For Christians, the motivation to innovate is infinitely more significant than purely organizational survival – because ultimately, we carry the message of the gospel and have been called to let our light shine before others in all we do.
Innovation leads to relevance, and relevance keeps our message in front of those around us. And for the donors who support us financially, being relevant keeps them connected to the life-changing impact their gifts are helping make possible.
Right now, we’re in a season of opportunity when change and innovation is moving faster than ever.
Right now, we’re in a season of opportunity when change and innovation is moving faster than ever. Donors committed to your mission want to see and hear about your work at a time that is convenient for them. Donors also seek updates and make gifts on multiple channels, so make engagement as easy as possible for them. Tools like QR codes or digital wallets make giving easier than ever. And we see this in the data: online revenue is up 42% over the last three years (Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report).
To be successful in fundraising, organizations need to embrace emerging trends in the digital space and integrate these updates across all aspects of donor development. In recent months, there have been several changes that have major implications for your ministry, including:
- Mobile web traffic – Most organizations have finally started seeing their website traffic come primarily from mobile devices. On average in 2021, 54% of total traffic came from phones or tablets (M+R Benchmarks).
- New payment methods – Whether it’s PayPal, ApplePay, Google Wallet, Venmo, or Cryptocurrency, donors are giving through a variety of new methods. Some organizations we work with see as much as 21% of their online giving on PayPal and another 12% using ApplePay and Google Wallet.
- Digital privacy and tracking – Recently, Apple iOS changes made users opt in to tracking (where previously it had been opt out only). This is great for individual privacy, but it does impact all the metrics we use regularly, making historical digital metrics comparisons increasingly difficult.
- Different advertising audiences – Earlier this year, Facebook removed several of their interest-based ad targeting options around political and religious affiliations. For Christian ministries, this means getting in front of prospective donors became more difficult.
- Sunsetting third-party cookies – In 2024, Google plans to remove third-party cookies from the Chrome browser. This will change how organizations are able to reach individuals through targeted advertising, forcing them to re-evaluate where they spend their advertising dollars.
- Google Analytics changes to GA4 – This commonly used website analytics tool is being replaced with GA4 in mid-2023. The GA4 interface where data is pulled is significantly different, so administrative users will need time and training to adjust.
With all these daunting changes, the only way to succeed is for your ministry to embrace a culture of swift adaptability. So how do you as a ministry leader foster an environment conducive to change?
- Employees must feel safe. When testing anything new, mistakes will happen. We are all imperfect. So shower your team with grace. And when mistakes happen, make sure you approach correction collaboratively and as a safe opportunity for growth. Remember, a culture of adaptability necessitates perpetual learning for all.
- There must be budget. No matter the size of your budget, create room to invest in new tools and testing to help your organization prepare for technology shifts. Even a little spend here can go a long way.
- Plan for flexibility. Plan with a foundation of tried-and-true elements in your digital program – regular email appeals, email newsletters, proven advertising networks, etc. When something new is found to be successful, pivot quickly, shift or add to your budget, and adjust plans accordingly.
- Equip your team. Many things can be learned through free webinars or courses offered online; however, some new tools and technology require paid classes or coaching. Allocating budget so your team can remain cutting edge in an ever-changing digital landscape will pay off greatly in the long run. Whenever possible, ensure your team member shares what they’ve learned. This allows you to multiply the impact of your investment, and it equips them as future leaders.
No one can tell you exactly what lies ahead. What I can tell you with confidence is that donors give to causes they care about – ones that make an impact on people’s lives. Every area of ministry needs to embrace innovation, but none more than fundraising. To keep donors engaged and attract new donors, your organization will need to adapt to relevant ways of finding and connecting with them so they’ll join you in being part of what is right with the world as you spread the gospel message.
Amy Sewell serves as Senior Vice President of Digital Solutions at Douglas Shaw & Associates, leading the strategy, data, and development for digital fundraising and serving a variety of nonprofit organizations across the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Amy Sewell will co-lead a Resource Development workshop at Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes Conference in Chicago, March 28-30, 2023. Register to attend.