Growing your donor database with innovative technology

How does an abbey and prep school in Southern California have donors in more than 41 states and 11 countries?

The case for support from Catholics and others living in Southern California is obvious — the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s provide numerous services to the local community on a daily basis. But there are undoubtedly great nonprofits and religious organizations having an impact in each of those states and countries. So how did St. Michael’s grow this support from outside its obvious target area?

In part through developing its advancement office’s skills in an emerging piece of the fundraising puzzle – digital marketing and
online fundraising.

“We’ve made developing our digital presence a priority,” said R. Shane Giblin, chief advancement officer. “We are establishing new ways to engage our supporters and deepen their connection with the abbey.”

The St. Michael’s advancement office uses sophisticated digital marketing programs to learn more about what its supporters are looking for from the abbey. This provides the abbey’s team with valuable information on how best to engage with donors.

Nationwide, donors gave a record $410 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA. Online giving is a small, but growing, percentage of that total. Online giving hit a record high in 2017 of 7.6 percent, according to Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report. That was a 12.1 percent year-over-year growth.

St. Michael’s Abbey is at the forefront of this trend.

The abbey’s digital marketing and online fundraising efforts took off after the great success of its City of Saints series. St. Michael’s partnered with award-winning director Charles Kinnane for a seven-part web video series. The series aimed to tell the true stories of God’s grace through the ministries of the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey. To date, the series has more than 1.2 million views worldwide.

The series expanded the abbey’s contact list by 550 percent. That’s a lot of new potential capital campaign donors and Abbot’s Circle members.

And all of that came before the series played in front of potentially millions of Catholics on the Eternal World Television Network in January 2018.

This exposure helped to grow the abbey’s name recognition and build new connections with interested supporters.

“The City of Saints series was a great testament to the wonderful work our abbey does,” said the Very Rev. Chrysostom Baer, prior of St. Michael’s. “It expanded our reach and grew our connections with Catholics across the world. It was an invaluable tool for the success of our fundraising efforts.”