Sunday, January 03, 2016

revisiting an old Mars Hill memo in light of the marketing strategy proposed for Real Marriage by Driscoll.

This is old news, of course, the one page memo in which two questions were raised about proceeding with the Result Source plan.

And this isn't short.

But there are some things that are worth revisiting.

In case you haven't seen the memo over at Warren Throckmorton's blog ...

here it is again

after the break.  As with similar docs collapse the menus on the right hand for a better read.

There are things about the questions we could consider in order.

If we decide to go full bore on the NYT campaign it would mean committing to 11,000 copies of the book. Of that at least 4,000 must be in bulk purchases, which we would have to sell through our bookstores or find organizations that would buy in bulk.

In spite of the talk about the big numbers attending Mars Hill the 11k number could still cause some to balk.  Anyone remember how when Andrew's disciplinary case came up as a headline in early 2012 that Mars Hill said they only had about 5k members?  The number of books required for the campaign was still about twice the number of contracted members of Mars Hill and then 4k had to be bulk purchases.  An educated guess presented her at WtH was the bulk orders could have been taken care of the since defunct Mars Hill Military Mission, which was already basically a book distribution ministry that distributed Mars Hill associated books.  The bulk orders would have been fairly simple, even the distribution problem of avoiding over-saturation of a region could have been solved by just sending one box to two chaplaincies each in every state of the Union.   That was the educated guess for the bulk orders.  For the rest of the 11k, well, perhaps committing community group leaders to getting everybody to buy in would work? 

Didn't James Duncan kind of touch on that?

In late November 2011, just five weeks before the release of the Real Marriage book, Mark Driscoll met with the church’s Community Group leaders to brief them on how they could help promote what was described as a “Real Marriage campaign.” (It’s unclear exactly how many people are in the meeting, though questions had to be submitted to Driscoll by texting or email, so the crowd was too large to take questions from the floor.) The video of the meeting gives some insight into just how tightly the book was integrated into the entire church’s operations, which had been restructured to prepare for the book up to two years earlier. ...

Now the link is dead since Pastor Mark TV went down but now that robots.txt have been taken down ...

An Insider Look at Real Marriage

by: Pastor Mark Driscoll on Dec 07, 2011 in Books, Marriage, Small Groups
A few weeks ago, I gave a talk to a number of our Community Group leaders to walk them through some exciting things that were coming down the pipe for Mars Hill Church and to walk them through our upcoming Real Marriage series based on the book by Grace and me, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together

Along with this series, we're also doing a Real Marriage tour where we'll be visiting a number of cities of the next few years to go over the content of the book. We're doing this because we believe that healthy churches and communities start with healthy marriages, and we want to help equip couples to honor God in their marriage and singles to have a firm biblical foundation for the day when they do marry.

Additionally, over 2,000 churches have signed up to follow along with us in the sermon series and receive for free hundreds of pages of research, full marketing materials, counseling and worship guides, use of my sermons via DVD download if desired, and more through the Real Marriage Campaign

All that to say, I thought I'd share the video we captured of this Community Group Training. Hopefully, you find it helpful, as I know many of our leaders did.
[cue dead video link to a vimeo page ... ]

As part of the pre-sale push for Real Marriage, we've created a way to support the ministry efforts of Mars Hill Church—and by extension, Resurgence and Acts 29—by giving a free copy of Real Marriage to anyone who gives a gift of $25 or more to Mars Hill Church. 

If you're planning on getting the book, I'd ask you to do so by supporting our ministries through this pre-sale push. All proceeds go directly to Mars Hill Church.

Let's go back to Duncan's transcript ...

[In the New Year] by the grace of God, I hope and I pray we’ll do the biggest thing we’ve ever done. Some years ago as we were looking at the future I got a strange idea, and that is that usually what happens is that a pastor will preach a series and then write a book about it. And I thought, what would it be like if we wrote the book first, small group curriculum first, DVDs for small group curriculum first, research for all the community leaders first? What if we put together the whole thing, and then when the book launched, we did the media tour, and we did the huge campaign, and we push, push, push all together at one time? Well, that took a whole lot of work to really reorganize life and Mars Hill, and the Gospel of Luke [sermon series] gave us a couple of years to do that, so this is all very intentional. So with Luke it was like, this will buy us some time to get this all sorted out. And it has bought us some time. [Laughter. The series was about to conclude with its 100th sermon.] And so Grace and I wrote a book called Real Marriage. We finally got an agent and took it to market and Thomas Nelson is publishing that for us. [Video starts at 6:18]

Ah, okay, now we can get to a subsection of the first question raised in the memo.


For context of the effectiveness of the giving campaign: if we were able to have a huge success and 11,000 people gave an average of $25 Mars Hill would only have a profit of $17,300 out of a total of $275,00 brought in.

Perhaps that number was supposed to be $275,000? That seems like a plausible inference since $27,500 couldn' t make sense in light of a question that comes up later.  We've seen the memo mention that Mars Hill would have to commit to at least 11,000 copies of Real Marriage

• If this information was ever made public it could be viewed by the IRS or someone muckraking that a large giving campaign was set up for the personal profit of Mark Driscoll.
• As a result of this giving campaign you will make a royalty of everyone of the books that is given away. So in a sense it could be conjectured that you’re making money directly off of a Mars Hill fundraiser.

After all, if Mars Hill had to commit to 11,000 copies of Real Marriage another question comes up.  Was it okay for Mars Hill to pay $20 when On Mission could purchase them for $7?  The question seems to distinguish between Mars Hill paying the higher of the two prices while showing some awareness that the lower price was available to On Mission, LLC for Real Marriage events.  What this means, exactly, may not be clear.  Best educated guess is that Driscoll alluded to 2,000 churches buying into the campaign and there was that promotional tour.  It's possible the question the memo is asking was why Mars Hill had to get the books at retail cost in connection to the giving campaign that seems to have been affiliated in some fashion with a Result Source something when it could be established on the basis of some kind of evidence that On Mission could get a $7 price for the same book fo revents, apparently events that were not necessarily connected to Mars Hill.

If that's the nature of the enquiry then it looks as if the memo asks why on earth Mars Hill was expected to pay the higher price and take on the financial risk of a campaign not working that involved taking on 11,000 copies of a book that Driscoll's LLC could get at less than half the $20 price that MH was apparently going to have to pay, based on the second big text question.

If Mars Hill were to commit to 11,000 copies of the book that had to be purchased at $20, then $220,000 had to be spent.  This is where the rudimentary math kicks in.  $275,000 would be if 11,000 gave $25 each. But the net profit is described as just being $17,300.  Seems like the net profit is small compared to the expenditure.  Could there have been some way to increase the net benefit to Mars Hill?  Well ... if the book could be bought for just $7 the cost would be $77,000.  It would appear the first question is basically asking "Are we sure Mars Hill should commit to getting so many books for the NYT campaign?"  The second question seems to tip-toe toward asking "Are you really committing us to paying the standard retail price when doing so for so many books will render the net financial benefit to the organization, at best, potentially just in the zone of $17,000?" 

Perhaps whomever drafted the mmo thought that formulating the questions with concrete numbers might sway the decision?  It's impossible to say and, in any event, that contract with Result Source and Mars Hill got signed.

And the 6k individual copies and 5k bulk copies turned out to be workable, after all.

Still, the question raised in the memo has come up as part of the public discourse.  Let's revisit the question again.

• If this information was ever made public it could be viewed by the IRS or someone muckraking that a large giving campaign was set up for the personal profit of Mark Driscoll.
• As a result of this giving campaign you will make a royalty of everyone of the books that is given away. So in a sense it could be conjectured that you’re making money directly off of a Mars Hill fundraiser.

That last part, it looks like the concern is that if Mars Hill had to drop the money to get 11,000 copies of Real Marriage at $20 a pop then Driscoll made royalties off of every one of those books given away and, in that sense, it could be conjectured that he was making money directly off of a Mars Hill fundraiser.  And in light of the earlier question, the point was brought up that even if the average gift was $25 the net profit for Mars Hill in the end would be something like, say, $17,300 after $275,000 had come in and the second question seems to show us that if MHC had to buy the books at $20 that would be $220,000 in expense (at least) for a net profit that didn't look so inspiring to some people, to go by the mere existence of the memo.  So Mars Hill seemed to have some concern that if they had to pay the $20 cost up front to get the books then they were basically paying for books and the royalties would go to Driscoll's On Mission, even though if On Mission bought the books the cost would be lower.

So if Mars Hill had to arrange for the individual purchases, even if we suppose that we're talking individual members bought individual copies because community group leaders were part of the big push, why was there no discount?  Or, to put it another way, if Mars Hill bought a ton of books which would then be given away if anyone donated $25 or more for a public giving campaign then the question seems to be why Mars Hill would have to buy a ton of Mark Driscoll's books for a giving campaign that, after all was said and done, might not net a ton of money and that would functionally make the church part of set of designs that would land Driscoll on the NYT bestseller list without appreciably benefiting the organization formerly known as Mars Hill. 

Mars Hill leadership on the whole seemed to have some sense that in 2011 there was some giving fatigue. For those who forgot that 2011 was also the year the fundraising film God's Work, Our Witness came out ...

God's Work, Our Witness
Pastor Mark Driscoll
December 04, 2011
All right, here’s the bottom line. The sun’s going down. I’ve been out all day. I want to go home and kiss Grace and eat dinner with the kids. Mars Hill has often really just, quite frankly, stunk at giving, and I think the last thing to be saved is a person’s wallet. And so I’m just going to tell you that most of the people in the church need to be giving a whole lot more.

Some of you are being generous. I’m not talking to you. For those people, we’ll have a separate conference for you in a phone booth.

For everybody else, the sad, cold, hard truth is about 24 percent of people at Mars Hill this year have given nothing. In addition, another 41 percent have given $500 or less. So that’s 65-ish percent of Mars Hill, two-thirds of Mars Hill’s twelve thousand people who are giving nothing or nearly nothing.

And I get it. I get, “Hey, what about the single moms? Hey, what about the college kid who’s, you know, eating Top Ramen? Hey, what about the kids that just got saved? Hey, what about the guys that are non-Christians?” Great, understood. Sixty-five percent? That doesn’t count. There can’t be 65 percent of people that are unemployed or in dire circumstances. We’re not asking people to give what we are demanding them to give. We’re asking them to give what God convicts them to give.
And I want you to ask this question of yourself. At the end of the year, how much do you anticipate that God wants you to give? We’re at that place now where it is going to take everyone being very generous to open up an opportunity to welcome nine thousand more people, all the new churches, seats, opportunities.

So is it about the money? Yes, it’s about spending the money to reach people for Jesus. Everything costs something. And we think that if you love Jesus and you believe people are going to hell, you should give at least as much money to that as toilet paper, and many of you aren’t.

Bottom line: you can do better. We love you and we trust in the grace of God. You will be more generous. ...

So the question in the memo may be read in light of the spiel Driscoll gave at the end of God's Work, Our Witness.  It's not like the real estate bubble of 2008 hadn't happened just a few years earlier, for instance.  It's not as if journalists weren't discussing this "mancession" thing from that time.  It may not have been at all unreasonable for some in the upper reaches of Mars Hill leadership to ask whether Result Source was a good idea.  But it seems that even the objections indirectly raised were insufficient to dissuade the top leadership within Mars Hill from ultimately going with the Result Source project.  So in the midst of Driscoll being will to say on a film for the ages that Mars Hill historically stunk at giving, there was still this plan to commit Mars Hill to involvement in the Result Source stratagem to promote a book that became a point of focus in a 2013 plagiarism controversy.  Stuff to keep in mind.

And so, as we saw a few days ago in a document outlining the Driscoll marketing strategy for Real Marriage, somebody wrote:

After speaking with Sealy Yates we would like to push pre-sales through the Acts 29, Mars Hill, and Resurgence web sites and networks. We would like to build an incentive for those ministries to push presales in a way that allowed us to channel them through outlets that count for the NY Times bestseller list.

So the marketing plan from some time in the first half of 2011 indicated the intent was to push pre-sales through the networks/churches/resources Driscoll founded or co-founded.  Both Acts 29 and Mars Hill were hoped to be leveraged for pre-sales?  Like, giving them incentives to push pre-sales in a way that let them channel them to outlets that count for that list. 

Hmm ... stuff to keep in mind for the new year as the Mark Driscoll who resigned back in 2014 has been hitting the road preaching and teaching and has some kind of plan to start another church.  It might be worth revisiting what was going on at the last church he founded to get a clearer sense what went on.

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