If you are taking the time to read this issue, it is because you are an ambitious Christian leader, seeking strategies to propel your impact now and into the future. So let me be candid and straightforward in my advice: diversify or disappear. It is that simple and that urgent.
You can guess what disappearing means. An organization becomes stagnant, its impact diminishes, and slowly the passion and influence it once had dies. Unfortunately, many already have entered this decline. Is your organization there? It can be reversed.
To remain alive and vibrant, your organization must diversify. Practically, that means to accept the undeniable fact that your audience is now multi-ethnic. Respected demographer William Frey in his book Diversity Explosion: How new racial demographics are remaking America, (Brookings Institution Press, 2014) cites numerous causes for this social transformation. These include the growth of minority groups and the aging of the Caucasian population, with deaths now outpacing births. Frey anticipates a rapid acceleration of these trends over the coming decade.
Hispanics are the driving force behind this demographic change. With a population in the United States of 57 million, a median age of 28, and a purchasing power of more than $2 trillion, Hispanics are impacting every sector. And even more significantly, they are reframing the best way of communicating with the Hispanic community.
“To remain alive and vibrant, your organization must diversify.”
Businesses, politicians, and the media already understand that Hispanics represent a key engine for growth and they are making bold moves to win them over – from hiring executives with a multicultural background to shifting advertising dollars from English to Spanish (or bilingual) campaigns, to producing content that is culturally authentic and relevant.
Having consulted with dozens of Christian leaders, I have observed that they struggle to embrace this new reality and what it takes to succeed in it. To help them seize a clear and compelling vision, I share four ideas:
- Satisfy their spiritual curiosity
Hispanics represent a group in spiritual transition. The Pew Research Center found that nearly 25% of all U.S. Hispanics have abandoned their Catholic traditions and have embraced Protestantism, or, to a lesser degree no religion at all (The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States, Pew Research Center, 2014). The main reason for their departure is the desire for a more personal experience with God.A June 24, 2016 article by Darrin J. Rodgers for the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center entitled “Assemblies of God 2015 Statistics Released, Growth Spurred by Ethnic Transformation” found that Hispanics’ religious migration is driving the growth of some mainline denominations, but it is also causing a seismic transformation in the makeup, worship and theology of the congregations that they have joined, as well as those that they have left. The energy invested in exploring a new faith shows how much religious practice matters to Hispanics.
- Engage the most connected audience
Compounded with their spiritual readiness is also the fact that Hispanics are easy to reach, especially in the age of digital media. A March 2015 Nielsen report found that Hispanics are super consumers of online content. This trend indicates that faith organizations must launch and maintain a coordinated digital presence to engage this emerging audience on the channels to which they are tuned.
- Inspire their generosity
Contrary to conventional wisdom, a Spanish outreach can be self-sustained. According to the 2016 Hispanic Market Guide by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, the majority of Hispanics households earn between $40,000 and $100,000 annually. Damaris Montalvo, in “Top 10 Characteristics of the Hispanic Donor” (The Journal of the DMA Non-Profit Federation, Sept., 2014) suggests that when it comes to giving, the generosity level of Hispanic donors is on par with Caucasian donors.According to a 2015 Blackbaud study by Mark Rovner entitled Diversity in Giving: The Changing Landscape of American Philanthropy, Hispanics rarely receive appeals from nonprofits, but if they did they would donate more. The study cautions that traditional direct response channels won’t work, and that messages must align with heartfelt causes or products that celebrate their heritage. Clearly, the shortage of contributions from Hispanics is not due to lack of funds or interest. Instead, it’s due to a disconnect in strategy.
- Impact the next generation
Hispanics form the largest and youngest demographic group. A 2012 Barna Group study Hispanic America: Faith, Values and Priorities found that over half of Hispanics in the U.S. today were born in U.S. territory and are being assimilated into American life. They are the doctors, lawyers, scientists, journalists, and even preachers of tomorrow. Any organization desiring to propel its influence unto the next generation would be wise to begin engaging them now.
Maintaining the status quo is not an option. We must diversify or disappear. Change is intimidating, but also opens a world of opportunities. Are you ready?
Ivan Leon is the founder and Chief Strategist at the Kerux Group. He has over a decade of experience driving innovative multi-channel campaigns targeting Hispanics in the USA, Latin America, and Europe. He is analytical and creative, leveraging both skillsets to conceive engaging content and develop tactics that are anchored in data and cultural insight. Learn more at (keruxgroup.com)