What's Your Why?

Good journalists practice the 5Ws (Who? What? When? Where? Why?) and the H (How?). These six simple questions are the building blocks of every well-told story.

If you are involved with a ministry or nonprofit, the Who-What-Where-When questions are usually easy to answer.


Who is your pastor? Who is on your staff?

What does your church believe? What does your organization do?

When are your services? When is your next event?

Where is your church? Where is your office?

These facts are easily listed on your website, your social media pages, and in printed materials. They remain consistent, for the most part, from week to week and are equally important to those who are already part of your organization and to those outside the organization you hope to reach.

The Why-How questions are less concrete, but they are at the heart of your mission.

Why do you do what you do? Why should I volunteer? Why should I give?

How did you get started? How are volunteers mobilized? How does my gift help?

The Why and the How of your organization mobilizes supporters to act, to give, and to tell others about the work your organization is doing.

In the business world, for better or for worse, marketing drives every decision. But ministry leaders are often hesitant when it comes to marketing. We don’t want to seem pushy. Or prideful. Or desperate for money.

Let me challenge you to see marketing differently. Marketing is education. Marketing is how you teach others what drives your ministry, what day-to-day life is like for those you serve, and how you fund the work.

Marketing is not just about your organization’s good reputation--it's also about the people you help.

At its heart, marketing is telling your story--the Who-What-When-Where-Why-and-How. The key to doing that successfully is to find the right message and the right method.

Creativity is important, which is why a marketing team can be helpful. A marketing team doesn’t have to be paid staff, however. There are many ways to tell your story—press releases, brochures, newsletters (both print and e-mail), blogs, social media, apps, videos, podcasts, events. And with today’s technology, most of these strategies are inexpensive. Some are even free!

You may already be marketing. Does your ministry have a website? A Facebook page? A newsletter or blog? A T-shirt? Do you publish an annual report? Pass out brochures at events? Do leaders speak out churches or missions fairs?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, guess what? You are already marketing your ministry! You may not have a formal strategy, but you are already getting the word out about your mission.

If you answered no to all these questions, now is the time to take some first steps. Here are a few ideas:

  • Contact your local ministry associations and ask about upcoming events. Ask to set up a table or to speak briefly. Ask if there are small groups that often needs speakers.

  • Local WMU groups, senior adult meetings, and community organizations often have a speaker at their meetings, and it’s not always easy to find someone. Reach out to them and let them know you would like to share with them.

  • Find a way to be visible in your community. Maybe you already have T-shirts--have everyone wear them as you all attend a local parade, fair, or 5K. Offer to give out water or to direct parking. Smile and introduce yourself to new people. If you have a card or brochure, offer one to your new friend. Better yet, ask for a contact number or e-mail and ask if you can send more information later. Then do it.

  • Compile a contact list of supporters. Then reach out to them and ask for referrals. Do they have friends who might be interested in learning more about your organization? Would they be willing to share information or invite that friend to a meeting? Yes, life is busy. But many people feel isolated by today’s increasingly online world. A good meal, a cup of coffee, and the gift of conversation is always a great way to get to know people.

  • Explore local media outlets. Is there a radio show that might allow you a few minutes to speak about your ministry?

It’s time to put on your thinking cap and start brainstorming. Get others on board to help. And pray for wisdom as you expand your outreach for the Kingdom.

Written by Carrie McWhorter.