A Burst of Color on the Fundraising Front: Methods for Retaining African-American Staff

“We happen to be a culture motivated by color and images that reflect the places and people we serve.” says Caren Owens, AFAM Network Communciations Specialist. “There are aspects of colorology that are indigenous to our culture that missionaries must take into account. These small details that are captured in marketing their ministry communicate and encourage individuals to give, respond or ignore their messages in ways that can impact missionaries' funding.”



Caren Owens loves helping African-American staff become fully funded. She has been on staff since 2009, laboring for the Kingdom alongside her husband, Jake Owens, who is on active duty with the United States Marine Corps.


In 2010, Eddie Broussard and Mike Slone recruited Caren to research ethnic funding models as well as staff marketing and communication initiatives. With her background in research and teaching and her passion to resource people with whatever they need to excel, they were certain she was an invaluable asset to the ethnic movement within The Navigators.


The African-American community in America is an ethnos, the Greek word for “nation” in the New Testament. Therefore, Jesus’ mandate to go and make disciples of all “ethne” includes what some refer to as Black America, a culture with its own distinct preferences and values, not merely the one assimilated person of color that is already given to majority culture preferences.


“We’ve lost a lot of African-American staff over the years, and we really want to do a good job of getting staff on board whether it’s through EDGE Corps, Metro, Collegiate or Military missions and keeping them on staff for the long haul,” Caren shares. “And that means finding new ways to help them raise and maintain their full budgets.”


That also means finding ways to better communicate with potential African-American donors.


For Caren, the key is marketing. Does the African-American staff have materials that present their ministries in a culturally relevant way? Will their ministry presentations attract people, and will their donors understand the vision and calling?


For decades, the answer has been an emphatic, “No.”


But now, serving a few people in the experimental phase of her marketing efforts, Caren has created prayer cards, business cards, newsletters, redesigned staff and ministry websites and is currently working as the AFAM Network's Communications Specialist where she is working on an AFAM Congress brochure—all of which will enable the African-American Network to not only have more laborers on staff, but to reach more African Americans for Christ.


“We have to be very intentional, as Christ was intentional, to look at different ways of communicating that are relevant and meaningful to our audience,” Caren shares.


For instance, a burst of color goes a long way.


“We happen to be a culture motivated by color and images that reflect the places we live and people we serve and look like. So instead of a generic one page product where there is a lot of white space and stock photos, we want to produce materials that are really colorful with images and content that convey a message that encourages, motivates and reflects the ministry,” says Caren. “It’s all about getting people excited about the Vision. And how do we do that? Incorporating vivid color with consistent branding are huge parts of that answer. There are aspects of colorology that are indigenous to our culture that missionaries must take into account. These small details that are captured in marketing their ministries communicate and encourage individuals to give, respond or ignore their messages in ways that can impact missionaries' funding.”


The hope is that African-American staff would be able to communicate the vision of their ministry, essentially the Navigator Calling, in a way that causes their churches, friends, and family members to respond positively and with a desire to get more involved in a way that is mutually beneficial.


“Caren is super creative,” says Osaze Murray, Campus Director of The Navigators ministry at Bowie State University, “It’s been helpful to think of presentation and professionalism as a means to more fruitful fundraising. In her work, we’ve seen God’s beauty through communicating well.”


Excited to fill a huge need within the African-American Network, Caren recently attended iNFO to listen and learn more about fundraising. She desires to be a blessing to the Navigator community, as she and her husband have already received much support, encouragement and love from their Navigator mentors, co-laborers, and friends. And for that, she is grateful for this unique opportunity to serve. 

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