The Abbey’s Road

Peter Drucker warned that when an organization faces a market that has changed dramatically, it must do the hard work of changing itself. “We can’t rely on miracle workers,” Drucker cautioned.

As it turns out, this is true even for professional miracle workers.

As the New York Times reported this week, the Benedictine monks at the Portsmouth Abbey in Rhode Island are looking to stem a sharp decline. Their ranks have tumbled to 12 from a peak of 24 four decades ago.

“We’re down in numbers, we’re aging, we feel the pressure to do whatever we can,” Abbot Caedmon Holmes, told the newspaper.

In response, the abbey has launched a new website and begun engaging on Facebook. “If this is the way the younger generation are looking things up and are communicating, then this is the place to be,” Holmes explained.

[EXPAND More]Drucker would have surely agreed. Toward the end of his life, he noted that “a completely new labor market” had been created online. “Almost half of the world’s largest companies now recruit through websites,” he said. Why should the abbey be different?

The trick, though, is not simply to leap onto the Internet. “One of the first steps in marketing for the nonprofit institution is to define its markets, its publics,” Drucker asserted. “Think through to whom you have to market your product and your strengths. That really comes before you think through the message.”

In the case of the abbey, the monks have clearly determined that younger people aren’t interested in a life that’s cloistered. As a result, they are seeking to portray themselves as “open, friendly and totally accessible,” in the words of Tom Simons, the chief executive and creative director of Partners and Simons, the ad agency that the abbey hired to oversee the campaign.

Has your organization ever tried such a radical makeover? How did it fare? [/EXPAND]