02.16.22 4 min

Top trends from the ANA Nonprofit Federation Winter Conference

Data Axle Staff

The ANA Nonprofit Federation Winter conference brought together the most dynamic minds in the industry to discuss the latest challenges and trends in the industry. As the presenting sponsor of the event, we hope that everyone who attended left with greater insight into how to be successful in the coming months and years. If you weren’t able to attend this year, or missed a few sessions, don’t worry about it. Our team is here to fill you in on the top-takeaways.

The most buzzed about stat of the event: the COVID renewal rate increase

Niely Shams, President of Data Axle Nonprofit, and Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, held a fireside chat that covered a wide range of topics including how to thrive during this period of uncertainty, how volunteer engagement changed and diversity, equity and inclusion in the nonprofit space. For fundraisers, one of the most interesting elements was donor data behavior before and after the COVID pandemic started in March 2020. In fact, Data Axle saw an increase in COVID donor renewal rates.

Analyzing donor renewal response rates for 2019 vs 2020, Data Axle data showed that nonprofits saw anywhere between a 4% to 12% increase in their renewal response rates. This is the percent increase in renewal rates of new donors during COVID (April 2020 – Dec 2020) vs pre-COVID (April 2019 – Dec 2019).

The analysis also showed an average gift amount and donation frequency that were on par or improved over the prior year.

We’re going to continue to monitor this group over time.

Richard Geiger, Senior Vice President, Data Axle Nonprofit, says, “Our analysis validates that donors acquired during COVID have not been ‘one-and-done’ supporters. On the contrary, their subsequent giving rates in the first year after acquisition have been on par with pre-Covid (2019) newly acquired donors, or better.”

Does that fit with what you are seeing in your organization?

Karen Mayhew, Vice President, Consumer Data Management, Data Axle
A consistent theme throughout the event, as well as one of the session titles, was “Fundraising Success in Times of Scarcity.” Whether we are talking about the supply chain, the cookie-less future, talent acquisition or donor universes, “scarcity” comes into play.

Then of course, there was the great debate – working remotely vs. working from the office. Great points were made by both sides. Dan Clasgens, the director of direct marketing at the Disabled American Veterans was very passionate about the power of working together in the office and the synergy that creates. Geoff Handy, Head of Mass Market Fundraising, North America, International Rescue Committee also made a great case for the power of remote work to unite people across the globe.

To me, the most interesting part of this debate is how it ties into DEI efforts. Remote work offers nonprofits the ability to employ a more diverse workforce. It makes it easier to accommodate the needs of disabled employees and working single parents. It also allows employers to draw talent without the restrictions of geography. For example, a candidate with a lower income might live in a more affordable area, too far from a city to commute in every day. Now, those candidates can be seriously considered. It’s exciting to imagine the possibilities of a geographically-limitless workforce and how it can benefit nonprofits who are committed to increasing diversity among their staff.

An effective omnichannel strategy starts with audience identification

Elizabeth Dixon, Senior Vice President, Business Development, Data Axle Nonprofit
A key trend that was much discussed was omnichannel marketing. Particularly the idea that omnichannel marketing is heavily reliant on timing and audience identification. When it comes to omnichannel, surrounding the right audience with a relevant message is key to seeing results. If you have a program that isn’t hitting your highest LTV potential donors, you’re wasting precious resources. An effective omnichannel strategy starts with audience identification and the key to that is accurate data.

That being said, direct mail is still a critical channel for nonprofits, especially in a time of overcrowded email inboxes. Even in 2022, with all this talk of digital and the metaverse, donors appreciate seeing a simple “welcome back” postcard in the mail as correspondence and acknowledgement.

Renewal is also a hot topic. As Richard mentioned above, everybody is eager to see how the pre and post COVID donors respond and give so the industry can plan their next steps to keep these donors engaged and tied to their mission. Nonprofits are working on creating content of interest for the COVID donor and that messaging is being streamlined and segmented.

One of the stand-out sessions was “Navigating the Digital Landscape for Outsized Success.” After the 2008 recession, Hope Wohl the CEO of Breastcancer.org made the bold move to allow companies who assisted with either products or services for their community of patients/family to advertise on their website. The idea of allowing paid advertisers on your website is still a controversial idea and one the industry hasn’t come to a consensus on yet.

Sue McMullen, Vice President, Media Planning, Data Axle Nonprofit
Text fundraising was a hot topic this year. In the past, I think we have been quick to dismiss SMS as an effective medium for fundraising without doing our due diligence. At Data Axle, we are big proponents of testing and creating data-driven marketing programs that meet donors on their channel of preference. I believe many of us are quick to judge that the older generation of donors will not be responsive to SMS, as opposed to testing first and then looking at the data to draw that conclusion.

At the conference, St. Joseph’s Indian School presented a case study showing SMS has worked well for them and Synergy presented several other success stories. Overall, the findings presented showed that mobile was working well for both multichannel donors and direct mail donors. It makes sense that donors will respond more quickly to a text message, that they have opt-ed into with a nonprofit, than going into email inbox that’s filled with promotional offers. Consider making 2022 the year you give SMS a whirl – remember any successful SMS program has to start on a bedrock of high-quality cellphone data.

Are nonprofits ready for face-to-face events?

Lisa Riordan, Senior Director, Data Axle Nonprofit
Relaunching Face-to-Face events was a huge topic at the conference. Even as some of us attended virtually, we discussed moving back to F2F events and the benefits of it. Monica Muten, director of direct response marketing at the Special Olympics and Jenni Starr, manager of face to face fundraising at Children International made good cases for how to smartly relaunch in-person events while prioritizing safety.

Want to chat more about omnichannel, SMS, or renewal rates? Get in touch.