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Brim Basom thinks about MADD’s digital transformation journey

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Over the last two years, nonprofits have seen digital marketing and fundraising accelerate at lightning speed. In this season of Group Thinkers, we’re dedicating each episode to discussing digital advancement with some of the industry’s leading experts.

On this episode, we sit down with Brim Basom, Chief Information Officer at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), to discuss the organization’s investment in digital transformation and the role technology and data played along the way. Tune in as we cover:

  • Behind the scenes of MADD’s investment in technology (12:45)
  • How the pandemic impacted their progress (16:52)
  • The role connected data played in this journey (20:40)
  • What their digital transformation has unlocked for their fundraising (30:35)

Meet our guest

Brim Basom Headshot

Brim Basom

Chief Information Officer, MADD


Podcast transcript

Justin McCord: Welcome to this episode of Group Thinkers. I'm your host, Justin McCord, and with me, as always, is Ronnie Richard. Ronnie, does your middle name start with an “R”? It would be ...

Ronnie Richard: I wish it did. I could be like “R” cubed or something. But no, it's P. I'm one slash p to r.

Justin: OK, we can, we can still change that. We could, still, if you wanted to.

Ronnie: I could change my name if that's what it takes.

Justin: Instead of Ronnie, Ronnie, Peter Richard to Ronnie Reeder, Richard or whatever. We could just flip that into an order that would be fine. Triple R with me, and we're excited for today's conversation. On the show today we have a gentleman who I've had the pleasure of working with in one capacity or another for about 10 years, so I was thinking about that. It's been a little over 10 years since our first project.

Brim Basom: I think, Justin, did we both have hair back then? From, like, 10 plus years ago.

Justin: We definitely both had hair back then. We had more on the top, and we had less on the face. Both of us, at the time. We've, Brim, we've aged like fine wine, and we make this work. By the end of today's episode, I'm hoping that Ronnie shaves his head. That's what I'm going for from today's episode.

Ronnie: A lot of commitment.

Justin: Yeah, exactly. Brim Basom from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Brim, how are you this morning?

Brim: I'm doing great, Justin. Nice to be on here with you and Ronnie, talking about something we're all passionate about, so I'm glad to have this conversation.

Justin: Yeah, we're super thankful that we're getting to have this chat. You know, Brim, we have run in similar circles for a long time. We’ve spoken together at different conferences. We've presented together, you know, in boardrooms. And so, but I don't know that you and I have sat and just chatted a whole lot, and that's what I'm excited about for today.

You know, with each and every one of these episodes that we do, the thing that we try and do is grasp a conversation that might be happening at a conference. And, you know, something that would be happening in the lobby, of us just hanging out and talking about new or innovative ways to accomplish things. Talking about the ways that we've overcome major challenges in our day-to-day work and try to shine a light on those so that the broader nonprofit marketing landscape can take advantage of the steps in which we've walked.

And you've done that in the last couple of years, you've walked in some super unique steps. And so today we're going to talk about digital transformation. And so, you're going to be able to share with us a lot of what you've done at Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but even dating back, you know, to stops prior to that.

Brim: So even, Justin, I think you said earlier, too, just having that, that real world conversation, that's why it’s nice that some of the conferences have been back, you know, and not having the structured kind of, like, pitch, but just really having a conversation, real challenges. Everybody's got challenges working through things. So, I completely agree, that's where I find a lot of value as well.

Justin: Yeah, it really, I mean, you're right, we do. And sometimes it feels like we wake up and every day it's a different dragon, right? Every day there's a different challenge that we're trying to tackle, or there's a new dimension to that challenge. And in one sense, I think that's what draws us back in. That's what makes the work that we do so exciting is because of these challenges, specifically at the cross section of fundraising and technology.

Fundraising is such a personal, intimate thing that I'm going to give up sacrificially to support an organization. And technology is less intimate, right? And so, there's the machine element to it, but it can help us. And so that's what we've really been trying to unpack and understand better over the last couple of episodes. To demystify what digital transformation means and to really give our listeners practical ideas on things they can do to just move one step forward, right, just one step at a time.

So, you know, before we get into the meat of the conversation, I want you to go all the way back to Lubbock and start with your journey. You know, as a proud Texas Tech alum, as you are, you got some good time in West Texas. As a West Texas kid, I always appreciate Texas Tech graduates, so talk to us about your journey and how you found yourself at Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Brim: Sure, so yeah, obviously I grew up in West Texas, you know, flat and windy, but I still root for my Red Raiders, you know, but I got into, really, technology. I went to school for a technology degree. But, you know, literally, like in the nineties, I really started getting into technology. So, a little pop trivia for you, Justin. Do you remember when Google launched, what year it was?

Justin: ‘98?

Brim: Yeah, ‘98. That's kind of like, that's where my tech career really launched. I think that’s when I really started really getting heavy in tech with ‘98. So, I always used that as like a milestone. So, you know, doing, like, hard-core development, building servers, building websites.

So, the technology side, you know, I’ve had the benefit to really work on the ground layers, all the way through, from project management or product management to business operations, you know, having that experience really helped out. And also working in the for-profit sector before I came into nonprofit, I worked for a lot of large consulting and technology firms that were dedicated to software development. So, understanding how those big organizations work and some of the challenges and then being able to take that to the nonprofit sector where nonprofits don’t have the budget or the resources to really have so much structure. But knowing what that looks like, and then making steps to try to get to that same level.

So, I was doing a lot of consulting. And then I, my first foray into nonprofit was actually with the Susan G. Komen foundation. So back in 2010, I had an opportunity to go there. At the time, they were growing 30% a year, $500 million organization, had a large technology department, came in, ran a lot of the critical projects for the organization. And then kind of spent many years there on this business operation. And then had the opportunity to come to MADD as a CIO and really be a change agent. That was one of the main things, when I came into MADD, was really to just redefine the technology roadmap and have a future strategy. Where in the past, there was not a future strategy or a real roadmap. It was much more firefighting in dealing with day-to-day operations.

Justin: You, I've always considered you, Brim, to be less of an IT person and more of a business technologist. That … it's almost that there's in the systems, and then out looking at the systems. And I've always considered you to be someone who's kind of able to see the larger picture of how the systems should communicate, should flow data, and should make our processes more efficient. Is that a fair assessment?

Brim: Yeah, I think so. And I think the world we're living in, you know, back in the technology, the nineties, and that was a much different layout, right? You had a lot of on-premise type servers, things like that. There's a lot more … it was a lot simpler. You didn't have mobile. You didn't have all these other pieces that there are now.

The ecosystem we're dealing with now is this large enterprise ecosystem with a lot of different third-party providers. You've got a lot of integrations, you've got a lot of data flowing in and out. And so, if you don't understand that big picture of how everything is connected and what the end goals of those platforms are, you can really dig yourself in some corners, and you can code yourself into something that's like, oh, this is going to impact four other things.

So yeah, I really think it is critical to obviously have the technology understanding, understand, hey, here's where our capabilities are. Here's our current site, here’s what we can do. What do you want to do? OK, maybe we need to add something so we can actually move this forward, but at the end of the day, you've got to be able to provide for the business and for your mission.

And so, I really feel like, you know, from the technology integrator, now it is a business center of knowledge as well because you're also really involved in the programs and operations. So sometimes you have people on their team that do become experts on certain business operations because they're in there every day. So, it has to be much more intertwined. I think it's going to get more and more tight as we move forward. You know, it's not, it's not hard to stand up a system anymore, and there's a lot of third-party providers that can stand something up. But then, how do you use that system, and then how do you integrate it? And how does it move your mission forward?

Justin: Yeah, there was a trend a handful of years ago to where the idea was to centralize data, right, to centralize systems, to centralize technology. And I, personally, feel that we've moved away from that in so many ways. And on the nonprofit side specifically, I don't know that it's realistic to centralize into a single source system versus understanding that you're going to have data in disparate, disaggregated systems that are decentralized, and therefore the point, the strategy, should be, OK, how do I connect them? How do I make sure that data flows back and forth? And obviously with that, you want some place for data to sit so that you can see it in aggregate, right?

So, so, it's a little bit of a change in the last few years from moving everything together to connecting everything together. You mentioned …

Brim: This is a really good point …

Justin: Go ahead.

Brim: Yeah, I think it's a really good point, Justin, because over the years, it's like, what's the central source of record? Where we have everything in one place, and I'm like, we have multiple sources of truth, like, what do you want to see, right? Like, we're not going to try to put all of our online data digital segmentation into Salesforce. We’re not going to try to put all of our DM stuff into Salesforce, right?

You pick the pieces you need to obtain your goals. And you're going to, of course, have some larger data aggregates for segmentation, things like that. But you're going to have multiple sources of truth depending on what level of detail you want to get at.

And to your point, it's really about integration and making sure those are really tight. And then it's also managing that technology debt because that's a problem, too, is you build and add and then it's like, OK, well, what are we building over here? OK, you just broke this process that was running because you added a field to this table, for example.

So, I think that's really important. I think people have to get out of this, like, just a single source of truth, like, you're going to have multiple sources of truth. And then just, like, what do you need?

Justin: Yeah, yeah. There's a little bit of a Rubik's cube to that. Like, let's just get the colors right on each side, right? That, that's the way that you can turn it and see from a different source of truth.

So, OK, so you mentioned, or you use the word ‘change agent.’ And that is, you know, I remember you and I spoke, and geez, it was October or November of 2019, you had been at MADD for roughly six months, and you laid it out even then that, you know, you came on because it was a very unique opportunity to step in as the Chief Information Officer for a legacy nonprofit in Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 40 years old-ish, but one that was undergoing, and committed to, a new chapter.

And so, can you talk a little bit about what that new chapter meant in terms of your tech stack and in terms of walking in, identifying, you know, all the various disparate systems and the road map that you ultimately wanted to create?

Brim: Sure, yeah, no. Like I said, it was a great opportunity to come in, you know, and the board and the leadership that we're going to invest in technology. We need to invest in technology.

So, you know, first coming in, you know, my real initial job was kind of an honest assessment of just what was out there. What do we have today? Kind of doing an inventory of all the different applications and things, like, that were in play, you know?

So, one of the immediate things is I just realized personnel was a major, major challenge, did not have the right people, employees. Did not have the right talent. Forget the technology, right? If you don't have the people to actually implement technology and maximize, it doesn't matter. I can have the best technology platform in the world, but if I'm not using it correctly or the right way, it doesn't matter.

So that, you know … in business it’s like a pyramid. So I really started at the very bottom, and that bottom layer there was people. I had to hire staff and the people to come in and do the work because as a leader, I'm not doing the hands-on work every day. And I've got to work through people, and they've got to, you know, I’m going to help with overall vision and, obviously, operations. But I need to hire the team. So that was one of the first things I did. So over that time period, I hired and fired about 13 people to really build up that layer of staff.

And then the next layer was technology. So, we identified multiple technology pieces that needed to be changed or replaced or enhanced. So, Salesforce is a big component of ours that was not being run well and had a lot of issues. So, we invested a lot in getting that environment cleaned up. And then we also realized we had some digital engagement tools for email that we were paying a lot of money for that were very limited in scope of what they could do. So, we actually had a, you know, an 18-month roadmap. We've got to sunset this email tool, roll out a new email tool that would give us the ability and that foundation moving forward and do other things, right?

So, if you don't have the foundation in place, you can talk about all these cool things you want to do, like marketing automation and personalization. But like, you've got to have all the foundational pieces working really well before you start tackling these more like fine tune things, right?

So, you know that pyramid, to me at the very top is like very strategic. You're really, like, turning dials and getting things really, synced in place, and that's, we're getting close to that, right? So I think the first couple of years was really just that whole foundation building and getting technology in place and the people. So people, I think, is number one.

You talked about digital transformation, there’s not an endgame, right? It's not like an end, like all of a sudden, a check, we’re done with digital transformation. Like, it's ongoing; like, it's never ending, especially with the way the environment is. With everything going on online, you’ve just constantly got to redirect this solution we had two years ago. It was great then, but does it work for us now.

Right, so, you know … and I personally always try to have a two-year roadmap, just because I feel like it’s realistic to have a two-year roadmap, and you can move things around, but that really helps you have, like, here's where I want to get long term, and it could change, but at least I know where I want to get to. And really, the people, that too, it's like, this is a step-by-step process. This is not just something that happens overnight, and it might take a year to get the technology employees and then another six months to get the process in place. So I think just having a real perspective.

And then also understanding, like if you're a smaller organization, you don't have a lot of resources, it can take longer, right? Or you might need to bring in third party consulting staff. So I think, depending on the size of the org, the money, the budget, you have to move a little bit quicker. But you also can't outpace your staff, either. And if you don’t have the right staff in place, there’s really no reason to really start this whole digital transformation. You should hire and get the right people in place first.

Justin: Yeah, you got, you got to have people rowing in the same direction, right? And you know, some of the team members that you brought on are, they're fantastic because they do. They bought into the vision, and that was key. But they also grabbed the oar and started rowing in the right direction.

So, you talk about vision, you talk about perspective and, you know, obviously you set off on the path. You start checking off the boxes on the roadmap, and you're making incremental change. You're doing these things. And then, you know, under a year into your time on this roadmap, a little thing called the pandemic happens, and I'm curious what that did. How did that change your roadmap, and how did that change the way that your team works or worked on your transformation initiatives?

Brim: Sure. Yeah. I mean, that was my first pandemic that I've ever had to go through in my life, right? So, I think a lot of it was net new, right? I mean, I remember way early on I was like, oh, first couple of weeks I’ll use some hand sanitizer, wash your hands. It'll be over in a few weeks, right? I mean, I just that … who knew it would have lasted that long.

So, you know, we had started a lot of initiatives, like, kind of a queue for before the pandemic hit. So we were fortunate in that sense that we already had a path for transformation when moving to the cloud. Digital transformation, now that was a two-year roadmap, but we’d already started down that path. We’d brought out some new tools internally. There's a tool called Workplace by Facebook that helps you connect and have groups and in chat. We’d just rolled that out. So that was a really nice thing to have in play as we had, all of a sudden, to go, hey, we're not going to have an office, we're going to be spread out.

MADD has a pretty disparate workforce. We have offices all around the country, so we had a lot of people in different states. So, some of those things did help us and enable us to, you know, OK, not make it that big of a hit, you know, from just our operations perspective. But then we had a lot of shifts from, like, staff time, right, because we had certain programs, and those programs that were, say, in person now shift online.

So, like, our online revenue went from, you know, $10,000 a month, to millions of dollars a month in certain programs online. So we had to definitely shift resources. So that definitely delayed, just from a bandwidth perspective, having to pivot and make changes throughout that time period, on focusing on some of the key roadmap items.

But the core stuff is still in play. I mean, we literally moved. We consolidated vendors in that year and we moved our email platform that year. So right in the middle of the pandemic, we moved our email platform to a new provider, set that up and then also did a bunch of vendor consolidation at the same time. So, we were, I mean, you know, the way I look at that is, we just kept going. So, I know we have people, I heard people say, oh, everything's going to stop coming in, like, you’ve got to keep pushing, you've got to keep working. So that's what we did. We just really buckled down on, just like, really, I would say, worked really hard. I think over that pandemic, we didn’t know what was going to happen.

So the team was really dialed in, and we just really focused on what we needed to get done versus getting carried away with, like, well, we can't control what the endgame is going to be. I can control this right now. And so, we just kept communicating with our donors and kept on my roadmap, and that worked out for us, you know, and allowed us to be stronger. You know, I think we’re a lot stronger going through that because if you can make it through that, that's a very tough time to make it through, with kids’ schedules and things like that. So I'm like, you know, now problems are easier.

Ronnie: Yeah, that kind of goes to, you know, what we talked about earlier of it's incremental change, one step at a time. So, no matter what hurdles come your way, just keep trying to get that one next step.

So, I'm curious about, you know, you mentioned this earlier as well that, you know, a key part of this transformation is connecting your data, not necessarily providing that one source of truth but connecting it to where it's all working together. And you can see it from multiple angles.

You know, a stat that we've shared in our blog a few times is that 76% of nonprofit professionals are not satisfied with their data, and another 60% don't use data to make decisions. Clearly, this has been an area of focus for MADD. I'm just curious, how has that process of unifying your data, connecting your data, how has that gone? What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced there?

Brim: Sure, sure. Well and Ronnie, you mentioned step by step. So, I have this picture of a mountain in the background. I actually hiked this when I was younger, but it reminds me that everything I do is just one step after another, right? And also, that's, like, that the journey is the most fun thing really. Getting to the top of the project or finishing it does feel good, but really the journey along the way is, you've got to enjoy that. So that's a great reminder.

And I will say, yes, data transfer. I mean, the whole data piece is interesting because, you know, people, a lot of people don't understand the data architecture, right? You might have tons and tons of data, but how much do you really know of what you have? So, you know, when I first came into MADD, it was very siloed, right? It was like, here's direct mail, here's our online people, here's our program. So it was like, we just want to keep these people in silos and people tell me that I'm like, why? You guys have been here for 40 years. Why is this not more integrated, right, on the data side? We want it that way.

Like, OK, well, that's, you can't do that if you want to move down the path of really reaching your donors where they want to be communicated to and then, you know, with personalization, right, that's the endgame. Like, I really want to get personalized communication. Well, you've got to really understand your data to do that.

So, we had a two-year roadmap to start bridging that gap. So that involved technology and vendors and involved support. You know, we were very lean when it comes to our staff, you know, and so I definitely am a true believer in staff and vendor augmentation on certain things to give you additional bandwidth and also different experience. So, you know, luckily we have some strong partners.

So we decided, OK, we've got this going to be our data, our data warehouse, where we're going to do all of our core, like, donor segmentation out of. So what do we need to get into that environment? But we need to bring over our Salesforce online data. So step one was we've got to get our online donors into this offline database, has got tons of historical data for DM and telemarketing, like, we need to see that overlap, right? So we need to bring in online. We need to bring in walk and need to bring in our events. See that true picture of why. What is my donor value, right? So, I mean, that's the thing. You might be given $1,000 in DM. $10 on a walk. I mean, you're only looking at that one channel. You don't have the true picture.

So phase one is getting the actual connector built for Salesforce in our data warehouse. So we partnered, got that split up, did all the mapping that's required and then did our testing, started bringing data over. So we've worked through that over two years. And now it's nice to say we actually have all of our online data flowing into our data warehouse. So right now, we're literally like, how do we move this forward into, like, better segmentation, and how do we engage? It can help us as we move forward with major gifts, planned gifts. You know, we can start exposing that data.

But I still think it's a challenge because, you know, I have a large enterprise diagram. It's kind of a technology stack, and I show that everybody comes on board net new. It's a lot. So, it's to understand how all these different components work. Like, what does that donor journey look like? Somebody comes in online. Well, they're touching multiple applications, right? I mean, they're going through this entire flow. So I think it's a constant education process. When it comes to your leadership team, the board, your personnel, you've got to keep reiterating the same things and understanding that this is the journey. But here's the different phases, and here's the plan to get to where we want to be. And just to your point, it takes steps. There might be hurdles along the way that deviate those timelines, too, but you’ve definitely got to have a path where you want to get there and then understanding that how it could change could depend on a lot of different variables.

Justin: You've hit on a lot of really important points. Brim, obviously the consistency in data processes, not throwing out anything that you've done wholesale, right, understanding those pieces and then taking steps to optimize them. And so, you know, that would be, like, for one of our listeners, if they've got a control acquisition piece, you don't throw away the control acquisition piece, you test your way out of it. And you do that in incremental steps.

And so, what you're describing to me feels similar to that sort of marketing activity, that you're taking, like, incremental steps with a vision of having a new control in place that might deliver a higher average gift or whatever it might be in the end. But it's these little bitty steps along the way, and some are big steps, and sometimes you have to step to the side in order to step forward again. And so, there's all of those pieces and components to this transformation that is important while keeping your eye on that vision, right? Keeping your eye on that, as your picture shows, like, keeping your eye towards the top of the mountain.

I also really appreciate what you said about the staff and vendor augmentation. And you know, you've got a great sized staff. You really do. And yes, you do run lean, but you've got a tremendous amount of resources. And not every nonprofit is as fortunate to have the size and scale and skill set of the team that you have.

And that's where I think it does become even more important that you find the right partner for whatever your project is. That understands the vision, that can help you build out the roadmap or take those different steps along the road. You know, to be that partner and confidant and person side by side, kind of helping you on that journey.

Brim: So Justin, let me at that point …

Justin: Yeah.

Brim: I was going to say, I mean the vendor consolidation you mentioned earlier. But I mean, like the whole direct mail DM operations, right? You know, one of the big things that allowed us to operate more efficiently was moving to RKD. We consolidated four vendors into RKD. So having that streamline operations when it comes to content creation, account management, just the understanding of our business and having everybody on the same page was a huge, huge win for MADD.

But it also took us out of the weeds on certain things and allowed us to have a production partner that could really help execute day to day, but also strategically as well. And as we have a funding to other media channels and things like that, we have the opportunity to execute in other areas we might not came to today, but we have the foundation to do that in a larger scale. So that was a big change for us to help the save expenses as well. So, you know, streamlining operations is a very important part of this. To make sure you're not just wasting time on the incorrect things.

Justin: I completely agree and appreciate the plug. But even so, even if it weren't, even if you weren't saying RKD, I think the point still stands that basically, and we still see organizations do this, I'll be honest with you, it baffles me at times to where, if you have multiple marketing operations or, you know, marketing solutions providers in place, it feels like that's twice the work for you as an organization. Or in your case, it's four times the amount of work because you're trying to manage four different relationships versus being able to centralize that outsourcing with one partner that can do all of those things. So, you know, everyone has to make their own calls on that. I find, and actually understand from some market research, that more and more people are wanting to centralize that outsourcing and because it simplifies and helps them better integrate, right?

Brim: So not just from the creation and production side, but also your technology side, right? Because technology is like the cloud, find fast provider, right? But like, you don't just want the platform, right? Great, here's a licensing fee. Here's a platform. I need somebody that understands this platform 100%, how I can maximize the platform, right? Like, I think about an old team Razer phase, right? Like when I used to team, there's so many could do in like customize if you don't understand how to do that or invest in it, you're going to have a completely different experience.

Same thing with a data warehouse. Other things like that, we make sure we have partners. They also understand the solution and making sure that we're utilizing and maximizing that solution, not just, hey, here's a log in, have at it, right? So I think it's really important that because I see a lot of technology which gets thrown under the bus, ‘Well, the technology sucks.’ No, you don't know how to use the technology, or you don’t have the people in place to maximize that. Like, is it maximized and you're still having a problem? OK, then it's time for a change. But you know, you really explore that before you just start buying the technology.

Justin: Now, I completely agree. And again, like, I think about the ecosystem that you've put in place, you know, obviously our team has a role in that. But the team at DMI has a role in that. Your internal team plays a big role in that. You mentioned the email provider that you put in place. And so, some of the ECRM functions that you put in place along with the operation side of the Workfront element that you’re using with Facebook for internal, like, it's all of those pieces together. So it is that ecosystem. It's not saying, ‘Hey, I'm going to go buy this new piece of tech, and it's going to solve everything for me.’

Like, it is about integrating and flowing through that data in your own operations and certainly into your marketing and how MADD presents itself externally in marketing channels and mass marketing, you know, from traditional to all the various digital channels also in your events, and y'all still do have a large number of events, a great event presence.

Talk about some of the things that this transformation or this, this great integration, talk about some of the things that you've seen that has allowed you all to do specifically in how you fundraise. What does that unlock for you in your fundraising?

Brim: Yeah, I think it's important to the technologists because, I mean, there's a lot of things to have learned the hard way, right? I mean, that's sometimes the best experience. You know, we definitely, you know, in our business operations, we definitely have found to having our email solutions and donation forms in one combined platform is much easier to manage from our team. Instead of having a third party email donation forms over here trying to sync up things. So we made a big push to get a consolidated platform for email donation forms.

Getting that in play not only saved us a lot of money from the other commercial tool we're using, so we saved hard costs, but then gave us a foundation. So we were able to start setting up marketing automation pieces. So one of the first things we set up was a welcome series, not rocket science. But hey, here's a welcome series. We can maintain it, we can manage it.

But the other piece was recurring giving. So I think that's like the golden goose, right, of nonprofits. You want recurring gifts, you want that recurring revenue. So we made multiple investments in how do we get people to convert to recurring gifts? So we initially had about 4% of our online revenue as recurring gifts.

So we went all out, we went for enhancing our donation forms, the recurring gift options with light boxes get people to convert to recurring gifts. And then other, bigger things like instead of a recurring gift automation, marketing automation so that if you give x number of times in a certain period, you flow into this automation flow, right? And it's multiple emails trying to get you to convert to recurring donor.

So we've gone from 4% to 35% of our online gifts are recurring now. Right, so, and that's continuing to trend up. So that's been huge, right? And so that's really helped us grow our online fundraising as well. So having this streamlined operations, back in 2019, we were only doing about $600,000 in online, right? So now we're doing about $1.2 million. So it's pretty much doubled in the last three years.

You know, I think it's going to be hard. I mean, it's harder and harder to grow, right? I mean, you get a big uptick, you know, so I think it's harder to grow as we move forward. But still, that foundation is now there. So now we're looking at different ways to augment what we've built. So right, ok? Got a strong foundation. What can I do next? Can we change our paid advertising strategy? Do we do x here? You know, so I think it is important, too, to have not just the technology piece, but you know, that strategy around … we didn't really have a paid media budget a few years ago. So that was a big change too, it's like we now have a paid targeting media budget to help out with online fundraising, and because we synced up our offline operations and campaigns, things like that are also synced up. So we've got similar messaging in multiple channels.

So, you know, all those things that have led us to be able to increase fundraising. So, you know, I'm really excited about the monthly giving piece. And then all these just where we're at from a revenue perspective too.

Justin: You should be really excited. Like that is no small feat to go from single, you know, a single percentage of your revenue tied in recurring gifts up to 35% in the online space. That’s massive. And the other, the thing that throws off, is more data. And because you have committed to the, you know, helping build out, you know, or refine the ecosystem to handle more data and be able to understand that data better, it then becomes this really interesting cycle of better data. More data means better analysis, which means better strategy, which should mean that while you might hit these kind of like plateaus somewhere along the way, you've got more data to break through that next plateau in your growth.

So it becomes that virtuous cycle, which we see, you know, can just continue to scale. And so that's super exciting. I mean, that's massive.

Brim: Well, I think, Justin, be careful, too, because you don't want to try to do too many things, right? Like, you've got to make sure the core stuff is working well, right? It's like there's all these shiny things. I want to do this and this and this and this, and it's like, well, OK, that's great. Is your core stuff really functioning really well, and then try to start adding on, right? So I think that's, we're getting to that point where the core is, they're really starting to try to dial up our Facebook fundraising, right? Because that kind of continues to shift and evolve and what Facebook has available, what they do with their API.

So like, you know, but we had to really get that foundation in place. You don't want to be jumping around, especially if a smaller nonprofit, you're not going have the bandwidth at the time. So really dedicate on the core stuff, make sure it's working and then start tackling net new.

Justin: I just, I'm continuously amazed as our team shares stuff about things that are happening at MADD. And in 3 years, you know, COVID has brought so many new things, it's helped transform the space in a lot of ways, it's accelerated digital and data in a very necessary way. But the work that you and the team have put into it and the results are, they really are remarkable. And so it's kudos to your leadership and the partnership that you have with our team and with others to the success that you all have had there.

So, so then the question for me is, OK, what's next? Like, what's next on the roadmap? What's next on the horizon for you? And MADD in that journey?

Brim: Yeah, no. And I think, so a couple of things related to that. I think, you know, going through the pandemic, it's definitely shifted my viewpoint on certain things where, you know, I just think, OK, we've got a year project and another year project. It's going to be pretty, like, structured things like that. So I'm much more open to change now. I mean, I'm always open for change but just willing to pivot. I don't know that kind of, like, OK, every day something might pop up or I've got to pivot, but you've got to have the long-term path, right? So, you know, we're wrapping up some of our data warehousing stuff. So the next piece for us is really helping expose some of that more, like, business intelligence and giving access to that. To an extended audience in nuggets that they could understand, right, not just, hey, here's all the films in the database, but like, structured format, what do you need? Because we really have got to do a better job of building up our major gifts, our playing gifts, bequests, things like that.

So, you know, now that we have the data structure in place, we can start building some more sophisticated AI reporting on those donors to understand what capacity they have to give long term. So that's going to be one component.

And we want to continue to build out just our data segmentation. I think our data segmentation needs to get a lot more sophisticated. You know, there's still some big groups that we have to reach out to, but really get that more dialed in, like, hey, if you're a walk donor, I'm only going to get walk; if you're, you know, understanding where they want to get communication and where they're getting the most to kind of maximize those channels.

And then, you know, we're going to be rolling out an updated website later this year, which has to happen to be able to allow any type of personalization because our current website is outdated technology. It's been updated and things like that. But having a brand-new tech stack on the website, it’s going to allow us to then, OK, if you do personalization, we can actually execute that on the new website where we can't do it today. So right, we've got to have that foundation. So that's going to be a critical component just to, you know, our pages loading faster, right? Just a better user experience, I think, will obviously help with our online conversion rates and the overall experience online. So that's a big component for us, too.

And then, you know, we'll continue to focus on some of the data structures and how that's going to get better long term.

Ronnie: So obviously, the website’s in progress, that's already happening. But these other two things, are those kind of happening at the same time? You mentioned not wanting to do too many things at once and having to kind of focus on those happening side by side or you kind of putting those in place, you know, making sure you get them aligned and everybody on the same page and that, you know, rowing in the same direction like, like we mentioned before?

Brim: Yeah, yeah, I think we're definitely going to be tackling. We've got some additional development staff now, so I think the next phase for us will be early. OK, we've got all these donors, they've got a lot of, we've got all this data about them. How do we convert that to major gifts? Because MADD historically hasn't done that. We just haven't had … we're heavy on grants, we're heavy on direct marketing, like field revenue. But like, we don't have a strong major giving program. So that's something we're working on right now and focus is there. So I would see that being an immediate need.

And then also, we, with the technology piece that we have in play, we were heavily invested in Salesforce and a lot of our program’s on there. So we'll be doing some things there to help enhance our corporate partnership tracking and follow ups there, too.

And then, you know, as we move forward, it's got to be stairstep just because of bandwidth and things like that. But then I would think like, you know, next year, we'll be focusing more, like, the BI piece of it. And exposing some of that reporting. Once you have these other layers really buttoned up.

And we did mention, I didn't mention earlier, but I mean, Facebook is going to continue to be an investment there. We talked about it briefly, but I've done multiple things in Facebook, from automated bot integrations with messenger, to hands on. So we do feel, I do feel there's a lot of acquisition opportunity in digital on Facebook, with either custom challenges or things that you can do, or just giving a better experience to people that are creating fundraisers and engaging with them. So I think there will be revenue growth from Facebook over the next, you know, next year as well. We're investing in several tools there and doing some different policies.

Justin: Brim if someone from our listening audience wants to connect with you, they want to talk to you offline, they want to help understand, maybe see some pictures of your roadmap, or it’s not even ecosystem, it sounds like a galaxy that you've got mapped out there in terms of your overall, your tech stack and how data flows. What's the best way for folks to get in touch with you?

Brim: You know, I'm pretty active on LinkedIn. My name is pretty unique, too. There's not too many Brim Basoms ones out there, so they're very easy to find on LinkedIn.

Just reach out, connect, you know, I'm a big believer in just trying to help people, especially nonprofits, like, it’s a small world. So it's like, you know, the circle comes around. I mean, look at me and Justin, long, long time ago. How can you work directly together, you know? And then here we are now in the podcast, so you never know which doors are going to open. So, yeah, reach out to me on LinkedIn, after you connect, message me on there and get my work email and then have the conversation.

Justin: Very cool. We appreciate you being on the show and sharing your journey and sharing what's to come for MADD. We can't wait to see what happens next.

Brim: Oh, thanks, Justin. Thanks Ronnie, too, I mean, I really appreciate giving me the time and giving MADD time as well. You know, as mentioned earlier, MADD's been around for 40 years, we have some really mission-critical work happening right now.

We have some really critical legislation that's in play that can really help save lives on the roadways. So we're really excited about that. So it's a very pivotal time for the organization. So I'm excited to be in the seat that I am and help drive this ship forward.

Justin: Very cool. So that's the conversation today. That’s the conversation with Brim. Appreciate everyone tuning in. We didn't have a whole lot of West Texas come into it. We were going to do this entire episode dedicated to Sonny Cumbie and decided not to. And so we'll have to do that in another format, Brim. We'll do the pros and cons of Sonny Cumbie in another format.

Brim: That's right. Yeah, next time.

Justin: Yeah so Ronnie, what else and, what else is there to say? Oh, we've got, you know, a whole host of other episodes that we’d love for folks to check out if you haven't listened, if this is the first time, if you're a part of Brim's network and you're checking this out for the first time, you can find all the episodes of Group Thinkers on every place that you listen to podcasts. So Apple and Spotify and then on RKD Group's website, be sure to leave us a review. You can also leave Brim a review by leaving us a review. So, like the episode, and we appreciate you tuning in. Thanks for checking out this episode. We'll see you next time.

Group Thinkers is a production of RKD Group. For more information, visit Special thanks to our production team, including the talented Ryan Mellinger for his work on mixing every episode. Also, a shout out to the content team that helps pull together research and guests, puts the marketing efforts behind the Group Thinkers podcast, Suzanne, Ronnie and others for their work on this and every episode of Group Thinkers.

RKD Group

RKD Group is North America's leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, social service, disease research, animal welfare, rescue missions, and faith-based charities. RKD Group’s omnichannel approach leverages technology, advanced data science and award-winning strategic and creative leadership to accelerate net revenue growth, build long-term donor relationships and drive online and offline engagements and donations. With a growing team of professionals, RKD Group creates breakthroughs never thought possible.

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