How One Ministry Used an $8,000 Grant From Church Juice
New Hope Community Ministries is on a mission to empower families to break the cycle of poverty. In 2021, New Hope was one of the first recipients of Church Juice’s new initiative to energize church communications through its Communications and Marketing Grant Program.
Located in Prospect Park, New Jersey, New Hope provides 12 programs to alleviate poverty by meeting the community’s short- and long-term needs for people and families. The ministry has a food pantry, school supply marketplace, ESL classes, counseling services, immigration assistance, a food buying club, and programs for specific groups of people (like kids or women).
There are dozens of nonprofit organizations and government agencies serving the people in Paterson, one of New Jersey’s poorest cities. But for the communities just outside the city limits, New Hope is the only organization of its kind serving the residents. Throughout the pandemic, many of New Hope’s programs saw exponential growth. But the leaders at New Hope recognized a need in their community.
In 2020, the ministry served 1,431 low-income households (a massive 10% of the total population of their target area). As the ministry grew in 2020, New Hope expanded its capacities to reach more people living in poverty. But the leaders saw a gap between their ability to serve and an awareness of the available programs, especially among the community’s non-English speaking population. New Hope’s team began brainstorming ideas to raise awareness of its programs among the people living in poverty in their city—and that’s when they decided to apply for a grant from Church Juice.
The idea for their grant
New Hope discovered Church Juice’s grant program and applied for a community-related grant. In their application, the team at New Hope said a grant from Church Juice would help its ministry invite more families living in poverty to participate in their programs. In a community where more than half of its residents are Spanish-speaking, New Hope recognized the need to be able to communicate more effectively with the people they serve.
They proposed to create bilingual promotional materials (Spanish and English): a mailer sent to every household in the two communities they identified as having the most significant opportunity to serve; brochures and materials to distribute at city and community events; and a video online that each printed piece would point people to view.
What happened next
The New Hope team got to work immediately after receiving the grant. Their goal was to have all the marketing materials ready to mail out in the spring and have everything up and running before summer festivals and events. All the printed materials pointed people to watch a video on their website, where the person could learn more about New Hope’s mission and ministry.
The results of their campaign were quite astonishing. The response from the mailing was so significant that New Hope hired a few of their teen leaders to temporarily help answer phone calls and put together bags of food for families who needed it. One of the programs the materials highlighted was New Hope’s English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Phil, New Hope’s Executive Director, told me recently that all of their ESL classes are full, with still a month to go before they start—quite an unprecedented response!
I think there are a few key things that you can take away from New Hope’s story.
Knowing Your Audience
This campaign worked because New Hope is active, involved in its community, and knows its audience well. New Hope knows their audience: they know who they’re trying to reach, and their audience’s needs and preferences help inform how New Hope communicates with that audience. If they sent a mailer in English alone, I’d dare to bet they wouldn’t have received a quality response.
Old Ways of Communicating Can Still Work
We spend a lot of time discussing how to be innovative or use the latest technology in communication. Alongside the push toward new communication methods, many people also negate old ways of communicating (two words: church bulletin). But the truth is this: when you know your audience, you’ll better understand how to reach those individuals. Print materials can still be done well and have a place in your communication plan if that’s the best way to communicate with your audience. Will a mailer work for your next marketing campaign like it worked for New Hope? Maybe, but maybe not. Rather than starting with the method, start with the person. Let the people, your audience, inform the methods you use to communicate.
Have a Flexible Plan
When New Hope applied for their grant, they already had a plan. They knew the problem they were attempting to solve. So they created a plan to help them accomplish their goal. This plan included deadlines and allowed them to begin working well ahead of the established timeline. The project included flexibility so the ministry could adapt as the needs changed. And their plan also helped them recognize their limits—which meant they promoted some programs more heavily (i.e., ESL classes, which had space for growth) than others (i.e., counseling services, which were already at capacity).
We created the grant program as one more way for Church Juice to energize church communications. New Hope’s grant is an inspiring example for churches and ministries to use. Undoubtedly, your church or ministry is doing some incredible work. What needs are you meeting? What tools do you think would help raise awareness in your community?
We’re excited to offer the Church Communications and Marketing Grant program for a second year! Only a few days are left—apply by August 31, 2022.