Gather Ministries: Growing Successful NonProfits
Gather Ministries is a non-profit passionate about bringing a hope-filled and honest perspective on God’s goodness and love to men and women whose lives are filled—with careers, relationships, children maybe—but whose lives aren’t yet John 10:10 “full.” The provide resources that connect readers to God even in the midst of busy day-to-day life.
The challenge: Gather Ministries was an established brand whose growth had stalled out by the beginning of 2017. The company functioned based on their email lists (one for the women’s devotional, Loop, and one for the men’s devotional, WiRE), delivering their content and keeping community alive through bi-weekly blasts, but it wasn’t growing.
By April of 2017 they came looking for a fresh perspective and an updated strategy to bring new members into their vibrant community, and we started working together.
Appealing to a new demographic
Our data showed that Loop and WiRE were being delivered mostly to individuals over the age of 35. The younger audiences just weren’t getting onboard. However, Gather’s messages resonate with people of all ages, so it was important to update their online presence so it was clean and specifically aimed at a younger demographic to keep the flow of community members coming in. We focused in on Instagram and worked closely with a designer to maximize the beauty of their written words with imagery that really speaks.
We strategically created both Facebook and Instagram advertising campaigns to improve visibility. These campaigns served the dual purpose of adding more people to the email lists (on average for less than $0.50 a conversion) and growing the account followings. In 6 months, Loop an WiRE collectively saw an increase of 16,000 followers on Instagram alone.
The new look was key to getting eyes on Gather’s content. The newfound dedication to this new platform gave us a larger social media following, but more importantly, it gave those new community members a true glimpse into what Loop and WiRE had to offer them on an ongoing basis. This was the first step in boosting conversions.
Updating an online presence
Being around for a few years, Gather already had a website, an email list, some social media accounts, and landing pages to capture their incoming traffic. Now that we had more traffic coming in from our efforts on social media, the landing pages needed a more modern feel.
We cleaned the pages up with updated messaging and imagery, shifting a bit to focus on the authors who created all the wonderful content for the readers — creating a very much needed sense of connection. We also focused on updating the calls-to-action and making them truly pop. These efforts resulted in an increase in conversions from 39% to 47%, which means nearly half of people who visited their page opted in to a devotional. (A very significant number considering the increase in traffic to the landing pages!)
Over the course of our 6-month engagement, the two mailing lists had grown by 17,000 subscribers collectively. However, not all of this came from social media alone. Roughly 10,000 of those subscribers came from an app called YouVersion.
Using strategic partnerships to your advantage
YouVersion is a bible app serving millions of people worldwide. Both the author of Loop and the author of WiRE had produced plans for YouVersion in the past, and upon analyzing their traffic sources, we realized this app is where the majority of their traffic was coming from.
So we doubled down.
Gather Ministries had years worth of content at their fingertips, so we did some keyword research and put together plans based on the kind of content that was most popular in the app. Instead of a few plans a year, we began publishing new plans for each devotional once a week, bringing more awareness to Gather Ministries and introducing the authors of the two devotionals as thought leaders worth following.
Every business needs funding
As marketers, we thrive when the numbers are good. Growing social accounts, growing email lists, it’s what we strive for! At the end of the day, however, every business needs that exposure to lead to sales — and nonprofits are no exception.
In December, Gather Ministries does its annual drive to ask its community for donations to keep the devotional alive and well in the upcoming year. This typically consisted of once-a-week emails sent to both lists highlighting the value behind Gather’s content and how donations will help them reach and support more Christians.
The first thing we did was revamp all the messaging in those emails and add in a few more in strategic parts of the month to capture attention. The big kicker, however, was a new and very special email we sent….
While the annual campaign did get some responses, one in particular stuck out to the founders of Gather Ministries: essentially, the writer asked why the authors of a FREE devotional were asking for money. Instead of sending a private reply, we treated this message like a bad online review and answered openly and honestly in a message to the entire list. This heartfelt message struck a cord and this new campaign not only exceeded the fundraising goal, but we saw an increase in support of 63% from the previous year.
Gather Ministries was a strong organization when I came on board, and we worked hard together to give them a more modern presence and updated processes to thrive in an engagement-driven world. By utilizing existing content and capitalizing on their true desire to create strong connections and a big impact, we were able to develop easy-to-implement strategies that will keep their brand growing and thriving for years to come.