Face the Future of Fundraising with Greater Confidence!

Fundraising may be a well-oiled machine, bringing millions to Canadian non-profits year after year – and helping millions of people in the process – but acquiring new and younger donors remains a persistent challenge. It’s a question that keeps us up at night at ST, fueling passionate discussions like the one at our recent mid-winter ST event. Dozens of industry leaders gathered -–and got fired up to discuss real fundraising innovation.

The excitement built as affable EVP, Chief Creative Officer Bryan Tenenhouse welcomed the crowd. Lisette Gelinas, Advisor, Brand & Marketing Strategy, then took the stage and while reminding the audience that ST pioneered DM fundraising in Canada 43 years ago, unveiled ST’s current innovations and an ambitious plan to share more of our exciting innovations in the near future.

Lisette talked about the JAM (Just About Monthlies) Collective, first. ST created it because while the cost of acquiring monthly donors was going way up, there had been little discussion in the way of thought leadership and donor journey benchmarking data to help optimize monthly programs. Our solution to this industry-wide problem? Bringing US and Canadian fundraisers together to improve results faster and keep donors longer by sharing, testing and learning from collective results. The JAM Collective is delivering impressive data and insights for our existing partners, and with a 2nd cohort to launch in [date], there are plenty of reasons to pay close attention to more JAM news this spring.

Kickin’ it OLD school for NEW donors

While the future of fundraising is becoming increasingly digital, Lisette also shared an “old-school” approach with an innovative application: the timeless co-op envelope. With a single branded mailing, ST is creating a first for fundraisers that appeals to a donor’s desire to have more of their donation go to helping the cause and donate to one of the 8 different charities featured inside. This “throwback” idea (think Val-Pak) is future-friendly for not for profits looking for an affordable way to reach more potential donors, while sharing in the risk and reward of a group mailing. It’s another progressive way ST’s driving new donor acquisition. To find out more about this exciting initiative, contact DonnaR@stephenthomas.ca.

ST’s NEW Innovation Practice

Then, Lisette shared big news about ST’s latest innovation: an entire arm of the agency dedicated to proactive solutions for sector-wide challenges the fundraising industry is facing. There will be a focus on three distinct territories to the new strategic practice.

  1. The Collective: This is the idea that charities are stronger and better when they work together to continuously define best practices, accelerate learning, decrease costs, and raise more money.
  2. Power Unions: Where we source and optimize powerful corporate, foundations, and charity relationships to build brand value and drive fundraising efforts.
  3. Technology: Leveraging and creating new AI and technology innovations to better communicate and raise funds in a rapidly evolving world.

Digital Tips & Trends

Managing Director, Digital Revenue Acceleration Philip King and Account Director Jessica Tiberio, teamed up to share ST’s leading-edge innovations for the sector’s online fundraising space and the audience was enthralled. Their message was candid yet clear: there is a big opportunity for fundraisers to accelerate their digital revenue using tools we have at our fingertips. The team explained that fundraisers need to drive donors down the funnel (not up) with a focus on mastery of bottom of funnel conversion (into loyal, recurring supporters) before investing in significant lead generation. Google Analytics and attribution models are key tools in activating this strategy.

But it’s not just about one approach; Jess reminded everyone of the importance of creating a balanced digital portfolio that includes different revenue streams to mitigate risk, especially in light of changes like Apple’s recently announced cookie restrictions. Phillip then showcased how clients like Indspire used Google’s PerformanceMax to drive a digital revenue and acquire a percentage of new donors at a positive return on ad spend (ROAS).

The conversation then delved into the world of data-driven fundraising, with Jess highlighting the importance of linking CRM data with anonymous Google Search data to drive strategy in the future, following the lead of for-profit companies. Planning for this two-pronged approach allows for targeted segmentation and data-driven program development. The duo explained the role that artificial intelligence models play in some of these tools and stressed the importance of experimenting with AI responsibly, and our emphasis on keeping client needs and values at the forefront of everything we do.

Both leaders underscored that digital fundraising can’t focus too heavily on email anymore. Gmail’s crackdown on excessive messages necessitates a shift – and opens up opportunity – in social media and mobile messaging. Canadian charities are already exploring text message campaigns with engaging offers and surveys, and ST is ready to help its clients be at the forefront of these emerging approaches that help more money flow into good causes.

The evening ended with lively networking, fueled by delicious food and the inspiring hum of possibility. The gathering was more than another event “about” innovation; it was a rallying cry to the fundraising industry to renew our shared purpose, to raise more money for good causes with a collective “yes, we can!” buzzing through the room.

If you’re looking for an innovation fundraising partner that can help you face the future with greater confidence, get in touch. ST has the tools, strategies and people to deliver leading-edge solutions and quantifiable results.

Paula Attfield

Paula Attfield, CEO of ST

Paula Attfield, CEO of ST

Paula has been a fundraiser for over 27 years. With Paula, it’s all about results — helping ST’s clients raise more money to fulfill their missions. For more on our success stories give Paula a call at 416-690-8801 x235