Incubate or die: bringing the future to fundraising

Most of what we do in non-profit fundraising is optimization. We’ve found some formulas that work well, and we’re constantly working to make them better.

Together we’ve changed millions of lives through money raised using these formulas (largely through direct mail).

The problem is, optimization of traditional channels and approaches leads to a 10% increase here and a 12% increase there. But it doesn’t seem to yield breakthroughs anywhere. And costs are quickly outpacing gains.

So what to do? At Masterworks we believe the only answer is to find something new. It’s our conviction that we won’t just find one new thing, but many. This led us to ask a bold question.

What if we could build the future of fundraising?

Last November our innovation team took shape with two key functions: one focused on new ideas, the other on turning those ideas into reality.

The former is focused on asking big questions and coming up with new ideas (whether completely new or new to the non-profit space). The latter on bringing the ideas that are most ready for prime-time to fruition.

This tension of big-idea thinking and entrepreneurial implementation is all focused around three things:

  • Developing cultures of experimentation
  • Bringing new innovations to clients
  • Building the future of fundraising

The group focused on bringing new innovations to clients is called The Incubation Lab

Hand-cultivating new ideas, practices and approaches

The incubation lab has one focus: We take ideas, practices and approaches — whether completely new, or new or undeveloped in the non-profit space — and carefully cultivate them.

These ideas, practices and approaches focus on engaging audiences outside of what would be typically defined as direct marketing. Why? Because we believe an expanded approach (still including proven channels like direct mail) to engaging audiences is going to be key for non-profits going forward. Right now we’re focusing on a few things that, although not new to the world, could make a huge difference if non-profits embrace them:

  • Brand Development
  • Content Strategy
  • Technology Consulting
  • Innovation Workshops
  • Alternative Fundraising Program Development

Each of these practices is being developed and already benefiting clients through a careful methodology of experimentation, testing, and rollout.

Some of them, like content strategy, will soon become part of our mainstream offerings as an agency, core to the work we do when we partner with clients. As these practices are integrated, new ones will be added.

Turning an idea into reality is a challenge, but we’re committed to it. It’s how we’ll build the future of fundraising together.

If you’d like to talk more, send me an email or connect with me on Twitter. I look forward to the conversation.