Driving Your Results in 2016: 4 Trends to Watch

With another holiday season behind us, and 2016 freshly upon us, it’s customary for us to step back and look forward. With 2016 full of possibility, what will it hold for nonprofits?

Here are a few things to  keep your eyes on:

1. Smarter use of data squeezes more out of existing efforts

We’ve seen the rise in modeling and compiled lists in the world of acquisition. And over the past few years, the industry has become increasingly sophisticated in the world of segmentation in cultivation.

Example — this past year Masterworks continued to see major breakthroughs in selecting smarter through the next generation of our “MRI” methodology (Masterworks Response Index – basically a complex series of models that we’ve found are the best in the market at predicting how much donors will give and when).

2016 will see a whole new level of using data and smart analytics to squeeze better return out of existing efforts.

2. Non-financial ministry marketing goals become more valued

As ministries mature, they are starting to realize there is more to marketing than just driving fundraising results. Volunteer recruitment, staff recruitment, ministry impact, advocacy, prayer, and so on are important ministry goals that marketing efforts can help drive.

But historically, the challenge has been that nonprofits are unwilling to invest to see those metrics climb. They say that ministry impact is important, volunteers are critical to the mission, etc., but when it comes down to it they haven’t been willing to invest to grow these “non-income generating” areas using marketing.

It breaks my heart, because I’ve seen organizations with huge potential for massive ministry impact be handicapped by the mentality that because we aren’t getting a financial return, we just can’t invest. However, here is a hopeful example — one national non-profit we work with recognized the importance of non-financial goals in their website redesign, and as a result of the work we did together, they saw a 250% increase in volunteer recruitment, a 464% increase in church recruitment, and a 330% increase in user engagement (not to mention a 56% increase in fundraising revenue).

In 2016, I expect more and more nonprofits will see the value in driving non-financial marketing goals.

3. Planned giving reaches a whole new level of integration with ongoing fundraising

This one you might not see as much, because honestly, we feel like we’re at the forefront of driving a whole new level of integration between planned giving efforts and ongoing fundraising and marketing. Historically, because planned giving and fundraising and marketing have been separate functions at organizations, deep integration has been shaky at best.

We have come to believe that integrating your fundraising communications and planned giving, in addition to having a robust lead generation, conversion, and cultivation strategy married to your ongoing fundraising efforts should be a top priority for all ministries in 2016. Done right, it will help you not only to drive your estates and other planned gifts portfolio to the tune of millions of dollars, but it also to improve CURRENT donor giving and long term value.

We’re grateful for partnership with folks in the industry like Mike Buwalda and the Barnabas Foundation, who have been faithfully at this work for decades. In fact, at Masterworks we believe that by combining the best of our marketing/fundraising integration expertise with the best in planned giving strategy, we’ll see a level of integration and results unlike any time in the past 30 years. We posted about it in 2015 here, and we believe it’ll create tremendous results for ministry in 2016 and beyond.

4. Ministries will begin to understand and emphasize the value of the whole donor experience

In this industry, we live with a fractured, incomplete view of who our donors and constituents are. Let’s be honest — for the most part, all we know about our donors is transactional — how much they give, when they give, and what they give to. But what most ministries have virtually no understanding of is how the total experience donors have effects their giving, their retention, their long-term value.

Simply put — we have too long ignored the impact that the experience your constituents have of your organization on their value.

If you’ve been in this business for long, you realize that there is a big difference between what we believe our constituent’s experience to be, and the reality of what it actually is. In many ways, it’s outright embarrassing. We say we care about our donors, our volunteers, etc. But put yourself in your constituent’s shoes — how long does it take to get a receipt? When you call for help, are you treated with sincere gratitude and care? When you interact on the web, phone, or though direct mail, social media — do you get a consistent story (or does your organization come across as having multiple personality disorder)?

For our part, we’ve felt as paralyzed in the past by some of this stuff as you have. We’re all busy — some of these experience problems are deep-seated in organizations. They stem from bad data, lack of coordination among departments, and conflicting organizational goals.

What’s a non-profit (or agency) to do? Well in 2016 we’re launching the next generation of a tool we call the Experience Audit. We’ll be helping ministries this year create a report card and a plan. For each of your key audiences, we’ll map out what the experience is believed to be, then through a number of research methodologies we’ll map out what the experience actually is, and we’ll design with you what the experience actually should be. The end result will be a really clear understanding of where the organization is falling down and failing your donors, volunteers, etc., and a plan to fill those gaps.

2016 is full of potential — take advantage of that!

We’re optimistic about 2016. It’s not a year to go into fearfully. The potential for non-profits is as ripe as ever, and ministries are getting smarter and smarter.

As always, if you have any questions or just want to chat, let me know — you can reach me on Twitter at @daveraley or by email at draley@masterworks.com.