Citygate Preview: One Strategy from Today’s Fastest Growing Nonprofits

On June 6, at The Citygate Network Annual Conference in Palm Springs, our very own Dave Raley will be giving a talk titled New Development Strategies from Today’s Fastest Growing Ministries and Nonprofits. Dave will be sharing the lessons learned from research observing growing nonprofits and will reveal key strategies, expose the pitfalls to avoid, and preview emerging opportunities for exponential growth. Today’s post is a preview of one of those trends. Enjoy, and please consider joining us at The Citygate Network Annual Conference June 3-6, 2019.

According to the recently released 2018 Charitable Giving Report, giving to “Faith community” charities through 2018 changed by only 0.3%. Giving to human services charities changed by 1.3%. I don’t know about you, but if you’ve been around fundraising for any significant length of time like me, that was discouraging.

Seeing trends like this, every leader, every organization has two options. One option is to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, or resign that this is just the new normal. On average, ministries simply aren’t growing. Get used to it. Sure, the needs we serve are growing. Sure, more people are coming to our doors than ever before. Let’s just figure out how to do more with less.

The other option is to get fired up. It is NOT OKAY that while the need is growing, resourcing to organizations doing this vital work is not. We are responding to a call to transform this world, to save lives, to introduce people to Jesus. God has no lack of resources.

It turns out that despite the overall trends, there are organizations that are growing. So the question is, what can we learn from these rapidly growing ministries? At the Citygate Network Annual Conference on June 6, I’m going to share six trends that we are seeing from studying ministries that are growing in today’s environment. They are all different sizes and missions, but one thing they have in common — they are growing.

TREND: Sustainer Giving in a Subscription Economy

Recurring monthly giving has been a core part of nonprofit fundraising for many decades. One-to-one sponsorship giving, like child sponsorship or monthly missionary support, for example. Or membership programs that can offer various levels of benefits to monthly givers.

But as we’ve studied the fastest-growing nonprofits today, we’ve seen the emergence of a whole new kind of sustainer program. One that works for a far greater variety of ministries — especially organizations that cannot do a one-to-one or membership model.

There are two forces driving this new kind of sustainer program, and at the conference, I’ll be sharing how we see nonprofits taking advantage of these trends. Let me give you a sneak peek at those two forces:

FORCE #1: Consumer trends reshaping consumer behavior

Fully 48% of all automated monthly payments today by consumers are considered to be “discretionary.” These are not your utility bills or your mortgage payment — they are your Netflix subscription, your Amazon Prime membership, and any of a host of other monthly services and products that consumers are subscribed to today.

Just think about your own behavior as a consumer. How many recurring payments do you have going every month, versus 10 or even just 5 years ago? I don’t know about you, but 10 years ago I hardly had any monthly payments that were not utility bills or the like.

What this has done has made individuals far more comfortable with opening their wallet on a monthly basis. That’s good news for nonprofits, because it matches up perfectly with what we are seeing in our second force driving this new kind of sustainer program — donor trends.

FORCE #2: Donor trends reshaping donor behavior

At a time when we as consumers have quite literally “bought” into the subscription economy, nonprofits have struggled to acquire new donors. And those donors they do acquire are harder and harder to get to give again and again and again.

But, thanks to the subscription economy, donors are much more comfortable with giving monthly, including to causes that aren’t your typical sponsorship or membership organizations.

Again, think of your own giving habits. Five years ago, my only monthly gifts were to child sponsorship organizations and missionaries. Today, those are still receiving monthly support, but I’ve automated my monthly giving to my church, and to a half-dozen ministries that I really care about.

A recent study showed that 52% of Millennials are more likely to give monthly over a large, one-time donation, and fully 49% of Boomer and Gen X donors are already enrolled in a monthly giving program.

This is particularly good news for nonprofits focused on life-transformation — organizations who will be at the Citygate Conference — those working with the homeless and disenfranchised in our society. Historically, it has been difficult to grow a thriving sustainer program in ministries such as these. But nonprofits of all shapes and sizes have an opportunity to take advantage of these trends and build a next level sustainer program.

We certainly live in exciting times. If you’ll be at the Citygate Conference in Palm Springs this June, I would love to meet you!