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Get believers, make money

A few years ago I was talking to a clergyman who was struggling with declining church attendance. We had a discussion about the reasons for that and I was telling him that there was not much difference between a church and a business.

A few years ago I was talking to a clergyman who was struggling with declining church attendance. We had a discussion about the reasons for that and I was telling him that there was not much difference between a church and a business. To overcome his skepticism of my argument I put it to him this way. 

Both business and churches have followers. In business, we call them customers and, in a church, you call them believers or parishioners. If you want to increase your profits in business, you need to focus on your current customers, by giving them more service and creating value so they buy more, your prospective customers or leads whose attention you need to capture and past customers who have left your business. 

Churches are no different. They have their parishioners whose participation they want to encourage, new people who they want to evangelize and the fallen away whose issues need to be addressed as they are welcomed back. 

There is a percentage of all types of customers who come in contact with our businesses who engage with us through our advertising, website or sales teams and then don’t buy for whatever reason. If we can increase the conversion rate of with these people, we can increase our profitability. There is not much difference with a church. There are people who come in contact with a church through weddings, funerals, websites and outreach but never become members.By improving our conversion rates and our ability to communicate effectively with these people, we can end up with more members. 

We can increase profits by focusing on our average sale. We can do this by encouraging customers to increase the number of items that they purchase or encouraging our clients to buy more expensive items. In churches, we might look at this two ways. Encouraging people to donate more to our collections for outreach projects or encouraging them to bring more family members or to have larger families as some religions do to grow the flock, so to speak. 

Focusing on margins is another way that businesses can improve their bottom line. A one per cent change in your margin on $1 million dollars in sales is $10,000 in your pocket. This can be very significant to business owners, many of whom are struggling with their profitability.  While churches could focus on margins if they needed to improve their cash flow, to increase their influence and change hearts and souls, they should be focusing on the marginalized. Two things happen when churches focus on the marginalized. First, they are doing what is the mission of most religions, which is to help the physically or spiritually impoverished. Secondly, church communities with outreach programs helping those in need, capture the imagination of youth who want to make a difference in the world and are usually put off by churches who often seem set in their ways. 

The last area that businesses need to focus on to increase profits is by looking at their expenses. Unfortunately, most businesses, when they are struggling, look to this area first instead of figuring out how to increase sales by tweaking marketing or using their resources to increase business. Often, the spiral of cutting costs repeatedly ends up with poor customer services followed by dissatisfied customers and lower sales that precipitate another round of cost-cutting measures.   

It seems that religious organizations also get in this cycle of focusing on money instead of figuring out how to invigorate their organization so that it can make a difference for people. There is no shortage of money for churches! The money is just in people’s pockets and until church leaders realize that they need to show people that they care about them more than the money, the money will stay where it is. 

Because it has rewards that are out of this world, religions need to have a place in society and must be able to reach those people who are despondent, anxious, depressed and struggling with their spirituality by putting the focus on things that are more important in life. Rules applying to successful businesses, despite what some clergy may feel, play an integral part in the success of religion. Without jobs or the money it provides for donations or charity, religious organizations would never be able to fulfill their mandate. 

I never bumped into that clergyman again and sometimes I wonder if he was able to revitalize his church and save more souls, but I have bumped into business people who have used these concepts and managed to get their businesses from barely surviving to thriving. 

- Dave Fuller, MBA is an award winning business coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Did this article touch your soul or even a nerve? Email your comments to