There is NO outside advertising or Affiliate links on this website and here's why (this is very important)
It is important to clarify the stand of Effective Church Communications on recommendations, advertising, and affiliate marketing in part because my position in these areas is very different from most websites, including Christian ones. Please know I am not judging the practices and motives of other sites by what is written following. We all serve the same Lord and He has many ways to work and we are all accountable to our Lord for our decisions.
That being said, though there are many ways to interact with vendors and ministries and following, is what I feel the Lord wants for Effective Church Communications:
Effective Church Communications does not take any paid advertising, nor do we swap advertising, or take part in any affiliate programs. The only items advertised and sold on our sites are those we produce, e.g. books, videos, training materials. In our RESOURCES section, any recommendations given or lists of or links to useful resources are totally at our discretion and may be modified or removed at any time.
To clarify and expand this position please read the following materials.
What we do in regards to vendors and other ministries
Because I don't take advertising doesn't mean I work in total isolation or think Effective Church Communications is the only resource you need.
Far from it, I work hard to research and tell you about sites and services of benefit to church communicators. Sometimes I find a deal, resource, or something that is interesting and that might be useful to other church communicators. I have hesitated to share some of these before I clarified my no advertising or affiliate policy because I didn't want people to have the wrong idea of why I was recommending something.
Whether everyone reads this explanation or not, I will go ahead with the hopes that sometime (if it matters to them) that they do, so here goes:
If something is a time-sensitive special offer that may be useful or a resource that needs some checking out, but at first view appears helpful, I will put links to resources like these and comments on them on social media, primarily at present on the Effective Church Communications Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/EffectiveChurchCommunications/) or if warranted on this website. PLEASE go to the Facebook Page and let me know your comments and resources or if you've had experience with what I mention.
If I am able to research something in more depth, try things out, I will then do an article, review, and sometimes a video or video series on the item. This is simply because I like or use the product or service, for example, I've done this with programs like www.animoto.com, which is a great way for churches to create videos without a camera or other software. New programs are always coming up that I like to try and if they seem to work, I'll pass on information to you about them.
Part of the work I attempt to do for church communicators is to not only curate the many, many resources out there but to thoughtfully show how these resources will be useful specifically to church communicators, especially churches with limited resources. There are many fine products out there that may more useful to the church with a little modification, editing, emphasizing some features, downplaying others—these are the issues I work on when deciding what to share on the site.
***ALSO, I think it is very important to review things and not simply give lists of "500 resources for fee whatever it is." I don't think lists like that are helpful because you spend too much time separating the junk from the good materials. I'll go through lists like this for you and review in more detail what I think may be useful.
Again, remember that when I do recommend something, there is no hidden agenda, no advertising money or links, or affiliate income exchanged.
Sometimes I ask a company to write an article about their product or service. This sometimes happens when a company approaches me; I like what they do and feel it may be of value, but I don't have time to review their product or write about their product in-depth, which I've done in the past with church directory or phone services. I always keep the right to edit the article and always make it very clear who the company is, that it is their content, not a paid advertisement, but may be useful. This doesn't happen very often, but I like to do it when it appropriate.
One more note on this. In the past, the RISO Corporation sponsored church seminars for me and I really loved their printing equipment and have recommended it over the years. But neither when they sponsored my seminars or at any time since then have I ever had any commission or income tied to the sales of their products. The printing industry has changed significantly over the years and my best recommendation at this time is that you find a good office equipment company (there are many fine ones out there) and have their church communication consultant recommend the best equipment for your print production needs.
Why I don't do advertising or affiliate marketing
What follows is totally optional reading but I've included it if you are interested.
First, about advertising
Financial considerations aside, advertising particularly advertising on the web with moving parts, has become a distracting, irritating insect crawling across the pages of websites that can't be avoided and refuses to die. It saddens me that even sites like the http://www.biblegateway.com, which I used to love and use often in preparing Bible teaching, allows some of the tasteless and distracting advertising they do on their site. When the site started as a non-profit entity it was a rich resource for Bible study. When it was sold at first the ads were tasteful; lately, it seems no one is monitoring what is served up. I just jumped on the site and was served up ads from Zulily which is a clothing line, Meritage Homes, and most distracting of all, HUM vehicle diagnostics (with lots of moving images) all in large ads directly to the left of my field of vision. Not exactly conducive to my study of Ephesians when I was preparing my lesson to teach it.
They have now started a "Premium version" which removes the ads, but good grief, the site is owned by Zondervan and they shamelessly advertise all their merchandise on the site continuously; I would assume that is enough to support it, but apparently not. (Tip: you can get rid of the distracting advertising when looking up verses by having 2 versions open—that pushes the really bad ads off the page.)
In addition to the visual distractions, I don't like the truth distortion of advertising.
I know I will step on some toes here and again, I want to emphasize this is my conclusion, based I believe on my weak and sinful nature, not a judgment or conclusion for anyone else.
I have worked in the communications world for a very long time and I could not take advertising for any publication or ministry I ran and not have it influence my writing. In very large news organizations where editorial and advertising are totally separate there can be editorial freedom; in much Christian publishing there often simply isn't space for this to be the case.
A life-changing turning point for me in coming to this conclusion took place many years ago when I was asked to do a review of certain Christian products for a well-known Christian magazine (both shall remain unnamed). After diligent research, I turned in my article. I was then asked to change some of the results because the magazine had received a large advertising account from one of the companies. I declined to do that and that ended my writing assignments from them.
I was not personally profiting from this interaction, but it upset me deeply. Since then I have been asked many, many times to "look at" a product or service, write about it, etc. in exchange for advertising, payment, etc. I always turn them down. Others may be stronger than I am to be objective. I'm too much of a people pleaser; I want to make people happy. I'm not strong enough to take the money and then be brutal if necessary in a review and so it is simply easier for me to not take advertising.
Advertising can be useful to inform us about products or services, but there is a fine line of crossing over into recommendation. My stand in this is the old-fashioned saying (a few of you may remember this as it applied to many questionable areas of Christian conduct): "Others can; I cannot."
Second, Affiliate marketing
Years ago I described the Affiliate system as a kudzu vine, entwining itself all over the web and it seems to be a sadly continuing description today it continues to grow and choke the life out of the honest discourse. Even worse (again, this is my opinion only, many would disagree) there are numerous sites that strongly promote this system as a way for Christians to make money. I trust my explanation below will show why this is a concern to me.
Some of you reading this may not even be aware of this system or how it works, so first I will explain what it is, what I consider the dangers of it, and why my ministry will not take part in it, the Lord willing, EVER.
The Affiliate system explained
The Affiliate system is where the creator of either a product or service sets up an “affiliate program” as a way to generate income for people who recommend or advertise their product. If another website endorses or advertises the product or service and someone reading that site clicks on the endorsement or advertisement and makes a purchase, the owner of the website that made the recommendation will receive a commission from the creator of the Affiliate program. If you have a website (or big email list which is how many are promoted today) and want to make money, you simply need to sign up for Affiliate programs, recommend the products or show ads and wait for the money to come in. The tracking is all done by affiliate software; it is invisible to the purchaser. It seems like such a great idea—a really easy, harmless way to make money. You become an "Affiliate Marketer."
Over the years the production and nurture of sites whose primary income is Affiliate dollars have become a HUGE web industry. There are multitudes of sites and gurus who do little but recommend how to make money in this way. The Christian web is not immune to this, in fact as mentioned earlier, since I first wrote this a number of promoters of the system have appeared.
There were laws written to prevent the worst abuses and the token compliance of these laws are the statements you see on sites that state something like "I may receive some small compensation from some of the links on this site, but trust me, I have used all these products and would never recommend anything that I didn't really believe in." Maybe some people who post those things believe what they say. I'm sure that's true for some people and products, but overall to honestly say that and mean it would be challenging.
Maybe I'm just really slow, but for me it takes a LOT of time to carefully look at sites and products, to try them, to dig below the splash page and see if a product truly does as advertised and even more if it is useful to a church audience. I wish I had more time to evaluate new products, resources, etc., but I only put up what I have worked with for a time or feel I have a good sense of. When I get an email that has lots of links and the statements along the lines of how wonderful and useful they are and similar emails come every few days, I question how genuinely useful the recommendation can be. How much time is the person recommending the "incredible program or software or webinar" really spending to test the product when they pump out emails every few days with new offers? How can they be an expert on any and all the products even vaguely related to the church?
The costs to me to share these concerns
What I am sharing is not done lightly. I have been tempted to become part of this system (a ministry like this is costly to run) and have had many people urge me to do so, but after much time in prayer and consideration, I have decided not to do this. This is in spite of the reality that I know I could make a lot of money by participating in affiliate programs—people and a lot of them, tend to check out and buy what I recommend. Effective Church Communications could certainly use a source of easy income—but I don't believe that is the Lord's way for us.
What I am sharing is what I believe the Lord has impressed on my heart, for my ministry. Again, I cannot presume to speak for anyone else participating in these programs or advertising in general, but following are my reasons and concerns why I don’t participate in Affiliate programs:
Why I don’t participate:
My responsibility to my readers
I take my position as a teacher and encourager of church communicators extremely seriously. I spend a lot of time in prayer and study of God’s Word seeking discernment and a biblical viewpoint for all I do. I may be too weak, but I find that if I participated in the affiliate programs of different products, just like with not taking advertising, I could not help but be influenced by the ones that pay large amounts. I can’t honestly say I’d promote one over another or competing ones without paying attention to the money involved. Because I am not strong enough, I have to avoid them.
The affiliate relationship is not immediately clear on websites or the emails sent out promoting them
In many, many web endorsements and promotional emails, it is not clear that the person recommending a product or software is receiving money from it. The laws are hazy and the disclaimer I mentioned above is often not part of the pitch or all the links to the product. Because of that, a naïve reader can make a decision to buy a product for the wrong reasons—believing an honest endorsement that was a marketing pitch. Or links can be clicked before the unsuspecting reader gets to the bottom of the email where the Affiliate disclaimer is.
I felt victimized by this situation early on in the development of this system. I purchased a website template (and finances were incredibly tight and I agonized over spending the money) because I thought if I learned how to use it, that it would tremendously help church communicators. It was only after wrestling with it for a couple of weeks that I realized that what had been so gushingly endorsed by several different sites about this particular template system, did not make it helpful. The whole thing, though it looked great, was merely non-standard with little to no support and was incredibly difficult to use. I'm fairly web-savvy and I couldn't figure it out (I build and manage all my sites) and I certainly couldn't recommend it to anyone else.
But the site paid BIG affiliate bonuses. I would not have made the purchase if I realized what was going on initially. The research I later did reveal that the glowing endorsements were made by “affiliates” of this software and many people complained about these sites when they also realized that the gushing comments could not be trusted because they were made by people interested more in making money than in giving honest evaluations.
That opened my eyes and since then I see site after site, recommendation after recommendation based, it seems, primarily on affiliate income potential.
I've learned to be especially careful when people mention something on their site that is only marginally related to the topic of their site. If a product, template or service doesn't seem related at all to the core ministry of what the person recommending it is doing, it is probably an affiliate link.
Big money and price inflation
I’m not talking about people getting small change for this, which is a dishonest statement in most disclaimers about affiliate income. ("I may receive a small commission from the links here.") Affiliate payment rates range from 5% up to 40% of the asking price for the item. In some of the software packages of moderate-to-low pricing ($45-$90), it would not be uncommon for the companies to give affiliate rates of 30% or more. That kind of money ($15-$30) for one little click and mention is extraordinarily tempting.
However, the harm it can do in integrity to the person making the affiliate recommendation is only one danger of this system. It also causes price inflation. The person buying the product isn’t just paying for the product, they are paying the commission to the affiliate. YOU pay the commission.
I’ve had many people ask me for an affiliate program for them to refer people to my materials and for them to sell my materials. I turned them down because that would mean that I would have to sell my materials for much more than I do to afford their affiliate commission. I have had many people tell me I sell my materials for way too little and I ought to get with the system, raise my prices, and recruit affiliates. I won’t do that. I try to price my materials so anyone can buy them for Kingdom work. I try to set a fair markup for my work and market considerations, (Note about money or pricing because I can certainly miss the mark on this: if you are a missionary, church plant, or anyone else working for the Kingdom, have no money and want something I offer, e-book, templates, anything—email me, I'll give it to you for free, no questions asked, totally free. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
I won’t raise prices to fund what I consider a pernicious pricing system.
I’m also starting to greatly resent purchasing anything from a vendor who has an affiliate system in place. I resent having to pay for the commissions in addition to the product. If I’ve come into the site from a search engine, not via an affiliate link, I’d like to get the real price of the item without the affiliate markup—but that isn’t possible.
Costs beyond money
Our time is precious. We only have limited hours on this earth to work for the Kingdom and to do our part in fully fulfilling the Great Commission. Setting up affiliate relationships, creating ads, and endorsements, following up, all that sort of thing takes time.
As I’ve considered all the Affiliate options I have to evaluate the reality that I have only a limited number of hours in my day. I want to create training resources for church communicators and I don’t have enough hours in the day to do all I want to do. Even if I didn't have all the previous objections, I don’t have time for the Affiliate game.
Just avoiding this system is becoming difficult. In working on setting up this site, I signed up to learn how to do it from two groups that I thought were reputable and respected. Though much of their advice has been helpful, I have been disappointed that on both, a high priority has been (actually #2 item for one system) to “Set up your affiliate program.” This was recommended even before putting up content that would be useful to churches. This same site is sending me continuous “opportunities” e.g. buy something from one of his Affiliate buddies, to make my site better. I did not sign up for that.
I choose to spend my time creating the content and structure of a site that will be useful. This site has a RESOURCE section—but it is a tab you have to intentionally click on. I promise you NOT ONE resource will be paying me any commission, advertising, or affiliate income to list them. There will only be ones created by my ministry or people and resources I honestly feel would be useful to church communications. I would feel remiss not to tell you about some of the fine companies, people, resources I like and that's why I'm working on that.
Eye pollution and mind messing
Many sites today have become a mire of advertisements, flashing images, and visual junk. When desktop publishing was first invented we talked about the ransom note school of design where every available piece of clip art and five different typefaces were crammed onto a page. Many website communications today truly are ransom notes because you have to look past and navigate around Google ad placements, flashing sidebars, intrusive videos, and tacky headlines to read anything of value.
I am so tired of this. I try hard to keep my images simple and pleasing. I want you to rest when visiting my site, take a deep breath, and be at peace. I'm trying hard to keep my site simple and yet let you know all that might be useful to you, what we have to offer, and how to support our ministry.
Pushing affiliate purchases is not conducive to a quiet and peaceful site and I don’t want to contribute to eye pollution.
So how are sites supposed to make money? How does this site make money?
I am not opposed to commerce or to payment for goods and services on it. The worker is worthy of their hire and as much as I would love to give everything away for free, the ministry has significant costs and needs to support itself. However, I think any money that comes in should be for honest work or products, not incorrect, insincere or unthinking recommendations to buy a price-inflated product based on affiliate marketing schemes.
And sometimes, giving things away for free seems to be the right thing to do.
The method for support for Effective Church Communications changed as of February 2018. Previously the Effective Church Communication site (www.effectivechurchcom.com) was supported by membership fees. However, after trying different membership systems and either have them go out of business, dramatically change or because somehow I couldn't understand how to keep them functioning when glitches happened or without confusing members, I decided to quit trying to make that way of supporting the site work. I am removing (this might take some time and forgive me if you run into debris from it) all membership limitations from the site. All of the materials now on the site (the Templates being one of the most valuable) will be free. The site will have a link for Donations where people can give at any time if they want and a couple of times a year, I'll ask for them.
At present we are not a not-for-profit ministry though we hope to become one in the next few years (we honestly don't have the time or money for that process as yet). Donations will not be tax-deductible (as the donations that support much of the web aren't at present), but they may count as an educational cost--do please consult your tax person about that.
In addition, the overall Effective Church Communication ministry will now make its income from selling books, on this site and through Amazon and other online sources and through an All-Access Membership to a Church Communication Training School, which will launch in 2020 and will provides 24/7 online access to training classes via video, PDF notes, and audio files. I'm extremely excited about developing this school and for the ways it can equip church communicators.
Two additional (and in many ways the most important) ways you can support this ministry is to pray for us and to tell your fellow church communicators about us. If you like something you read or a template you use or a class you take PLEASE share it on social media, leave a comment on the site or on Amazon about our books, and pass links and recommendations on to friends. We would appreciate that so much as I want to focus my time on creating resources for you, not striving to tell people how wonderful the material is. If it works for you, please tell people about it—if not, let me know how to fix it (email@example.com).
In addition, though not exactly related to this topic ALL the resources on the Effective Church Communication and Church Communication Training site are available to any member from the time they sign up—we don't do the "dripping" of content wherein you must be a member of a program for a certain amount of time before you get access to all the materials. You know your crazy schedule and you know when it works best to take time to learn.
My opinions are nothing special, but I own them
Finally, my opinions on software, products or services are mine alone and I know I am far from perfect or objective in my opinions. Though I have decades of experience in church communications and work hard to test and review the things I talk about, I don’t see or know all there is to know about any area of communications and I invite you to correct, challenge, and interact with me and add your comments on all I write and instruct my shortcomings—please do that on my Facebook Page or on comments in the articles that mention a product or service, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Though I cannot claim perfection, I can promise you honesty and integrity. If I tell you I like or use or am excited about something, it is because I am—not because somebody paid me to or will pay me to be excited.
In conclusion, three things
One, be careful of affiliate programs. Read any recommendation with an eye out for them. If something unrelated to the primary ministry of the author says: “Click here to go to this or that product,” that usually means it is an affiliate situation. Some sites and email lists will tell you they are what they are and that’s great, but just because they are honest about their relationship does not mean their recommendations are untainted. The bottom line is—check out the recommended products before you buy them. Look them up on Google—do a search for reviews. If you find lots of glowing recommendations, and links, especially ones with "Special offers expiring soon!" be very careful. If a product is good, word gets around. A current example of this is Canva, an absolutely fantastic image creation program. It is widely known, growing in use and has NO affiliate programs associated with it.
Two, my site and ministry exists only because of your support. If these resources are useful to you, first of all, pray for me for wisdom, strength, and discernment as I create materials to equip and encourage church communicators.
Consider a Donation to Effective Church Communications. I want to continue to create materials that will help you and I will continuously be adding more, but their creation, hosting, associated software, emails, etc. all need funds to keep them going.
Three, please tell your friends about www.effectivechurchcom.com. Let the ministry groups you are involved in know about our ministry, link to us, share quotes or articles, templates or tips (you have my permission to do that). We are working hard to make churches more effective communicators and we need your help to let churches know this resource exists.
My commitment to church communicators is to continue to spend my time creating blogs, products, templates, tips, and training and to not waste any of it entwining myself in the kudzu web of affiliate marketing. Keep out of it and keep communicating to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God!
Interesting related articles:
Affiliate marketing recognized as a national problem
I briefly mentioned the national rules for Affiliate Marketing and the link below goes to the FTC federal rulings that should keep the affiliate system and curbs some of the most serious errors. Below is a link to the FTC ruling information, plus some more blogs on the topic.
The government site:
** I love this lady's comments on this blog. Just substitute "church communicators" for "mommybloggers" and I could agree completely with her thoughts:
One more; if you want more, just google "affiliate marketing" and there will be lots of this: