People of Masterworks | Jef Miller, Creative Director

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.

Jef Miller brings innovation, energy and experience to Masterworks’ design team. A cornerstone of our creative team, Jef is quick to offer fresh ideas, unique perspectives, tactics and technologies that seemed far-fetched… until now.

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

I love challenging our partners to think through the way they show up in the world — does their mission resonate with today’s generation of faithful believers or challenge it? Does it inspire? Or, is it falling flat? This is a great way to find opportunities to gain relevance or provoke outward change. As a Creative Director, it’s my job to encourage our ministry partners to take risks, to look at concepts, ideas, channels and platforms, and think about them differently and adapt. Sometimes my contribution is just being human, having fun, having a good sense of humor about our lives and our work, and being a friend — not just an agency.

What motivates you in your work?

I’m a naturally tenacious person and I feel a massive sense of responsibility for the work we’re doing. Two terms I use to describe what motivates me are “burn” and “burden.”  Burn is putting all of my energy into everything that I do. It’s a fire, all-consuming. I’m constantly reading, understanding, absorbing what’s happening in the nonprofit and for-profit worlds. The burden is about my responsibility to the missions of our clients, to our call as Christians to build God’s Kingdom here on earth, and to the success of Masterworks as a ministry and an organization. The burden is a deep-seated responsibility to deliver, no matter what.

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

I always knew that the arts were my calling. But as much as I love art, I’m equally analytical and systems-oriented. I graduated with a Bachelor of Design in advertising and started down the path of becoming a creative director. I had the opportunity to work in different kinds of marketing and creative roles and gained broad experience. Ultimately, I hit a point where what I was doing wasn’t making peoples’ lives substantially better or doing what I felt was on God’s heart for the world. Joining Masterworks was a way to use my skills and expertise in an impactful way for work that has meaning and purpose.

What are you learning by working with ministries?

I’m learning what it means to have the constant tension of being both a business and a ministry. Every opportunity that we have to put something out there — like an ad or a direct mail appeal — is also an interaction with the body of Christ and an interaction with a world that does not yet know Jesus. I’m learning from ministries what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Christ as they navigate that, as they try to awaken the apathetic among us and work through persecution. There’s so much hope and determination and drive and passion from these ministries. To be able to share it in partnership, partake in it, is both a pleasure and a constant striving.

What has been your most recent ah-ha or breakthrough moment?

There really have been two big ah-ha moments. The first is the use of chatbots, which have changed how people engage with ministries online. In the first two months that we were using chatbots, 14 people gave their lives to Christ because we built the dialogue that asked, “Do you want to learn more about Jesus?” and, “Will you pray and give your life to Christ?” The response, engagement, marketing communication and conversion have been amazing.

Another big ah-ha moment is realizing that if we take the same advertising we use for acquiring new donors and show it again and again to active donors, they give! AND it helps our acquisition, too! When active donors who already love these organizations see the ads, they start reacting and liking and sharing, which increases the popularity of the ad and the confidence in others to also give.  We’re continuing to look at it and encouraging our partners to think about this as well. A lot of ministries think that effective cultivation always has to have a new campaign to drive it — a new story or theme or topic. But while that can still help boost performance, what we’ve seen that has been so wonderful is in how many donors are giving two or three or four times to the exact same ad throughout the year. The wall that used to separate acquisition and cultivation is pretty much all but gone in digital.

What’s one thing you want ministries to know about creative marketing and fundraising?

More than ever before, ministries face the need to understand what’s happening in the market and to respond quickly. Every day beyond those initial insights that they wait to react is a day they’re spending good money on something that’s not working. Streamlining the strategy and creative approval process is the key to effectiveness. My encouragement to any nonprofit working in digital is to figure out how to operate leanly, empower fewer people to make better and faster decisions and reduce the bureaucratic processes.

Any final words?

I’m blessed to be working at a place where we partner with wonderful ministries with the goal of multiplying their impact and moving donors to support that good work generously. Lives are being transformed and hearts turned to God. I can’t think of a better reason to come to work.