On Sept. 16, author Donald Miller announced that plans to turn his New York Times best-seller Blue Like Jazz into a movie had fallen through (the script-writing process of the movie became Miller’s latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years). A financial backer had pulled out at the last minute. They were going to have to pull the plug.
Enter Zach and Jonathan. Incensed, these two contacted Don and asked him to consider a 30-day extension before killing the project. He agreed, they launched Save Blue Like Jazz, and 10 days later they had raised $125,000. The movie was back on.
If you read some of the comments surrounding the campaign, you’ll see one of two reactions: 1) absolute rapture that the best memoir about jaded spirituality is hitting the big screen, or, 2) abject horror that a thousand couch potato Christians couldn’t think of a better way to spend $100K.
But I saw something else: an opportunity.
One person remarked that the money should have gone towards a humanitarian project, like fresh-water wells in Africa, for instance. It’s hard to argue with that, but I wonder: Why hasn’t the church done something this inspiring lately?
I’ve seen fund-raising attempts in churches before, and I’ll bet you have, too. I’ve seen big vision-casting speeches delivered from the pulpit and well-meaning attempts at faith-based viral marketing campaigns.
Many have tried.
And many have failed.
So, why can’t the church do something like the “Save Blue Like Jazz” guys? Good question. Here are a few things I noticed that Zach and Jonathan did that we don’t typically do when it comes to church marketing:
1) They were really, really passionate about their message.
Let’s face it: most Christians just aren’t as passionate about the gospel as they say they are. All you have to do is observe your typical evangelical family at church on Sunday, then follow them home and see how they act around the TV or at a major sporting event.
Most churches also do fund raising for a building. It’s hard to be passionate about the education wing.
2) They crowd-sourced.
The Save Blue Like Jazz team crowd-sourced their project (in a good way, not the Gap way), inviting everyday people to help. Giving up control is scary, especially in bureaucratic institutions. The people with power don’t want to give away the control of the message to the masses.
However, when it comes to creating a “movement,” you have to radically give away power. What’s interesting about how Zach and Jonathan did this was that they didn’t spam a bunch of people. They made a list of 40 people they personally knew, and asked them to get the word out to their networks. And it snowballed.
3) They had a clear goal.
How many times has your church tried to make a major change, and it didn’t have a measurable means of determining success? Save Blue Like Jazz had a goal, and they regularly shared progress reports.
4) They used technology.
If you’re reading this blog, you probably have at least a little geek in you. Jonathan and Zach used social media and technology to make their campaign more efficient and effective. They set up an account on KickStarter.com (an online fund raising site), posted a simple video on YouTube and Vimeo, launched a campaign landing page, phoned a few friends, and utilized Facebook and Twitter to provide live updates. It worked like a charm.
5) They told an amazing story.
They didn’t just hound people or guilt them into donating. They created something so compelling that people were dying to be a part of it. They also rewarded them by fulfilling this dream (if you donate a certain amount, your name is listed in the credits).
Many churches are failing to tell a great story on a lot of fronts that matter. Instead of providing irresistible opportunities to get involved in the kingdom of God, they are positioning themselves as antagonists of culture. What if we just told a really compelling story? (And for the record, I think the gospel is the best story ever told.)
People Became Advocates
So, here’s the rub: People cared enough about Blue Like Jazz to not only to support the cause, but to become advocates themselves. They were passionate and motivated and committed to seeing it through till the end. And they did it.
They are, in fact, still doing it. At the time that I’m writing this, they’ve passed their initial goal, but are forging ahead to hit the $200K mark, which would make this the most successful campaign on KickStarter ever. They’re making history. What if your church could make history like that?