09.09.21 3 min

Key takeaways from the 2021 BRIDGE Conference

Data Axle Staff

The 2021 BRIDGE to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising conference looked a bit different than previous years; but it still brought together the best and brightest in the industry to give professionals a clearer view of the trends coming down the pike. Below, we’ve outlined our key learnings from the conference as well as our unique spin on how nonprofits can better achieve their big picture goals.

Key takeaways:

1. Retaining COVID donors

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s 2020 Fourth Quarter Report found that the overall number of donors grew by 7.3% in 2020. At the BRIDGE conference, many nonprofits shared that they had an influx of new COVID donors. Which begs the question – how should nonprofits handle retaining these donors? Should they be treated the same as crisis donors? And if so, what do you do to keep them engaged now that the crisis is over?

A data-savvy approach to connecting with new supporters can help you build meaningful and lasting relationships with them. Developing a marketing strategy that includes segmentation tactics and personas to create personalized touchpoints and developing nurture campaigns will help keep these new donors engaged. [Read our blog for more details on how to retain COVID donors].

2. Finding the opportunity in Donor Advised Funds

Donor advised funds aren’t new, but the industry is still working out how to make the most of these giving vehicles. Donor advised funds provide donors with several important tax benefits: they allow the donor to become eligible for an income tax deduction of the full fair-market value of the asset, up to 30 percent of their adjusted gross income and allows them to eliminate capital gains tax on long-term appreciated assets, as long as they’ve been held for more than a year. The challenge for nonprofits is to find donors who have an established DAF and convey the benefits of engaging with their cause to this audience. Custom modeled audiences and creative guidance can help nonprofits reach out to these high-value donors with the right touchpoints and messaging to capture their attention.

3. Donors are spending more time online – and nonprofits need to meet them there

COVID pushed all of us indoors and online. In fact, ‘screen time’ increased to over 13 hours per day – rendering digital strategy more important than ever before. Strengthening digital strategy and taking a holistic, omnichannel approach to marketing is the path to acquiring new donors and improving retention. This can be a challenge for nonprofits, as many of them use separate agencies for their online and offline digital marketing.

Data Axle knows from industry surveys, match-back studies, lots of testing, and attribution work that it takes more than one touch and more than one channel to keep donors continuously engaged. Online and offline marketing tactics need to work in tandem. Richard Geiger, Senior Vice President, recommends touching potential donors 7-12 times to maximize donation opportunities. A data-driven retention approach utilizes channel, offer, and message in concert with one another. [Get started on your road to omnichannel marketing with Richard Geiger’s Q&A].

4. Reaching out to the next generation of givers

People born between 1981 and 1996 (Millennials and Gen Z) now make up the largest segment of the U.S. population. As they continue to gain economic clout, this segment cannot be ignored by nonprofits who have lofty fundraising and donor acquisition goals. Luckily, according to Data Axle’s survey of over 1,200 charitable givers, these younger donor generations are ready and excited to engage with nonprofits. In fact, younger donors were more likely to have increased the amount they donated in 2020 — 39% of donors aged 18-29 and 33% aged 30-44 gave more during the pandemic. These findings highlight the importance of this donor segment and the need for nonprofits to proactively engage it.

Data Axle knows younger donors want to give to those in need, but nonprofits need to guide them along the way. This unique audience needs to be reached on different channels with different messaging than their older counterparts. Nonprofits need to consider which funding models will appeal to younger generations and which communication and fundraising channels they prefer to engage with. [Niely Shams, President of Data Axle Nonprofit, shares 6 digital strategies to engage young donors].

5. The increasing importance of a diverse donor base

Nonprofits have led the charge when it comes to equality and diversity, and now they are turning to their donor data base. The BlackBaud Institute’s survey report, “Diversity in Giving,” found that almost 75% of donors are non-Hispanic whites. There is a disparity here, as non-Hispanic whites make up 60% of the population.

The “Diversity in Giving” report found that African-American and Hispanic donors say they are not frequently reached out to by nonprofits and would consider donating if they were engaged more often. Nonprofits need to learn how to reach and engage a larger, more diverse audience of donors. A good way to get started is by diversifying the data you are drawing from. Data Axle provides deep insights into the giving characteristics of various ethnicities, along with behavioral and demographic data to improve localized efforts to reach specific communities.

For example, Care and Share, a food bank for Colorado, lists stories of various members of the community whom they have helped. Each story features different segments of Colorado’s varied population and is more likely to appeal to a broader range of donors.

6. Sustainers continue to be a crucial donor segment

Nonprofits know that donors who favor sustaining gifts have a higher lifetime value than the average donor and also provide a consistent revenue stream for the causes they support. While sustainers are frequently brought up at BRIDGE, the technological innovations of 2021 mean that there are new ways of attracting sustainers to your cause. At Data Axle, we combine quality data with sophisticated marketing tactics and cutting-edge data applications to acquire these valuable donors. For example, look-alike modeling and lead scoring are tools that savvy nonprofits can use to quickly boost sustainer interest. [Want to learn more about how to grow your base of sustainers? Read the whole article here].

The BRIDGE conference allowed for nonprofits to take the temperature of the industry during a period of global change. The exchange of new ideas, marketing tactics and technological advances means that nonprofits can enter the post-COVID world stronger than ever before. We at Data Axle have our pulse on what’s happening in this space. We are here to help you start navigating the future of your nonprofit.

If you didn’t catch our session at Bridge, “How American Heart Association reactivated more than half a million subscribers to drive fundraising,” you can watch it here:

Contact us to elevate your marketing strategy and engage potential donors.