CASE STUDY, OPERATION MOBILIZATION
Repositioning the Modern Missionary
A 60-year-old missions organization looks to attract a new audience through an increased digital presence, a new marketing site, and a giving platform.
To many people in the church, and in broader culture, the idea of a missionary is an antiquated notion conjuring up images of men and women living in jungles, making friends with cannibals, and only resurfacing long enough to ask for money. However, the work of the modern missionary is far different.
How can we change the perception of missionaries so a younger generation of people consider mission work or give to missions?
Since the 1960s Operation Mobilization has been sending men and women around the world to live and serve local communities. Today, they have more than 6,800 workers in 118 countries, yet their work remains largely unknown or misunderstood.
Missionaries within Operation Mobilization use their unique skills, qualifications, and education to live and work among the people of a region. They are architects, doctors, farmers, mechanics, and everything in between with a mission to serve the community. Meanwhile, the organization serves, in part, as a relief organization, jumping in during natural disasters or through aiding refugees as they enter new countries.
A Search for Significance
Over and over in our interviews with staff and missionaries we heard that lives unexpectedly changed because of working with OM. While we felt like this was something unique, the OM leadership team had a “yeah, we thought you might hear that” attitude. As if they knew it all along and it was their little secret.
OM believed this attitude wasn't a secret at all but instead the obvious byproduct of living life in service of others and living a life with profound purpose. The people within OM not only discovered this feeling for themselves, but also viewed it as their job to spread the feeling to others.
In addition, we found substantial research to support the idea Millennials not only hold a high desire to find purpose and meaning in their work, but they also are more open to working overseas.
These findings led to a major shift in how we positioned OM.
Individuals Over Programs
In the past, OM was positioned around the programs they ran and their internal organizational structure. This meant if you wanted to work with OM you needed to self-select into an existing program offering. As an example, if you liked sports you would join a sports team, etc. If nothing seemed interesting to you or you felt unequipped because you lacked experience or education in the specific programs, then you likely opted out of working with OM.
We shifted this programmatic messaging to career-based messaging. In other words, we shifted to messaging that encouraged individuals to use their existing schooling or talents to work overseas with a missions mindset.
We then told stories of people doing this. For example, a dance teacher in the U.S. who joined OM to work overseas and continue teaching dance. While there the teacher established relationships within the local community in order to identify needs and serve in those areas.
Building & Marketing the New Brand
Driving change in an established, decentralized, organization that historically has shied away from branding and marketing presents a set of unique challenges. However, through the leadership of OM USA’s President a roadmap for change was already built. This roadmap and new organizational strategy paved the way for our work and allowed us to attach the success of the brand to organizational objectives.
FiveStone spent 10 months designing a new brand strategy and narrative and translating that to a new visual brand expression. Our team then boarded planes to Malaysia and Thailand to talk to the global leadership team about the shift and gain buy-in from them.
With global buy-in, FiveStone developed a 12-month marketing strategy to establish a digital presence for OM. We then managed, directed, and produced a series of digital marketing initiatives that attracted a new audience. This work included major online initiatives including video vignettes, an e-book, email sequences, and micro-campaigns. In addition, we worked with OM to develop an offline strategy including events and speaking engagements for key leadership.
A major part of the entire effort was a radically re-designed website. Starting with an unresponsive website and little social presence, FiveStone looked to both redesign the site and expand OM's digital footprint. This effort began by rebuilding the site around a simplified information architecture that focused on the importance and breadth of OM's work. By integrating OM's own stories and images, we produced a clean website, a robust social presence, and a variety of digital media content to continue telling their story.
We also re-imagined the recruiting process and online donor experience. This 12 month effort included developing new back-office processes and interfacing with an existing Donor Management System. This included a re-engineered giving experience that increased donor gifts and gave donors new ways to give to OM. In addition, we designed a streamlined volunteer system that increased applicants and volunteers.
We shifted OM's programmatic messaging to career-based messaging.
While our work was originally intended only for the U.S. operations of the organization, after it was unveiled OM offices around the world noticed the effectiveness of the new brand and messaging.
This prompted a call to unify the brand across the world, something never before considered in the history of the organization.
OM had never raised money online. We ran a 3-month campaign that activated new givers to the organization and raised $60,000.
With little to no social presence, we attracted a new audience through Facebook.
We saw an overall increase in volunteer recruitment, while other mission agencies saw a decline.