What’s working and not in digital – Part 1

This is the first of a 3-part series covering current trends in digital marketing and fundraising for non-profits, gathered from a group of national non-profit leaders in the digital space.

One of my favorite things about working at Masterworks is that we serve a diverse set of ministries that are doing incredible work around the world. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that blessing comes with responsibility — to be a connector. To consistently share what’s working and what’s not, what the trends are across ministries, and create opportunities to collaborate with and learn from each other.

To that end, I founded a group of national leaders doing pioneering work in the field of digital for faith-based non-profits. For the past 4 years this Digital Edgewater Group has gathered national ministry leaders in digital marketing to candidly share what’s working, what’s not, and what we can do to support each other.

We met in Colorado Springs this year, where about a dozen themes emerged that paint a picture for what I believe many ministries are facing in digital marketing in 2016.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share these themes across 3 different posts. This is the first of those posts, so let’s dive in…

Theme #1: Online revenue growth is accelerating

Revenue coming from online channels continues to grow at a brisk pace. According to Blackbaud, the average non-profit saw 9.2% revenue growth online in 2015.

The question then is not, “Is your non-profit growing in online revenue?” but rather, “How much should you be growing?” The average attendee at Digital Edgewater saw a whopping 27.8% growth in the last year, with only 1 organization seeing year-over-year declines.

Further, online fundraising represents a growing part of the total pie. The average non-profit brings in 7.1% of total revenue from online channels. The average Digital Edgewater attendee saw 16.8% of total revenue from online.

Theme #2: The rise of sustainer programs

Every organization in attendance has made recurring giving programs a priority. Several are developing programs, while others are looking at ways to grow those programs or launch new ones.

In an increasingly digital future, with donor preferences for giving to fewer organizations, and with instability in privacy and law surrounding marketing practices, one of the best things you can do for your organization is build a reliable source of monthly recurring revenue.

Theme #3: Email is not dead

No, email is not dead. In fact, it’s still a major driver for revenue growth. Your website and email program should be your 2 most important digital assets.

Organizations are experimenting more with segmentation and personalization, based on user data or behavior (opens, clicks, customer/donor info, etc). Customizing email content to users is a powerful way to increase effectiveness. So we are creating strategic, automated emails that are triggered based on user behavior — welcome series, autoresponders, conversion streams and more.

Non-profits are also finding that they can greatly increase the frequency of emails. See our earlier blog post about frequency. We continue to test, and have not yet found the upper limit of how many fundraising emails you can send to donors. Many organizations are still in the habit of sending 1-2 fundraising emails a month, which we are finding is too few.

Theme #4: The cross-channel audience myth

Most organizations simply aren’t aware of how much overlap they have between their online and offline donor files. We are, however, starting to see a trend where the percentage of donors who are on both the email and mail files is much smaller than expected. The next step is for ministries to evaluate that overlap and begin to experiment with strategies to see if they can take advantage of that information.

Stay tuned for part 2. I’ll cover trends in usability and optimization, online attribution, and new online advertising methods that are promising.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or would like to chat about any of these themes.