Recently Pastor Rick Warren posted this article on his blog and newsletter “Eleven ideas for researching your community” with Guerrilla research tips useful to faith-based nonprofits for learning about their community. A large percentage of nonprofits, including the largest organizations in the United Stated, are affiliated with religion. We feel the ideas in the article are suitable for any nonprofit, so we are re-posting them here. Our book is designed to be useful for all types of nonprofits. You can find more easy-to-implement research ideas in our book that was recently published by Entrepreneur Press, available on Amazon and in bookstores. Do a zip code search (here) chances are high there’s a Barnes & Noble near you with Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits in stock right now!
How do you find out about those who live in your area?
- Media Representatives: Sales people who work for newspapers, radio and television stations, outdoor advertisers, know a lot about your community. Talk to them and also learn about the available communication channels in your marketplace.
- Book Stores: Read books and reports of religious surveys. Increasingly, books containing reports of religious research are published each year. Become familiar with the available research that is most similar to your target community.
- Site Visits: Take a ‘windshield survey’ by driving through the neighborhoods where you want to launch a new outreach.
- In-depth Interviews: Talk to community leaders, business, nonprofit groups, anyone who deals with the public locally. Make it a point to get to know the “gatekeepers” of your targeted community.
- Internet Search Engines: Don’t leave your house looking for research until you have spent time searching the internet for community information. So much is available online it would be a mistake to not take full advantage of what you can find on the web.
- Libraries: Get to know your local librarian, he/she knows where to find resources you might overlook like, the Sourcebook of Zip Code Demographics, a handy reference guide with the specifics about people in your community by zip code.
- Government Agencies: Your local school board, chamber of commerce, economic development authority often publish important statistics that are relevant to your ministry.
- Demographic Services: There are many companies that package demographic information at a relatively low cost. If your church is affiliated with a denomination, check your denominational office for available demographic data.
- Original Research Projects: You can conduct your own original surveys, interviews, and focus groups. A simple door-to-door survey could offer tremendous new insights about your community.
- Persona Profiles: Use the information you gain in your research to create a profile of the people you want to reach.
- Other churches: You might interview other pastors in the area to get a consensus on the spiritual climate of your community. Pastors who’ve served a dozen years in a community should be very aware of local issues and spiritual trends in an area.
The bottom line is this, no one should know more about your people than you do.