One Trend Shaping the Future of Fundraising and Marketing

On April 17 at the Christian Leadership Alliance Outcomes Conference in Dallas, Dave Raley and Scott VanderLey will be giving a talk titled Lessons from the best: Double digit-growth in 2019 and beyond. They will share insights from their research to answer the question — “What can we learn by studying the fastest growing nonprofits in the Christian ministry world today?”

Today’s post is a preview of one of those trends. Enjoy, and please consider joining us at the Outcomes Conference — register for the Resource Development Leaders Forum, April 17th from 10:30am-6pm.

The vast majority of Christian organizations are not growing

There are 87,400 Christian nonprofits in the US today, and the vast majority of them are not growing. An August 2018 Blackbaud Index on giving for faith-based nonprofits indicated that the average faith-based nonprofit saw a decline in giving by 0.6 percent year-over-year.

Look for and learn from the bright spots

The first step is to look for the bright spots. Just because Christian nonprofits are not growing as a whole, doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions. There are ministries that are growing rapidly even as their peers are flat or struggling.

At the Outcomes Conference, we’ll be sharing six trends that have emerged from our research into answering this question: What can we learn by studying the fastest growing nonprofits in the Christian ministry world today? In other words, what are the bright spots?

Today, we’ll unpack a preview of one of those trends shaping the future of marketing and fundraising…

TREND: Building and engaging new audiences in an increasingly post-list world

For the past few decades, a core part of the growth formula for nonprofits has revolved around the purchase of lists. In short, an organization would buy a bunch of names from lists, send those names a solicitation, and get enough of those people to respond with a high-enough average value to justify doing that again and again.

Renting names is more expensive and harder to do than ever before

Today, we’re seeing lists become more and more sophisticated to keep up — enhanced by data, compiled and modeled. It really is a science, powered by technology. In fact, it fuels another trend we’re seeing — Digital Transformation. At Masterworks, we’re using lists in the most sophisticated ways possible, and are getting results for clients. But on the whole, it is getting tougher and tougher every year to achieve scale at a respectable return through the act of renting names for cold solicitation.

Building your own community of engaged, qualified audiences, before the gift

Forward-thinking nonprofits are finding ways to build and engage audiences well before the ask. They are leveraging social, community-building and content to attract people who may not be ready to give, but who are persuadable to the cause. Then they have strategies to cultivate and convert those names to take action.

Audience building begins well before name capture

Over the past decade, ministries have focused more and more on building their known audiences— i.e., lists of people who have opted in to communications from an organization. Today, we’re seeing the most forward nonprofits building audiences of tens of thousands or even millions of individuals before they volunteer their name.

How is this possible — building and communicating to masses of people, before we even know who they are?

Well, I’m glad you asked. In one word, technology. Today, the best nonprofits are leveraging technology to build a massive list of individuals who have watched a film, read an article or engaged socially before ever liking or subscribing.

As an example, for the ministries we work with here at Masterworks, we’ve built a powerful technology platform called Epiphany that enables us to build massive, new audiences that we can then laser target with specific messaging and content. It helps us engage existing audiences and move them to the next step. It also enables us to closely monitor and understand what is understanding with our efforts, well before a first gift.

Stay tuned to this blog for other trends shaping the future of marketing and fundraising, and for more on the Epiphany platform. In the meantime, answer these questions as you consider how to build audiences for your organization:

    1. Do we have a significant non-donor audience already? If so, what are we doing to cultivate and engage these audiences?
    2. What assets do we have that are attractive to people who might be interested in our cause? Will these attract the right kind of people, who will be persuadable to join our mission (give, volunteer, etc.)?
    3. Are we building anonymous audiences of people we can communicate with and target, before we even get their names?
    4. What would an entirely new approach to attracting and building our own lists of audiences look like?

If you’ll be at the Outcomes Conference in Dallas this April, don’t be a stranger! Scott and I would love to meet you.

– Dave Raley