6 things on the minds of development leaders right now

For 15 years, I’ve been hosting an annual gathering of development leaders from across the Christian non-profit world. We get together to talk about what’s working in ministry marketing and fundraising. It’s an opportunity to share ideas, breakthroughs, results, testing opportunities, best practices and more.

The meeting is guided by a spirit of unity and openness. There’s little concern that a “competing ministry might steal my idea.” The attitude is, Here’s an idea that might help the rest of you. It’s wonderful to see this kind of collaboration across ministries.

Here’s what was on the minds of these development professionals this year:

1. Identifying, upgrading and cultivating mid-major donors

Nearly everyone was working on a way of identifying, upgrading and cultivating donors at the higher end of their mass communications program   with a more personal touch. These are donors whose behavior looks promising, but who haven’t yet shown that they are ready for full personal contact treatment. There were many ways of classifying them: largest gift ever, cumulative giving in the last year and others.

The common thread was assigning a phone rep to thank these donors in a genuine way when they give. Some organizations also directly ask. Most do not. Even though we can’t yet say there is a clear best practice way to do this, everyone believes their program is working. Paying special attention to these donors is resulting in more frequent and larger gifts.

2. Driving acquisition with prospect engagement and content strategy

One organization has a highly successful program that focuses on bringing in prospects rather than donors. These prospects receive a book whose theme is directly tied to the mission of the organization. Then, they’re carefully cultivated through a series of communications designed to increase engagement. The goal is conversion to a monthly donor.

The large number of conversions makes the entire cultivation stream a cost-effective means of donor acquisition. At a time when people are more resistant to marketing, we’re all trying to discover ways to connect with people who are interested in our cause, draw them into relationship and then encourage them to give.

Most ministries seem to see the writing on the wall. As donors — especially younger donors — become less responsive to traditional donor acquisition methods, organizations are looking for new opportunities, including online content strategies. The group reported that numerous tests are underway to prepare for a future less dependent on direct mail.

 3. Hanging on to monthly credit card givers

With a proliferation of data breaches, more givers than ever are having their credit cards replaced. It’s important to make sure your credit processing service is able to automatically update the new card number, as well as give you the new expiration date when a credit card expires.

Visa and Mastercard make this information available. But, surprisingly, many services — and ministries — do not take advantage of it. This is a shame, especially when you have monthly sustainers using credit cards and you lose them unnecessarily.

 4. Realizing that mobile is already here

The rise of mobile in digital is no longer coming. It’s a critical part of the non-profit experience right now. More emails are now being read on smartphones than any other device. Everyone in the group noted that at least one-third of all their website traffic is coming from mobile devices. Some said it was already more than half.

One good first step is to look at your donation experience on mobile. Go to your website on your phone right now and try to give. Is it an easy, smooth, good experience? Chances are you have some work to do.

5.  Getting results with social media — finally

We’re seeing measurable, positive ROI in social media integration for the first time. Social is still, first and foremost, an engagement channel. But integrating with fundraising campaigns at key times can actually drive revenue.

 6. Measuring how you stack up against the averages

Blackbaud reports that faith-based charities grew by 2.1% last year. Online giving grew 8.9% in that same period, representing almost 8.8% of total giving. If you’re investing in digital, you should be growing online by more than 9% — 9% growth is just average.

As you can see, these are interesting — but also challenging — days for development professionals. That’s why I’d love to hear what’s on your mind, what’s working for you and how we might be able to do some good work together. Email me at swoodworth@masterworks.agency.