How to enlarge the circle of solidarity and draw attention to human needs

by | Jul 30, 2015 | Formation, News, Reflections

SVdPUSA CEO Dave Barringer meeting Pope Francis - 24 June 2015What is involved in enlarging the circle of solidarity with those who are suffering and drawing attention to human needs? Is a publicity campaign the way Vincent would do things?

Initially, St. Vincent de Paul shunned publicity “It is enough that God knows our works”… until he recognized it was not about him or his priests but creating an awareness of the needs of those on the margins and enlarging the circle of solidarity. He then not only permitted the circulation  of letters from his missionaries but assisted in getting these letters into the hands of those who could help. In fact, one of his most respected biographers, Jose Maria Roman wrote… “The credit for inventing the system (of printing pamphlets to raise money for the poor) should be given to Vincent de Paul.”

David W. Barringer, CEO recently described how the Society of Vincent dePaul is applying those lessons using the media of our times.

As you know, the visit of Pope Francis to the United States in September is already of great interest to Catholics and people of all faiths. We can expect His Holiness to address, among other expected messages during his visit, the need to take action and help the poor. While we don’t expect his message to be new, we can reasonably expect that more people will be inspired to take action and help. We want to be there for them to put their faith into action as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul when they are most receptive to what we can offer.

As a result, I am pleased to announce that the National Council will devote existing resources from its annual budget and strategic plan to launch a national brand awareness and member marketing campaign to be conducted for six to eight weeks beginning with the Papal visit. During this campaign, we will place ads in Catholic and general public media to ask Catholics to consider joining us and to ask everyone to support us.

These ads will appear in media such as:

Catholic Media: Print – Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, National Catholic Reporter, National Catholic Register. Online – Our Sunday Visitor, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, Catholic Exchange, Catholic Culture, New Advent

General Media: Online – Facebook, Drudge Report, Fox News, USA Today, Telemundo. Radio – Bott Radio Network (Christian radio in 15 states, 100 stations)

The media mix above intentionally includes elements that reach communities including Catholics (active and not), Hispanic, Black, Young Adult and the general public.

We will also provide you with templates for print and radio ads you can place locally either through paid ads or relationships to college campus media, diocesan media, local minority media and local general media.

Our national media placements will reach 20.5 million impressions (readers, online viewers, and listeners) at a cost of only $3.12 per thousand over a period of six to eight weeks through October. Our total financial commitment including design and production is about $70,000. That’s definitely not much for a national campaign, but we feel that through good target identification and strategic placements we can make an impact. The campaign’s reach will be assisted greatly by the enormous media exposure to the Pope’s visit and message, making this a unique marketing opportunity that may come only once or so a decade.

I ask your council/conference to consider the following:

1. How can we leverage the national marketing with any media (free or paid) in our local communities/market that we can place ourselves?

2. Can we use the campaign to talk to local media through interviews, op-eds and letters to the editors, special events, tours and other ways to introduce them to the needs of our community’s poorest and what the Society does to help them?

3. How can we ask our local clergy to mention the Society (in homilies, bulletins etc.) when they talk about the Papal visit and the message of helping to poor in our community? How can we help to “connect the dots” between need and our work?

4. How will we be ready when someone sees an ad and wants to join us? How will they connect to us easily and how will we welcome their interest?

We may expect this campaign not only to help us in our membership efforts but in other ways as well. For example, more people may donate money or clothes to the Society. They may ask to help at the food pantry over the holidays. They may give more in the pews. And they may direct people to us for services.

Advertising campaigns are notoriously difficult to measure, but there are always ancillary effects to such efforts, and especially so for nonprofit and faith-based organizations. Please, do not take this lightly – a potential big donor or a new member may be just an ad away!

Participants will preview the ad materials at National Assembly, and we will mail the full marketing kit to councils and isolated conferences within the same week.

Please send questions and helpful feedback to National Director of Marketing and Communications Gary Stevens at

Let’s together make this Papal Visit an inspirational and fruitful experience for our Vincentians and all those they serve!

Yours in Christ, Dave


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