Since 1960, membership in the United Church has declined by nearly 40 percent, and recent research showed that many people had little awareness of the church. To reverse these trends, the church turned to EA for data to help in better understanding its congregations to ensure that its programs and messages resonated with current and potential members. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we help congregations address the questions of who we are and how can we better serve our neighbours?’” recalls Robert Dalgleish, Development Coordinator for Local Ministries.
Employing its PRIZM segmentation which has assigned its segments to every postal code in the country, EA provided the church with trade area reports of each community. A pilot project even offered the first 100 congregations the chance to receive a custom report for just $250. The participating congregations received a comprehensive report that included a dot-map displaying current households, an executive summary of key demographic data, density maps showing nearby neighbourhoods with the highest concentration of target groups and guidelines on how to engage the congregation with marketing and messaging ideas.
With the data-rich profiles, local administrators used the information to deploy community-appropriate outreach programs, make better use of existing buildings and even merge and move church locations if the data warranted it. An introductory video from Dalgleish’s office explained the program and invited local congregants to discuss the data and findings to improve community engagement. To Dalgleish, the project served as an effective “tool to help build relationships.” The information allowed congregations to develop strategies to welcome new members. It indicated the kinds of public events that should be held at the local church to reflect the core values of each congregational community. It even identified where each church needed to strengthen its core message to members. As Dalgleish observes, “The approach helped us clarify our sense of purpose and calling by giving us a deeper understanding of the people within our congregations.”.