Skip to content

Right Brain Case Study: How The Culture of Freedom Initiative Increased Church Attendance by 30% and Decreased Divorce by 17%

We Have Great News:

Promoting God and Family works!

 

How The Culture of Freedom Initiative Increased Church Attendance by 30% and Decreased Divorce by 17%

 

 

In 2015 The Philanthropy Roundtable (TPR) formed a group of high-level business leaders to answer this vital question:

How do we reverse the country’s long decline in family strength and church participation?

 

The leaders at TPR had seen the dramatic shift in the Pro-Life Movement away from focusing their communications on the baby to focusing on the mother.  After a series of failures to move the needle in the early 1990s, the turning point had occurred when the Vitae Foundation hired The Right Brain People to apply our proprietary emotional research methods to uncovering the needs and barriers that drive the decisions women make about about abortion.

 

Here is the link to our website:​
http://www.rightbrainpeople.com/

JP DeGance at The Philanthropy Roundtable (TPR) saw the game changing discoveries our work for Vitae led to for the Pro-Life Movement.  , He hired us to apply our Right Brain methods to answer the vital questions about how to strengthen families and increase church attendance.  Then TPR brought everyone together to Dallas for their annual Summit meeting for the Culture of Freedom Initiative to build support and financing.

Our work for TPR led to startling discoveries about how people make decisions about God, church and marriage.  Then, TPR launched a Beta Test of these discoveries.  The test combined our emotional discoveries with the micro-targeting techniques that Big Data makes possible.  This strategy allowed TPR to focus on reaching the most receptive people in the test markets.

Early results are very promising.

We now have a powerful new blueprint for mending and forming strong marriages and for increasing church attendance.
Knowing the emotional drivers of 4.3 million people within their test markets and effective use of micro-targeting to the Emotional Segments we discovered the keys to the strategy.
Last year, in 2016, in Jacksonville, FL, we saw a 17% decrease in divorce after just one year of our efforts to save struggling marriages.

How is this possible?

First, we found out what motivates people at an emotional level, not just at a rational level.  This is the unique power of Right Brain Research!

 

Then we used Left Brain Research techniques to sort people into groups defined by what motivates them emotionally.  It is an entirely different way of segmenting a market place from what marketers of corporate brands do in their marketing.  Instead of using demographics to segment people by age and other simple variables and then constantly talking about such groups as Millenials as though they are all alike, we segment people into clusters or Emotional Segments.  These Segments are explanatory and predictive of meaningful behavior, not just descriptive of their characteristics.

 

We use a traditional survey questionnaire format.  However, we ask Emotionally based questions rather than Rationally based questions.  The questions are all derived from the Right Brain Research Discoveries, without which we would have been limited to traditional questions.  This approach to asking the questions on a survey makes all the difference.  It constitutes are real breakthrough out of the Rational way of asking people what they Think and moves into the Emotional world of asking people how they feel about different issues and topics.

 

In this way we can discover the Emotional Segments that we can reach and motivate most readily.  Essentially we are introducing radical improvements and fine tuning what used to be called Direct Mail.

 

Instead of Direct Mail through the USPS, we are conducting targeted email and Social Media projects.  This approach allows us to reach only the people we want to reach.  We reach them with messages customized and tailored to motivate them, rather than to their neighbors, who don’t care about what they care about.  This is the key to the success of the program.

 

To have have the impact we want to have, we to go to the entire market and buy or lease millions of names and all the information on the people in the data base that is relevant to us and also that information that is not relevant, which we discard.  This means we are using Big Data to reach the people we want to reach.

 

Big Data holds the statistics on hundreds of variables for tens of millions of people.

 

Since we do not have the ability to give our survey questionnaire to everyone in our geographic market, we use the variables from the Big Data base to predict which of the Emotional Segments each person in the market is likely to fall into.  These predictions are surprisingly accurate, usually in the 80% range.

 

Now we can market directly to those Emotional Segments of greatest interest to us and only to those segments.

 

Why is this new ability important?

 

Because we found that the people in the different Emotional Segments are motivated by different Emotional Needs and therefore will respond much better to messages that are crafted to their needs.

 

We have their names and email addresses and their phone numbers from the Big Data we lease or buy and so it is just a matter of reaching them with the right messages.

 

In our project on Marriage and Divorce, the rest of the state of Florida served as a control group.  We applied our methods only in Jacksonville. The divorce rate there dropped by 17%!

 

Meanwhile, the divorce rate in the rest of the state of Florida stayed the same!

 

What did we do to make this dramatic result come about?

 

It takes a lot to save a Marriage, so our marketing and messaging was geared to motivating people to respond to a Call for a Marriage Enrichment Program.  As a result, we were able to attract 5,500 divorce vulnerable people.  They responded and spent 4 to 12 hours in our programs.  This is the way we saved Marriages and reduces the Divorce rate in Jacksonville.

 

In a first cousin to the Marriage and Divorce project we worked in Dayton, Ohio on Church Attendance.

 

During the same time frame we saw a 30% increase in Church Attendance in this Midwestern city!

 

The bottom line is: we really can turn the culture around!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Selections from TPR Sources

 

 

Marital marketing

 

Through the Culture of Freedom Initiative, Live the Life has also partnered with Alpha, a marriage-enrichment and evangelization program; All-Pro Dad, which uses sports to encourage strong fatherhood; and ThinkMarriage.org, a multimedia advertising campaign, among others. Perhaps most importantly, Live the Life will be combining policy research with micro-targeted marketing to try to change behavior. “Micro=targeted marketing has long existed in the commercial world. It’s existed in the political world. It is even used in the intelligence world,” says DeGance. “But in a lot of ways, the family and faith sector is still living, technologically, in the 1990s. This project is bringing it forward.”

You have to be taught how to become a man or woman of your word. This is not automatic; it has to be learned. It’s cultural. Right now, for a lot of people, it’s simply not taught.

The initiative has partnered with The Right Brain People, a brand-strategy firm that’s worked with companies ranging from Walmart to General Motors. “It took a deep dive to help us really understand the emotional drivers and emotional barriers for 18- to 35-year-old working-class Americans when it comes to marriage,” said David Riggs, vice president of philanthropic strategy at The Philanthropy Roundtable. “What do they think about marriage? What do they think about faith? We wanted to know the best ways to approach this issue.”

Using the insights produced by Right Brain People research, ThinkMarriage.org, the advertising campaign partnering with the initiative, invites visitors to “Be Someone’s Someone,” with individually targeted messages sorted by where visitors are in life — Single? Married? Engaged? — with specialized messages for people in each of these areas. A campaign devoted to the idea of “Marriage Before Carriage” is now in the works.

Another project partner is Cambridge Analytica, which specializes in micro-targeted outreach marketing to draw people into classes, programs, and events sponsored by the initiative. “With our budget, we’d normally never get to access this level of advertising and outreach,” says Richard Albertson of Live the Life. “If the Culture of Freedom Initiative just did that one thing — micro-targeting for nonprofits — it would be enormous. But it’s also assisting the collaboration of all these different partners with different strengths, mobilizing different partners (from the academic world to the advertising world), all to put a laser beam on this critical social issue. It’s exciting. Let’s see if we can really produce results.”

 

 

 

Why Faith and Family?

 

For most of the initiative’s partner nonprofits, faith is a central building block for successful marriages; how that plays out in programming varies by organization. “The members of the task force have a wide range of theological perspectives and backgrounds,” DeGance notes, “but they all agree that this is one of the most crucial challenges facing our country. I think what makes the Culture of Freedom Initiative different from government projects like the federal Healthy Marriage Initiative is that we recognize that if you’re going to gut and remove faith from the equation, you’re going to have a hard time changing family behaviors.” Although the federal program emphasized partnerships with faith-based nonprofits, he explains, working with the government meant that they could not talk about their faith in context, which “cut out the core” of what they had to offer.

Faith and family tend to be mutually reinforcing, DeGance notes. Married couples are more likely to attend church, and churchgoers are more likely to form and maintain healthy marriages. The groups the Culture of Freedom works with reach people at both ends, some checking out a congregation after participating in its couples’ class, others finding family services through their church networks. In addition to having a moral language for understanding marital commitment, a supply of mentors and models, and practical services ranging from child care to date nights, De Gance notes, church-based groups are very efficient. Dollar for dollar, they have the furthest reach of any organization working at reinforcing family cohesion. Their combination of experience, infrastructure, and efficiency give churches natural advantages.

But for couples seeking help but not sold on the religious angle, the initiative also includes some secular options.

Ron Tijerina, who heads Ohio’s pro-family RIDGE project with his wife, Catherine, describes his approach this way: “We’re a Christian organization, but we teach secular programming. We are serving people from all walks of life — Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians. When we go into prisons, it’s Latin Kings, Bloods, and Crips. We have a common understanding of the importance of family, and of wanting something better for your children.”

The Tijerinas gained firsthand experience with prison when Ron spent 15 years incarcerated for an accusation that was later recanted. Through RIDGE they focus on character and family development for incarcerated fathers and at-risk teens. Over its history, RIDGE has seen 7,500 families go through its program, along with approximately a thousand young people per year.

“A lot of families have never seen what healthy looks like,” Ron says. “They’ve been in generational cycles of divorce and incarceration and poverty. It sounds so basic, doesn’t it? But it’s really important to us that people learn about the value of truth and commitment and family. You have to be taught how to become a man or woman of your word. This is not automatic; it has to be learned. It’s cultural. Right now, for a lot of people, it’s simply not taught.”

Fundamentally, says DeGance, “lives are influenced because of relationships. Those authentic personal relationships are the bread and butter of civil society.” Extending and deepening constructive relationships is the goal of this initiative.

 

Small steps, big plans

Is it possible for grassroots efforts to make a difference on such a massive cultural issue? At the end of 2017, the initiative plans to take stock of successes, and what doesn’t work. While demographic behaviors are unlikely to shift in just two years, the initiative is tracking a number of proxies to determine if it is moving in the right direction.

For instance, the project will seek to understand whether or not specific attitudes improve against an established benchmark—attitudes seen as leading indicators for later behavioral change on marriage and faith. It will additionally see whether or not a coalition of nonprofits and churches can move more than 300,000 people in these communities through some form of face-to-face, self-improvement program by the end of next year. As data comes back on those proxies, efforts will turn to producing tangible improvements in the marriage rate, divorce rate, out-of-wedlock birth rate, and church attendance rate by the end of 2020 in these three cities. If that success is achieved, philanthropists will bring its techniques to new communities.

“Even though this is a daunting task, I think it’s the most critical and important thing we can do,” says Debra Waller, the CEO of Jockey International and another member of the task force. “In these test cities, we’re starting to see results. We’re seeing that people are receptive, and craving this sort of outreach. These nonprofits across the country are grassroots; they’re people helping people; and they’re focusing on the crucial cultural elements that are necessary to sustain this country in the long run.”

Alicia LaHoz, CEO of Family Bridges, which focuses on strengthening family relationships in the Hispanic community, agrees that the challenge is daunting. “But what I’ve found,” she says, “is that you don’t have to change everything right away. It takes small steps, maybe even a single step, for people to start turning their lives around. For instance, when couples are able to learn and apply basic communication and conflict-resolution skills, for instance—this is what we focus on—it impacts their children, their spouses, their co-workers, and their community.”

Now, in the three “cultural- enterprise zones” across the country where the initiative has gone to work, the rubber meets the road. “We have a limited window of time to prove that we can move the numbers here,” says Sean Fieler. “There’s a sense of purpose and timeline and accountability in this project. I think we’ll know what has worked and what hasn’t worked as we head into 2017 — and I think that’s going to be pretty significant.”

“Look, we know these principles — strong marriages, strong families — work for a successful country,” says task force member Michael Leven, currently chairman of the Georgia Aquarium and retired president of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Research has shown a “success sequence” — a prescription for life that involves graduating from school, working, getting married, and then having babies — that can help to make a “culture of prosperity” available to almost any American.

“You can be cynical, sure. But we know the solution. We know what works. Why would you sit back and watch it go away without an effort?” Leven asks.

Where there has been major cultural change in our country in the past, says DeGance, philanthropists and grassroots organizations have generally been the spark. “There have been many seemingly intractable social ills in our society that folks said could never be altered. Time and again we’ve shown that smart, savvy social entrepreneurs and committed donors can change them. That’s really the story of philanthropy throughout our country’s history. When it comes to faith and family, we’ve got a whole lot of people working together to make that the story again.”

 

 

Heather Wilhelm is a weekly columnist at RealClearPolitics.com and a senior contributor at the Federalist. Her syndicated column appears in the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Kansas City Star, among other newspapers

 


Marital Marketing and Fighting Against Divorce

 

JP DeGance is the leader of the Culture of Freedom Initiative led by The Philanthropy Roundtable.  His colleague, David Riggs, Vice President of philanthropic strategy at The Philanthropy Roundtable tells the story about how they hired The Right Brain People to take “…a deep dive to understand the emotional drivers and emotional barriers for 18- to 35-year-old working-class Americans when it comes to marriage.”  They asked us to answer questions such as: “What do they think about marriage?” and “What do they think about faith?”  They told us that they “…wanted to know the best ways to approach this issue.”

The project started with our Right Brain Research, taking people back to their earliest impressions, experiences and emotional reactions to marriage and married people.  We uncovered the emotional drivers and barriers Riggs talks about.  Then we used cutting edge statistical analysis to group people into segments defined by their hierarchy of emotional needs.  We call these groups Emotional Segments.  They are important because people in one segment respond differently to messages than the people in other segments.

At the next step we selected the Emotional Segments we wanted to target and zeroed in on the right people to deliver the right messages, messages that would be most likely to motivate them to pay attention to our messages and to respond to those messages. Big Data allows marketers to do this, but it is the micro-targeting that delivers the messages.  DeGance says that “Micro-targeted marketing has long existed in the commercial world. It’s existed in the political world. It is even used in the intelligence world. But in a lot of ways, the family and faith sector is still living, technologically, in the 1990s. This project is bringing it forward.”

You have to be taught how to become a man or woman of your word. This is not automatic; it has to be learned. It’s cultural. Right now, for a lot of people, it’s simply not taught. Our projects are bringing people into groups, classrooms and other activities so that they can learn HOW, how to become a man or woman!

Our firm’s Right Brain Research led to an advertising campaign that invites visitors to “Be Someone’s Someone,” with individually targeted messages sorted by where visitors are in life—Single? Married? Engaged?— and with specialized messages for people in different segments, defined by the Emotional Needs that motivate them. A campaign devoted to the idea of “Marriage Before Carriage” is now in the works.

Richard Albertson leads one of TPR’s partners in this Initiative. He says: “If the Culture of Freedom Initiative just did that one thing—micro-targeting for nonprofits—it would be enormous. But it’s also assisting the collaboration of all these different partners with different strengths, mobilizing different partners (from the academic world to the advertising world), all to put a laser beam on this critical social issue. It’s exciting. Let’s see if we can really produce results.”

 

 

Why faith and family?

For most of the initiative’s partner nonprofits, faith is a central building block for successful marriages; how that plays out in programming varies by organization. “The members of the task force have a wide range of theological perspectives and backgrounds,” De Gance notes, “but they all agree that this is one of the most crucial challenges facing our country. I think what makes the Culture of Freedom Initiative different from government projects like the federal Healthy Marriage Initiative is that we recognize that if you’re going to gut and remove faith from the equation, you’re going to have a hard time changing family behaviors.” Although the federal program emphasized partnerships with faith-based nonprofits, he explains, working with the government meant that they could not talk about their faith in context, which “cut out the core” of what they had to offer.

Faith and family tend to be mutually reinforcing, De Gance notes. Married couples are more likely to attend church, and churchgoers are more likely to form and maintain healthy marriages. The groups the Culture of Freedom works with reach people at both ends, some checking out a congregation after participating in its couples’ class, others finding family services through their church networks. In addition to having a moral language for understanding marital commitment, a supply of mentors and models, and practical services ranging from child care to date nights, De Gance notes, church-based groups are very efficient. Dollar for dollar, they have the furthest reach of any organization working at reinforcing family cohesion. Their combination of experience, infrastructure, and efficiency give churches natural advantages.

But for couples seeking help but not sold on the religious angle, the initiative also includes some secular options.

Ron Tijerina, who heads Ohio’s pro-family RIDGE project with his wife, Catherine, describes his approach this way: “We’re a Christian organization, but we teach secular programming. We are serving people from all walks of life—Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians. When we go into prisons, it’s Latin Kings, Bloods, and Crips. We have a common understanding of the importance of family, and of wanting something better for your children.”

The Tijerinas gained firsthand experience with prison when Ron spent 15 years incarcerated for an accusation that was later recanted. Through RIDGE they focus on character and family development for incarcerated fathers and at-risk teens. Over its history, RIDGE has seen 7,500 families go through its program, along with approximately a thousand young people per year.

“A lot of families have never seen what healthy looks like,” Ron says. “They’ve been in generational cycles of divorce and incarceration and poverty. It sounds so basic, doesn’t it? But it’s really important to us that people learn about the value of truth and commitment and family. You have to be taught how to become a man or woman of your word. This is not automatic; it has to be learned. It’s cultural. Right now, for a lot of people, it’s simply not taught.”

Fundamentally, says De Gance, “lives are influenced because of relationships. Those authentic personal relationships are the bread and butter of civil society.” Extending and deepening constructive relationships is the goal of this initiative.

 

Small steps, big plans

Is it possible for grassroots efforts to make a difference on such a massive cultural issue? At the end of 2017, the initiative plans to take stock of successes, and what doesn’t work. While demographic behaviors are unlikely to shift in just two years, the initiative is tracking a number of proxies to determine if it is moving in the right direction.

For instance, the project will seek to understand whether or not specific attitudes improve against an established benchmark—attitudes seen as leading indicators for later behavioral change on marriage and faith. It will additionally see whether or not a coalition of nonprofits and churches can move more than 300,000 people in these communities through some form of face-to-face, self-improvement program by the end of next year. As data comes back on those proxies, efforts will turn to producing tangible improvements in the marriage rate, divorce rate, out-of-wedlock birth rate, and church attendance rate by the end of 2020 in these three cities. If that success is achieved, philanthropists will bring its techniques to new communities.

“Even though this is a daunting task, I think it’s the most critical and important thing we can do,” says Debra Waller, the CEO of Jockey International and another member of the task force. “In these test cities, we’re starting to see results. We’re seeing that people are receptive, and craving this sort of outreach. These nonprofits across the country are grassroots; they’re people helping people; and they’re focusing on the crucial cultural elements that are necessary to sustain this country in the long run.”

Alicia La Hoz, CEO of Family Bridges, which focuses on strengthening family relationships in the Hispanic community, agrees that the challenge is daunting. “But what I’ve found,” she says, “is that you don’t have to change everything right away. It takes small steps, maybe even a single step, for people to start turning their lives around. For instance, when couples are able to learn and apply basic communication and conflict-resolution skills, for instance—this is what we focus on—it impacts their children, their spouses, their co-workers, and their community.”

Now, in the three “cultural- enterprise zones” across the country where the initiative has gone to work, the rubber meets the road. “We have a limited window of time to prove that we can move the numbers here,” says Sean Fieler. “There’s a sense of purpose and timeline and accountability in this project. I think we’ll know what has worked and what hasn’t worked as we head into 2017—and I think that’s going to be pretty significant.”

“Look, we know these principles—strong marriages, strong families—work for a successful country,” says task force member Michael Leven, currently chairman of the Georgia Aquarium and retired president of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Research has shown a “success sequence”—a prescription for life that involves graduating from school, working, getting married, and then having babies—that can help to make a “culture of prosperity” available to almost any American.

“You can be cynical, sure. But we know the solution. We know what works. Why would you sit back and watch it go away without an effort?” Leven asks.

Where there has been major cultural change in our country in the past, says De Gance, philanthropists and grassroots organizations have generally been the spark. “There have been many seemingly intractable social ills in our society that folks said could never be altered. Time and again we’ve shown that smart, savvy social entrepreneurs and committed donors can change them. That’s really the story of philanthropy throughout our country’s history. When it comes to faith and family, we’ve got a whole lot of people working together to make that the story again.”

Heather Wilhelm is a weekly columnist at RealClearPolitics.com and a senior contributor at the Federalist. Her syndicated column appears in the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Kansas City Star, among other newspapers.

 

Scroll To Top