Top 15 post: Jay Sherer

The Missionary Referral Program

The Need 

Fundraising—it’s one of the biggest challenges facing missionaries today. And the stakes couldn't be higher. In order for missionaries to stay in the field and continue to meet the physical and spiritual needs of their communities, they need a stable donor base.

"I need an additional $1,000 a month," a missionary told me, "and I'm not sure how I'm going to get it."

"All $8,000 of our rent for the year is due up front, and we're not there yet," said one international missionary.

A former classmate of mine, now a missionary, hopes to adopt a second child from Ethiopia. But in order to do that, he and his wife need to raise $35,000.

These are real needs from real people all over the globe with a passion for helping others. So, what can missionaries do to ensure they're financially sound?

ECCU's Response

For the past decade, most of our work at ECCU has focused on serving nonprofit organizations (B2B). But over the last year, about a dozen ECCU employees have been working to improve our missionary banking offer (B2C) by developing new accounts and services designed meet their unique needs. We’ve also developed endorsement partnerships with our corporate members, known as mission sending agencies, in order to get the word out about our missionary banking offer.

However, two issues remain: we need to reach more missionaries, and missionaries need fundraising assistance.

Our solution? The Missionary Referral Program.

Step 1: Find a missionary fundraising expert. We chose international fundraising coach, Scott Morton, author of the book, Funding Your Ministry. (Check!) 

Step 2: Film a total of five short educational videos that address common fundraising issues and best practices. (Check!)

Step 3: Build a marketing plan and Web platform that encourages missionaries to share these educational resources with their peers. (Check!)

Step 4: Spread the word. Release the videos. Highlight the value of ECCU membership and our unique banking services. (Check!)

How It Works 

Our missionary members will receive an invitation to view one educational video from Scott Morton. Then, we ask them to refer five of their missionary peers in order to "unlock" the other four fundraising videos. If they refer five friends, they gain immediate access to all five fundraising videos.

The missionaries they have referred receive emails encouraging them to watch the first video. If they refer five peers and begin the process of becoming an ECCU member, they will also receive access to all five videos.

Measuring Success

We want to grant access to these videos to as many missionaries as possible while simultaneously spreading the word about ECCU and encouraging missionaries to bank with us. With that in mind, we're hoping that:

  • 10 percent of our current members will refer other missionaries.
  • 3,000 prospective members will receive the referral emails.

Our hope is that this program will result in 150 new missionary members by August 1, 2013.

The Team

Our team includes members from marketing, product management, operations, and member services. Each team has been instrumental in defining what missionaries need and helping to identify solutions.

My specific role falls within the context of marketing strategy. I bring expertise regarding how to reach the missionaries. I'm passionate about this referral program because it meets a need, it communicates ECCU's value, and it shows how credit unions are poised to serve their members in unique and exciting ways.

Credit Union Industry Impact

To me, it’s about utilizing the power of the cooperative. We have something that banks don’t have: like-minded communities. We have competitive differentiation built into our industry! I think programs like the Missionary Referral Program prove that to the marketplace and encourage people to find communities where they can thrive.

Team Interviews

But don't just take my word for it! Here are four one-minute interviews with the folks working on our missionary banking offer and the Missionary Referral Program.

Shelly Holcomb, Marketing Account Manager

Vere Reynolds, Senior Support Specialist – Product

Daryl Smith, Marketing Operations Coordinator

Stephanie Bridges, Consumer Product Manager


Jay Sherer, Evangelical Christian Credit Union