Donors, Data . . . and Sumerian Architecture

The way consumers interact with brands has changed with mind-bending speed during the last few years, and ministries are equally affected. The challenges are real, and so are the opportunities. Ministries that are able to effectively harness big data to drive highly relevant donor engagement will experience explosive new growth, while those that don’t will face sharply diminished returns.

Recently, we’ve discovered a winning strategy to respond to this new market reality. Strangely enough, it’s best illustrated by a piece of ancient Biblical architecture — the ziggurat.

Before we get to that, let’s talk about what has changed with people’s experience with brands, and why it matters so deeply.

“The Internet of Everything

Today, a typical consumer experience moves seamlessly from the office to the kitchen to the family room, and from offline to online interaction, and only those brands that engage effectively across that experience will thrive. Imagine a family discussing their favorite vacation spot or Christian ministry. Invariably, devices will come into play, as family members pull up digital information and video to inform the discussion. Later, as the family watches television together, the data created by their interaction is now available to brands delivering ads and content to their television screen. The successful brands will actively promote content that furthers these individuals’ experience with the brand they discussed earlier, making a financial transaction that night or in the days to come far more likely.

Big Data, Big Expectations, Big Opportunities

That’s a huge change from the advertising world in which we were raised. The opportunity to be relevant is far greater, both because of the high volume of consumer data created by modern communications technology, and the proliferating methods and media options for translating that data into timely, relevant marketing responses. This is good news in theory, but it creates a highly competitive environment where people who experience relevant marketing will increasingly expect timely brand responses and reject those brands that don’t deliver. The brands that most quickly and effectively take advantage of this with agile, data-driven marketing strategies will leave their competitors far behind.

How can ministries compete?

The Data-Driven Ziggurat

We’ve discovered that a fresh, tiered approach to donor engagement — with phasing and treatment driven by advanced data platforms — provides the answer and an opportunity for ministries to experience double-digital growth. It’s like a modern-day version of the old donor pyramid, except it’s actually a ziggurat. Each tier of the engagement model has unique targets and metrics (and for the first few, they’re NOT revenue-driven!), and only a strategy that effectively solves for each tier using big data will succeed.

Want to Hear More?

We’re offering a special learning experience at this year’s Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) Outcomes ConferenceApril 16-18, in Dallas, Texas.

On Thursday, April 18, from 3:30 to 5 PM, I’ll be offering the workshop “Omni-Channel Engagement, Optimization and Acquisition” (Resource Development — Track Three). We’ll discuss The Data-Driven Ziggurat, look at how ministries are driving growth and acquiring valuable donors through this strategy, and look at the content, optimization and creative customization that you’ll need to successfully employ the strategy.

P.S. Not going to CLA? We can still talk. Just email me at