How churches and nonprofits need to use Substack to grow support and engagement
Raise support for your cause and build engagement with supporters by using Substack to communicate with them.
PODCAST: Here is the audio version of this post.
If you lead a church, ministry, or other cause-based non-profit, it’s time to modernize your member and constituent outreach. A traditional website is not enough. Engagement is low. Social media often gets low engagement for organizations due to algorithmic bias and other factors. Mailers are expensive. Traditional e-newsletters don’t get read, much less forwarded.
That's why there’s Substack.
I first became aware of Substack as a newshound who long ago left corporate media for dead. I sought out independent journalists and noticed that, increasingly, they were writing on this new platform.
It turns out they were self-publishing their work on Substack, a startup that aimed to help independent content creators like journalists, bloggers, and podcasters monetize their work. While similar to a WordPress or Wix site, Substack has more advanced monetization tools, and your content is delivered straight to your readers’ inboxes every time you post. If they hit delete this time, that’s OK — the post will always reside in the archive for later consumption.
The powerful part of it is that your content makes it to their inbox because your readers actually want to read it. They want to engage with it because they believe in your cause. That’s a powerful combination.
Why Substack is ideal for churches, ministries, and non-profits
The Substack platform may have been made for journalists, curators of odd knowledge, and even foodies — I actually subscribe to a Substack called. But it’s a match made in heaven for churches and ministries. Here’s why.
Free to set up. You can create a Substack for free. Just claim your URL and start writing.
Build as you go. You can configure everything as you go and make it look pretty before inviting readers to subscribe. As you understand how it works, you’ll get more ideas for improving its looks and readership experience.
Import content. If you have a WordPress site or other content that can be exported to XML, you can import it easily into your new Substack. You don’t have to start over from nothing.
Import existing subscribers. If you have an existing Mailchimp mailing list or an in-house email list you send to, you can import your subscribers easily.
Tiered subscriptions. You can set your paid subscription price at whatever you want — $5, $10, or more per month. You can also allow people to pay for a year in advance for their subscription, and offer a “Founder” tier with extra perks. It’s all under your control.
You decide how to monetize. You control how you present your paid subscription model. It’s easy to allow your posts to be read for free. You can also do things like make the archives free for two weeks or a month before requiring a paid subscription to view them. Or you can leave it free forever, and upgrading to a paid subscription will always be optional. It’s your choice.
Frictionless monetization. Substack is really good at helping you monetize content in a way that doesn’t turn people off. You can set discounts, offer free trials, and more. Readers will not be harassed into upgrading to a paid subscription. You won’t have to beg for it. The system creates goodwill because if they don’t want to upgrade, they don’t have to. At least they’re reading your updates, right?
Buy-in creates engagement. People who believe in your cause, but haven’t “bought into it” as a financial supporter yet, are not as likely to engage with your content. But once they decide to financially support it, engagement goes up dramatically. They are more likely to read your content, watch it, listen to it, comment on it, and share it with their friends.
Easy to publish. You don’t need to be a tech genius to do a really nice job with your new Substack. Written posts are easy to write. Podcasts are easy to make. They’re also easy for your subscribers to listen to on major podcasting platforms or the Substack app.
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Four powerful ideas for church or ministry Substacks
Publish the church bulletin on Substack. Repurpose a piece of content that you’re already making, and turn it into a post to be sent directly to church members.
Send your sermon videos. If you already post sermon videos to YouTube, embed the video in your Substack each week. You can even pull out the audio to make it into a podcast episode, delivered right to the inbox of your church. Include sermon notes in the written portion for added depth.
Announce your Substack regularly and explain the benefits. Advertise it in the hard copy of the church bullet and in your missionary updates. Do you already have a church or pastoral blog? Turn it into a Substack.
Publish a Substack for a ministry at your church. Youth groups, small groups, campus ministries, foreign missionaries — each has its own constituency that would benefit from increased engagement, fundraising, and awareness of the causes you care about. Parents of youth can stay informed of events and support the youth ministry financially in a way they couldn’t before.
These are only a few ways you can adapt Substack to the needs of your church, ministry, or non-profit. With a little creativity, you can build a platform that will set your engagement on fire, keep members and constituents informed and motivated, and boost your fundraising to support your cause.