the minister(s), director of religious education, youth, adult education, social justice and denominational affairs committee leadership. Check if there is a Welcoming Congregation or Green Sanctuary committee(s). Find out when Church newsletters go out and how you can get articles in the newsletters.
  • Ask districts if they will include articles about your work in their newsletters or on their websites.
  • Keep good records of your contacts. A simple spreadsheet can be invaluable.
  • Identify potential events to attend. In addition to District and Minister meetings, consider interfaith and secular organizations that may be in sympathy with your issues.
  • Email. Many start ups will begin by using their own personal email systems. This will work when the number of emails sent is small, but note that some email systems may limit the number of addresses you can send to at one time. There are low cost email systems available. A good resource for more information is Tech Soup or Idealware.
  • Create congregations/regional liaisons.
  • Follow-up critical emails with phone calls.
  • Remember to say thank you. We send thank you notes for donations, but they are equally important for those who have given their time. A quick thank you by phone can also be an effective tool for smaller contributions.
Email Tips
  • Be sensitive to the number of emails you send. Too many and your readers will ask to be taken off the list, or worse they will ignore the emails.
  • Make your subject line interesting.
  • If using your emails as a newsletter, consider sending the email on the same day each week. You have the best chance of having your emails read if they are mailed during business hours between Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Keep the body of the email short. Use links to provide additional details
Conference Calls Tips
Conference calls can be a useful tool to keep volunteers engaged. The calls can also be hard to manage and to keep people engaged. Some tools which have proved helpful:

  • Send an agenda out before the meeting so all the participants can follow the meeting. Encourage participants to email their presentation or handouts ahead of the meeting.
  • Limit conference calls to an hour or hour and a half.
  • Select a moderator. If you are going to take minutes, ask someone other than the moderator.
  • As participants call in, the moderator should ask who has joined. The moderator should keep a list of all the participants. Start the call within 3 to 5 minutes of the start time. As in face to face meetings, on-time starts will encourage on-time participation. Do not interrupt the call as each newcomers joins. Rather stop the call after 5 or 10 min to give the newcomers a chance to introduce themselves.
  • Begin the meeting by reviewing the agenda and ask everyone to say their name when they speak. Explain to participants that silence will mean yes. Ask if there are any questions. In response to multiple voices, get a list of the names who wish to speak and call on them as each speaker finishes.
  • The moderator should introduce each agenda item, the person who will speak and approximate time allocated for the agenda item. After the speaker has spoken ask for questions/comments. If you taking a vote or sense of the meeting, state the question -“Is there anyone who does not understand the question?” Silence means everyone understands the question. The additional clarity is very important because you have no facial cues to let you know who does not understand. The actual vote/calling of the question may require a roll-call if it is not unanimous.
  • Be sensitive to time. Like face to face meetings people will leave early or at the scheduled end time. If your agenda items are taking longer than expected check in with the participants to see if they want to cut a conversation off, start a new agenda item, or agree to extend the meeting. Again, you have no visible cues to help you access what the participants are thinking so you need to ask.