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2023 wrapped: Rescue missions see bright spots as they close out the year

Economic hardship has put a strain on many nonprofits—rescue missions and life transformation ministries included.

While current conditions can make the future seem harrowing, there have been some bright spots for missions in 2023, including hitting five-year highs in donor value and average gift, as well as phenomenal GivingTuesday results.

As we close out the year, let’s share findings from GivingTuesday, revisit a few key insights from our mid-year benchmarks and discuss three areas of focus for missions in 2024.


A quick update on GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday results across the nonprofit industry were mixed, with reported revenue up only 0.6% this year and a 10% decline in the number of donors who gave.

But things were much different for RKD’s rescue mission clients. Day-of revenue was up 50.5% year-over-year, and full campaign revenue saw a 51.2% lift. Texting campaigns were particularly successful for several of our missions’ clients.

You can read more about our GivingTuesday findings here.        


3 key insights from our mid-year benchmarks

Please note: These metrics include data from Q1 and Q2 of 2023

1. Revenue was down but still strong

Yes, revenue is down year-over-year. But when you take a glance at the last five years, revenue in 2023 is 24.7% higher than it was in 2019.



2. Donor value and average gift hit 5-year highs

That revenue is being driven by five-year highs in donor value and average gifts. At $266, donor values midway through 2023 are 3.5% higher than in 2022—and a whopping 30.4% higher than in 2019.


Average gift sits 4.2% higher in 2023 than in 2022.



3. New donor acquisition down

Although donors are giving larger gifts, new donor acquisition for missions was down at the halfway point of 2023. The ongoing impact of inflation and rising interest rates have caused a strain on new donor acquisition across the nonprofit industry. New donor counts for rescue missions had declined 16.1% by midway through 2023.

However, it’s important to note that early numbers from Q4 are showing the stabilization of new and lapsed reactivation. In fact, the majority of new and reactivated donors come in during the last three months of the year—so we look forward to seeing how these numbers shift in our annual benchmark reports.




Areas of focus as we head into 2024

Omnichannel donor journeys

Donors can no longer be classified as just “direct mail” or “digital” but instead are engaging with you across multiple channels and formats. And as donor bases narrow, it’s critical that missions rethink how all lifecycles experience their organizations.

In 2024, a huge focus for our clients will be building tailored omnichannel donor journeys for each audience segment. Data is an important factor in the execution and success of these campaigns. Having clean data and understanding how to capture the right data will help your mission build more robust donor journeys and quickly implement innovative strategies along the way.

Resources to get you started:


Increased digital investment

Donors have come to expect a more sophisticated digital experience from the organizations they engage with. From an evergreen digital media presence to a robust stewardship plan, investing in a mature digital program will help you retain current donors and reach new and younger audiences.

While this may look different depending on the size of your organization, starting small and communicating your brand and values across all digital channels will have a big impact.

Resources to get you started:


Story-driven creative

Today’s donors want deeper relationships and more meaningful connections with the nonprofits they support. The best way for missions to do this? Telling stories.

Every experience a donor has with you should tell your brand story—both in the people you help and your impact in your community. This can be accomplished in the development of strategic campaign identities, which we dive into in the resources linked below.

Resources to get you started:

While this isn’t a comprehensive list, it’s a good starting point as you begin to finalize your 2024 strategic plans. If you have any questions about how these findings or strategies differ based on your organization’s size or location, feel free to reach out to myself or anyone on the RKD missions team!

Heidi Riehl

Heidi has provided strategic fundraising counsel to rescue missions across the U.S. for more than two decades. As Vice President at RKD Group, she works closely with client partners to create integrated marketing plans that increase donations, attract new donors and heighten brand awareness. Also an accomplished executive in the nonprofit industry, Riehl worked at Olive Crest as the National Director of Marketing and Public Relations, leading strategic fundraising and marketing initiatives. Her experience in both agency and organization settings provides a valuable perspective for clients.

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