People of Masterworks | Rusten Harris, Digital Media Buying Manager

People of Masterworks is a series highlighting talented folks who contribute to the success of our ministry partners on a daily basis. Our hope is that, by getting to know some of our team members, you’ll also learn more about Masterworks and our mission to move hearts and minds to action.

Rusten Harris is a life-long learner. He took a somewhat unconventional route into the world of digital media, but Masterworks is lucky to have him. Rusten’s desire to keep up with the changing trends allows him to stay ahead of the curve with recommendations for our nonprofit ministry partners and their digital marketing efforts.

What is your biggest contribution to our ministry partners’ success?

I’m constantly innovating and learning how to better maximize our digital media efforts. But I also interface with different teams here at Masterworks to help their work improve as well. I have a really tight connection with our creative team, so that they are developing assets that meet the needs of digital media. This is a fast-paced arena. We need to learn quickly. I’m also a ministry resource, helping them make smart decisions about their digital media strategy.

What motivates you in your work?

I love to learn and I love to win (laughs)! Improvement — constant improvement — is a huge motivator.

How would you describe the path that led you to the work you do now?

I came in with very little agency or fundraising experience. I worked with a ministry that did a ton of digital media. I talked with the digital media manager, picked his brain, and he said, “Hey, if you want to learn it, here are some digital media courses you should take.” I took online digital media courses and got certified. So when there was an opening in digital media, I was poised to move into the role.

In your professional opinion, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing nonprofits today?

Most important is adapting to and learning a new way to think through attribution for their fundraising efforts, because digital is so different from traditional direct response. A lot of people don’t believe it’s successful, but it is. That’s because you use a different attribution process with multiple perspectives. If you try to view everything through the paradigm of print media, like a response device that has a source code on it, then you’ll misread your results

What are you learning by working with ministries?

First, that your acquisition offer — the offer that you use to get a new donor — needs to be your best, simplest, easiest-to-understand offer. Rather than building out your digital media campaign by campaign — switching it up all the time, like we do in print, I find it’s better to concentrate on honing the best thing you have, over and over again. 

Second, I’ve learned that if your media assets drive to a website, that site must be optimized for conversions. It’s super-important to have ads that are incredibly to the point, with the offer front and center. 

Third, it’s important to engage and build your audience through a highly visible social media presence. It’s important to be nimble and to test new strategies. That’s where the biggest breakthroughs happen in a fast-changing environment.

Speaking of breakthroughs, tell me about your most recent “Ah-ha” moment or breakthrough.

Probably the power of using Chat Bots in a digital media strategy. They can help you achieve your sustainer, fundraising, and lead gen goals. It doesn’t require additional media spend, just Chat Bot maintenance. 

What’s one thing you want ministries to know about digital media?

A lot of nonprofits just want to dip their toe in digital media. But you have to invest in it. It’s a very powerful medium for reaching people. 

What, in your personal life, equips you to serve our clients every day?

Well, I really care about our ministry partners. I want to see their missions go forward. I’m a pastor as well…and I’m a studious person. My idea of a fun time is learning about new stuff (laughs). The Kingdom focus in what I do is super important to me.

What are some nonprofits that you and your family support?

We sponsor children and support church-planting efforts.

Would you rather have unlimited coffee? Or unlimited free wi-fi?


Masterworks is truly blessed to have Rusten on the team. If you’d like to learn more about how Masterworks keeps digital marketing strong for nonprofit organizations, feel free to reach out!