CLA 2016: New Ways to Acquire Donors

This post is a bit of the workshop at the CLA Outcomes Conference that was presented by myself and Allen Thornburgh, VP of Client Strategy, on April 21st, 2016. We shared work that we’ve been doing in pioneering new ways to acquire donors for ministries in today’s world.

4 pillars for new fundraising

At this session, we shared what we believe are the 4 pillars behind a new model for fundraising and acquisition. Today, I’ll share 1 of those pillars. If you want to know about all four, contact me about upcoming webinars.

Pillar #3: Program Innovation

Program innovation is the 3rd of 4 pillars which underlie the future of fundraising and new ways of acquiring donors.

What do we mean by program innovation?

Program Innovation: Unprecedented levels of collaboration and planning between marketing and program leadership, leading to the creation of new programs that are both effective ministry AND highly marketable to donors.

Imagine sitting down with your program and marketing colleagues and jointly dreaming about the most effective ways to accomplish your ministry through new programs.

Very few organizations do this well. The few that have done this well have benefited from the fruits of this kind of synergy. It drives energy for the entire organization and ignites the funding base. Program is energized because they are bringing new innovative solutions to better accomplish ministry. Marketing/fundraising is energized because they are a part of the creation of the very programs that are now marketable to drive significant new donor acquisition and fundraising results.

In other words, instead of having to figure out how to spin existing programs into attractive messages for donors and prospects, marketing is now playing a role in creating the kinds of programs that are inherently marketable. This is a major difference, and when done correctly results in ministry that can be highly scaled and self-sufficient. More donors can be acquired and more funds raised, which in turn results in more ministry, and the happy cycle continues.

Our president Steve Woodworth recently blogged about this kind of collaboration being one of three top factors in organizations that achieve and exceed the $100 million mark. Here’s an excerpt that illustrates what that kind of collaboration looks like:

A decade after the Boat People crisis, when I was vice president of marketing at World Vision, the organization was asked by the Russian government to come and talk about working in Russia. This was before the Soviet Union fell. World Vision instinctively realized that they needed to send representatives from both the program area and fundraising.

Exploring the possibility of working in Russia would require people who understood both sides of the equation. Because collaboration and integration was so deeply rooted in World Vision’s DNA it never occurred to anyone to think: “Let’s just send our programs guy. He can decide if there’s an opportunity for us. And if there is, THEN we’ll bring the fundraising folks in to see if this is something we can raise money for.”

That’s how I found myself on a winter morning in Moscow in 1989 meeting up with our Eastern European field director, before taking a taxi to the Kremlin. We were in this together, and we were excited partners, even though we had never met before.

World Vision’s culture was built on the conviction that ministry programs and fundraising go hand in hand. That was drilled into the staff organization-wide: Fundraising and programs must be partners.

We shared the other 3 pillars at the CLA session titled “New Ways to Acquire Donors.

As always, if you have any questions or just want to chat, let me know — you can reach me on Twitter at @daveraley or by email at