Posted by: Gary Bronson | April 27, 2010

Outreach: Print or Web?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the comparative advantages of print vs. online media.

Using electronic media to reach out to people about the Christian Association is more effective and less expensive than using print media.  It is certainly more modern.  Each Email and e-newsletter goes for a tiny fraction of the reasonable cost of the server, the website, the blog and internet access (about $2800 per year for the CA).

We publish about 40 e-newsletters per year with many articles by seminarians, staff and students.  We reach over a thousand people on a regular basis and thousands more who visit the blog or website.  Students and seminarians develop their communication skills as they share their ministries with others.

The e-newsletters and the blog are produced by Meredith Aska McBride ’10 (Communications Intern) and Robert Holsapple (Seminary Intern).  Meredith created the blog (https://upennca.wordpress.com/) and has done a fantastic job of publicizing and growing it.  Danielle Heitmann ’11 (Website Intern) has done a wonderful job updating and improving the website (http://www.upennca.org/).  Graphics Interns Dorothy Ahn ’12 and Alexander Lee, M.Arch I ’10 contribute artistically stimulating interest.

On the other hand, an 8-page print newsletter with a return envelope costs about $3,000 to print and mail to 3200 people.  We do two a year (the Christian Advocate and the Annual Report) plus an annual appeal and some targeted mailings at a total cost of about $8,000.  The two newsletters offer seminarians and students another opportunity to communicate with word and graphics.

Gifts to the CA from print mailings produce 20 times the revenue for the Annual Fund when compared to electronic donations.  Of course this probably says we need to do more to make donations easier to do and more natural in our electronic media.  Or, given that most givers are seniors and often not comfortable with electronic media, that explains the relative effectiveness of print media from a development point-of-view.

I like books and magazines.  They seem more permanent.  We just received a 1928 CA brochure from a local Church.  The brochure was a fundraising brochure soliciting donations for the construction of the old Christian Association building at 36th and Locust Walk.  Somehow I doubt website pieces done today will be accessible in 2092, but I do think print media is more likely to survive at some Church, at the CA or in Penn Archives.

The Christian Advocate is going to press and will appear at about 3200 homes and businesses in May.  This issue contains articles by all student interns as well as seminarians and staff.  There’s a piece on supporting education in Zambia by Heather Curl, EdD ’12.  Failing in order to succeed is shared by Alexander Lee, while Lauren Yates ’12 finds her voice in the Excelano Project.

Seminarian Jean-Robert Desulme writes about reproductive justice chaplaincy at Planned Parenthood.  Nick Fennig (Pre-Med) remembers a visit to the CA by Rev. Chris Glaser, the CA’s first openly gay seminary intern from 1975-1976.  Rev. Dr. Beverly Dale and Katherine Primus discuss students developing leadership and doing peace and social justice advocacy.

And there’s more.  If you do not get mailings from the CA, just email me at bronson@pobox.upenn.edu , and you will.  For now, you can view our recent print publications on our website at http://www.upennca.org/left/annual_publications/ .

I guess I just convinced myself we need both print and electronic communications.
PS:   Look for the Annual Report, which goes to press in August.  It’s about annual giving recognition, alumni news, stewardship and program accomplishments and plans.

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