ABN Expert Spotlight: Austin Church

Austin Church is a writer and consultant living in Knoxville, Tennessee. He runs a branding and marketing agency called Balernum with his business partner. Balernum helps a variety of nonprofit and for-profit clients grow their organizations with strategy, authentic branding, beautiful design, websites, copywriting and content, and marketing implementation. Austin loves participating in other people’s transformation. If he’s helping you or your organization grow, he’s having fun. A lot of his work involves helping clients get clarity, set direction, and take decisive action. And then, when he gets home, Austin has to throw all frameworks out the window. It turns out, young children don’t stick to the plan! Austin and his wife Megan have three rambunctious kids: Salem, Theo, and Ellis. Austin and his family worship at All Souls Church. He loves to smoke brisket, run, read, fish, talk about business, talk about Bourbon, play board games, travel, and learn what your big dreams are.

Read our interview with Austin below.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and moved to Knoxville in 2006 to pursue an MA in literature with a focus in creative writing.

How did you get your start working with nonprofits?

In April 2009 I got laid off from my job at a marketing agency and started freelancing. Branding, writing, and marketing work with various nonprofits soon followed.

What is one thing you see changing about nonprofits that you think is for the better?

Nonprofits are getting more sophisticated both in how they quantify their impact and how they communicate that impact. They’re doing a better job with brand development and storytelling, too. Because donors and other stakeholders are able to connect at the heart and head levels, as well as give online, savvy nonprofits can have an easier time with fundraising and ongoing engagement.

What do you see as the biggest threat to a nonprofit’s success?

Obscurity is probably the biggest threat. People can’t care if they don’t know, and many nonprofits find branding and marketing to be big, opaque, intimidating concepts. Giving people a chance to care (through effective marketing) and consistently asking for help goes a long way. An authentic brand and a simple, durable marketing plan go a long way.

Talk about one thing that has your attention right now?

The book Atomic Habits by James Clear taught me a lot about what stands between us and the lives and impact we really want to achieve. The Knowledge Project podcast with Shane Parrish never fails to stop me in my tracks with a valuable new insight.

What do you love about working with ABN?

I love the people at ABN. What an incredible group of humans!


Austin Church’s consulting specialties include marketing strategy, branding, design, websites, copy/content, marketing implementation, marketing plans, and strategic plans. To work with Austin, start by contacting ABN Director of Capacity Building Elle Benson at ebenson@betternonprofits.org. Learn more about ABN Consulting at betternonprofits.org/consulting.