This paper is a critical study of how the concept of marketing is being embraced by the Birmingham Central Mosque, an accurate conception of the difficulties involved and the appropriate managerial response. From this perspective, it also examines the fast changing pace of the environment in which the mosque operates, as determinants of how faith based entities may be managed in the future. A strategy will then be proposed to accommodate to these changes to ensure the central mosque’s survival, as well as an evaluation conducted a year on from its implementation.
Established in 1975, the central mosque was the first purpose built mosque in Birmingham. As the number of Muslims grew in the city, a large building was needed to accommodate the growing congregations. There was a high demand for the mosque due to its important position in the daily life of the religious community, which was then not being met. This ultimately led to the building of the central mosque after many years of struggle, when the Muslim population was approximately 18,000.
Today, the central mosque is not only a place of worship but also acts as the centre for the Muslim community, coordinating its activities, as well as making available many services for its public to use. Throughout history, the mosque as an institution has played a central role in the social and cultural life of Muslims due to its many influences in every aspect of society. Alavi (1997) identifies the most obvious roles of the mosque as being: a place of worship; a centre of education; a centre of government for political and administrative decisions, and; a judicial court.
The Birmingham mosque is called the ‘central mosque’ because it accommodates all Muslims whatever their origin or background. Today there are approximately 150,000 Muslims living in Birmingham and the central mosque has outgrown its capacity. Over the next two decades the Muslim population is expected to grow to 250,000 within the city, which will further affect the ways in which the mosque will meet the requirements of its growing public (Source: The Guardian).
For many years, marketing within the not-for-profit sector has taken a back role, but today it is seen as vitally important for the survival of the organisation, not only in the business world but also in the not-for-profit world, due to the rising levels of competitiveness within this sector. Although traditionally many faith based entities have steered clear of this transformation, the reality that most not-for-profit organisations such as the central mosque now face, is to ensure their survival at all costs, as they are working under more pressures and having to deal with more changes than ever before (McLeish, 1995).
Today, the central mosque is a multi-purpose building, but to what extent it serves that purpose in the future, depends upon the ways it reacts to the pressures and changes that lie ahead, as well as the resources of money and manpower available to those who are responsible for running the mosque (Dr. M. Naseem – Chairman of the Birmingham Mosque Trust). The most successful organisations in the business and not-for-profit world all have some sort of strategy, giving the organisation an overall direction to follow.
All organisations have to compete with their rivals in order to win business. In the not-for-profit world this may be in terms of resources, money, donors or volunteers. Drucker (1989) has stated that ‘the Customer is the Business’ (donors, volunteers etc) and should therefore represent the ‘building blocks upon which the marketing strategy must rest’. In order to develop a future strategy for the central mosque, an internal and external analysis of the mosque has to be undertaken to assess where the mosque is now, comparable to where the mosque wants to be and can be in the future.
The mosque’s internal resources and capabilities and the external environment in which it operates must match in order for competitive advantage to be achieved, through the use of its distinctive competences, whilst maintaining a sustainable long-term fit with its environment. Internal Analysis An internal analysis of the central mosque is an analysis of the mosque’s resources and capabilities. It is important to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the central mosque in order to assess the future strategies that it has the capabilities to follow. Like many faith based entities, the central mosque does not have a set mission statement.
Although the purpose for the mosque and its place within the Muslim community is known, the direction and motivation that a mission statement gives to its various publics is missing. The reason for this is because the mosque has multiple missions (Source: Mr Lodhi, Member of Management Committee, Central Mosque). Drucker (1989) has identified that although not-for-profit organisations such as the central mosque are ‘doing good’, leadership, organization, performance, results and accountability all reliant on good management which begins with the entities mission.
In order to make the central mosque more market oriented and distinctive, a mission statement would have to be made. This will not only act as the basis for marketing planning but will also translate itself into a plan to enable the mosque to achieve its goals. Consequently, the mosque lacks the clarity that a mission statement can give to the production of its objectives and goals. The central mosque instead describes its objectives in terms of the purpose for which it exists and the services that it provides.
As the mosque is not viewed to be in competition with other places of worship, there is no emphasis on growth in terms of higher attendance rates or improved market share in comparison to its rivals. This is in great contrast to the business world. Nevertheless, the objectives that the mosque has set itself include an improved site. As the mosque was built almost thirty years ago it is now in need of major renovation and expansion.
The mosque aims to build a school for girls, extend the gallery, improve the stairs and fix the dome as it has been leaking for many months, among many other things. The mosques goal is to build the girls school within the next two years, and to thereon continue with the other improvements needed, as and when the funds are made available (Source: Mr Lodhi, Central Mosque). As there is clear idea of when this may be due to the unpredictability of the nature of the environment in which the mosque operates, there is no set time span as to when these changes will be made.
Another objective of the mosque is to increase the services it offers to its public. The mosque used to offer a day care centre for the elderly, but due to staff and funding shortages, it was closed down. The goal here is to reopen this facility within the near future when it is feasible and the mosque has the resources to run it efficiently. Again, there is no clear time line for this. The culture of an organisation very much determines what it is capable of achieving (Andreasen & Kotler, 2003).
In the central mosque, this will affect the thinking and implementation of decisions as well as the general ways in which the mosque is run. The style, values, history, decision and control processes are all shaped by the mosques culture. Hussey & Perrin (2003) have stated that top management in particular, holds the strongest influence. Spiritual organisations such as the central mosque are viewed as rigid and hierarchical due to their strong beliefs and it is therefore often difficult to implement change.
Although the rhetoric of the mosque is similar to what occurs in reality, the mosque’s management structure greatly impinges on the speed and efficiency of its running. With a management committee of twenty-one members, decisions are open to much debate and there are often many differing opinions regarding the direction the mosque should take. The management structure is by no means flexible and if a decision needed to be made quickly in response to environmental pressures, it would have to be thoroughly debated and the majority agreed upon, which is all a lengthy process.
Furthermore, with increasing fund shortages, there is much disagreement over how and where the money should be spent. The fact that this is public money adds further pressure to ensure that the money is spent correctly and should be used in the best way possible. Cultural change can only occur if everyone in the mosque adopts the new ideas and philosophy. However, as is the case in many not-for-profit organisations, the culture of the mosque can become solidified to the extent that things don’t change, or can’t change easily.
An example of this is that it is difficult for the mosque to think of itself competitively, as all mosques are doing the work of God and are all equal. It would therefore also be difficult for the mosque to adopt a new strategy that is highly different from past ones, a difficulty that the central mosque will face when making it more marketing oriented. Nevertheless, the central mosque does have many strengths, probably its most important ones being its high public image, its good reputation and dedicated staff.
Not only does the mosque have a strong management team, but they are frequently sought after for interviews among the media. Another core strength of the mosques its sheer size. The mosque has the capacity for three and a half thousand worshippers, but when stretched, this can accommodate up to five thousand. Another key strength of the mosque is the number of services it is able to offer to its public including a library, a reading room and a place where youth activities and social meetings are held.
The mosque acts as a centre for the Muslim community coordinating activities and is therefore able to raise large sums of money not only to run itself, but also to alleviate the suffering of those who are less fortunate (the mosque is a registered charity) as well as providing daily meals for those who cannot support themselves. Another strength of the mosque is that it is the first mosque that most people think, of as it is the one of the biggest and most famous, serving the publics needs for almost thirty years. However, the mosque also has many weaknesses.
Such include the fact that because it doesn’t receive government funding, it struggles to receive the income it requires in order to run efficiently. The three main ways in which the mosque receives income are through public donations, private donations and lastly the fee that the mosque charges for using some of its services. This may also serve as a threat in the future if the economy takes a turn for the worse. An obvious opportunity for the mosque here would be to try and increase its fund raising capabilities and look for alternative means to raise money in order to avert this threat.
Another core weakness of the mosque is that because it was built many years ago, it is now a little dated and requires refurbishment, but because of funding difficulties a number of projects have been put on hold. This is again another missed opportunity. The mosque also has out of date technological equipment and often suffers from staff shortages. In the past the mosque has had to retract some of its services for this reason. For the amount of people the mosque now serves, it really should be receiving increased funds.
The fact that they are not is a core weakness and this should be exploited in the future. The mosque does not run like a business, does not have a marketing department and does not seem to have any real strategy, any performance measurements, a mission statement or even clear goals. The demand for the mosque is obviously there, but in order ensure the mosques survival and to run it efficiently, the mosque needs to be able to increase the resources that it currently has and use them in the most effective way possible (Please see Appendix 1 respectively for a full SWOT analysis).