Sophisticated marketing techniques are being used by a whole range of religious organizations.
Advertising for the Catholic priesthood has become an accepted practice, and now religious orders for women are following suit, reports the Wall Street Journal (May 11). The marketing trend has taken off among women’s orders mainly due to the leadership of the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Indiana. As recently as a decade ago, the sisters — as with other mainstream Catholic orders — were on the brink of extinction, attracting fewer than two enrollments from 1986 through 1990. That’s about when the sisters turned to marketing, involving such techniques as telephone interviews, focus groups, and heavy advertising that seeks to breakdown stereotypes about religious life.
For instance, one campaign used ads with posters carrying such “pitches” as “Just because you don’t pray eight hours a day doesn’t mean you can’t become a nun.” Those who responded to the ads were invited to free retreats for recruitment. Today, the order is recruiting an average of three new nuns a year.
The success of the Benedictine nuns has had a wide impact on orders around the world. Workshops are held as far away as Ireland and Canada on forming development and recruitment programs. At a recent gathering, more than 100 nuns discussed books such as “Selling on the Fast Track,” and studied the fundamentals of organizational software.