Top Ten Things to Look Out For in 2024

This world seems to be ‘innovating’ faster than ever. Keeping up with new technologies and riding the waves of current trends can often feel, well, more than a little overwhelming. And when it comes to leadership, there are always ways to grow and be better.

So in order to help you increase your effectiveness this year, we’ve compiled a simple list of ten things to keep on your radar in 2024 adapted from Trent Dunham’s presentation at this year’s Dunham+Company Summit.

1. Prioritizing text is a mustIf you haven’t already, double down on the integration of texting into your communication strategy. This is crucial as we are currently seeing a 94% open rate of text messages sent within three minutes. Think about it. You are probably more likely to read a text message on your phone as opposed to other forms of communication. And for most nonprofits, this is a strategy that moves people into their deepest level of engagement. All relationships are ultimately about communication, and communication is multichannel. For instance, social media has the capability to reach a mass audience. But in case you didn’t know…Only about one percent of your social media following sees your posts.

And when we examine email open rates, we are seeing an average of about fifteen percent. This does not mean that these forms of communication are not important (because they are), but it’s crucial to take a holistic approach, incorporating every channel possible.

Here at Dunham, we are seeing first-hand how valuable the integration of SMS is to a communication strategy as more and more ministries are implementing text as an extremely effective tool.

2. People will continue to give, but it may look different this year. After a strong December, we’re seeing indicators that 2024 is going to be a good year in terms of giving. But this won’t come without its challenges. As we move further into an election year, it’s encouraging to note that we have never seen data that points to an election in and of itself diverting giving from charities focused on faith causes. In fact, there is no correlation at all. But what can impact donors’ decisions around giving is uncertainty. So with that perspective, a lingering effect of inflation and the effects of a heated election could play a part. In addition, the numbers show that people are in fact cutting back on the number of charities they support. So, how do you stay at the top of your donors’ list?

You tell your story. Effectively. (More on that later)

3. Spoken word audio will continue to soar. We will soon be releasing our most recent donor confidence study (sign up to be one of the first to receive it here) and fully expect spoken word audio to continue to grow in the form of teaching content. Audio is more accessible than ever and it’s not going anywhere. Simply look around next time you are in public and notice how many people have air-pods in their ears! Where are people consuming content? Here’s a key metric: Audible continues to lose market share, going from 80% of market share in audiobooks down to 40% and dropping. This means that other players are stepping into that space because they see the value and the demand in the marketplace for spoken word content.

So this year, lean into audio and consider developing new and different types of spoken word content. If you have a daily radio program that contains teaching, is there a podcast you can launch with different content? Are there books you have published that can be turned into audiobook format? There are so many possibilities.

4. Humble resilience will mark the most effective leaders. What is the quickest thing to undermine your growth and leadership? Your ego. And for most leaders, humility is something that must be intentionally pursued. Because let’s be honest, we don’t necessarily drift in that direction! What does a humble leader look like? For one, humble leaders listen well. Have you ever been in a conversation and while you are speaking, you can tell that the person has their next point loaded and ready? The minute you finish your sentence, they jump in. That’s not listening. That person is not engaging with you to the point of understanding your heart and what you need.

Not only do humble leaders listen well, but they invite feedback into their leadership. Are there people around you who have your permission to ask you anything? Is there someone who can walk into your office and give you constructive criticism without fearing for their job? Thirdly, humble leaders admit when they’re wrong. They own it. It’s no secret that we are all flawed, and being able to acknowledge a wrong turn or a rash decision will only earn you respect in the long run.

Lastly, humble leaders celebrate others! If you are like most leaders, it’s easy to allow your drive and vision to take over and neglect to recognize little successes along the way. When you see things going well, give people credit.

5. AI is not the future. It’s here. It’s imperative that you establish a philosophy on how you are going to approach Artificial Intelligence tools as an organization. Then, begin to wrestle with your first steps of implementation. Have conversations that socialize the fact that this isn’t going away. Challenge the narrative that AI is all gloom and doom and resist the urge to respond in fear. Pay attention, be cautious, and keep your mind opened to these new opportunities for greater effectiveness.

6. Audiences will continue their fragmentation. Here in 2024, people choose to consume content in more ways than one. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon us to have a strategy and think through how we are accessing our audiences. Organizations that are committed to aggregating their audiences are going to develop websites, apps, programs, and content to engage more people. And their desire is to allow your ministry to share the audience. Seeing this as a partnership is critical in this season.

Why? Because we can’t rely on social media or traditional channels alone.

So, as the audience continues to fragment, we need to be in more places and we must carefully determine where those places should be.

7. Leadership succession will be a difference maker. To those walking into greater leadership opportunities and more responsibility, here are three things to keep in mind: First, be patient. For a driven leader, waiting is hard. There’s no way around it. Balancing both drive and patience does not come easy… but it is possible! Could it be that God has more work to do in you before it’s time to take the baton? If you are feeling that tug to do more and wondering what’s next, take time for some self-analysis on what may be holding you back. Lay down the idol and keep doing the work, staying faithful to what God has called you to do today.

Secondly, while you practice patience, be respectfully aggressive. In other words, don’t lose your drive! Respect the person who is leading and more importantly, God’s appointment of their leadership. But within that, be assertive. If you sense a strong vision, communicate it appropriately.

And finally, honor those who came before you. Be disciplined in practicing gratefulness which helps keep your heart in the right position. The organizations that will do well in 2024 are the ones that are integrating generations to accomplish unified purposes.

8. Mid-level donor strategies are going to win big. ‘Mid-level’ generally speaks of the donors who give $1,000 to $2,500 annually.  The numbers show that when you focus on this particular group of donors, your engagement will reach a whole new level. We tend to develop cohesive and specific engagement strategies for mass level and major level donors because that’s often where the revenue lies. But there’s a thick middle layer that oftentimes goes unaddressed and uncultivated. And due to their commitment level, when you turn your attention to these donors, their giving will increase and their longevity will multiply.

9. Your ministry story matters now more than ever. Does your audience have a compelling reason to continue to engage with you? Are you capturing the heart? Begin by understanding your audience and ensuring that you are accurately expressing your brand. What’s your promise to the marketplace? Is it consistent? What sets you apart? Once that is defined and established, you can begin telling the story of your organization in compelling ways. Ask questions like, “Do we tell the story in a different way to people who have never given to the organization and to the donor that’s been with us for 20 years?”

Bring your people along on the journey.

10. Relationships will win the day. Guess what? There are actual people out there who are dealing with the same challenges you are facing, people who can make you better and make your work more effective. How are you making relationships a priority?

Are you giving freedom to your staff to create relationships in the industry that can make them better at what they do? Are you putting them in a position to do that? Are you putting yourself in position to do that? Are you getting out of the office and spending time with people who are in the same role as you in different organizations and learning from them? If not, make this part of your discipline in 2024. Relationships break down communication walls internally at your organization. Are you creating environments where people can be with one another internally? Relationships give you a place to go when you need an outside perspective.

And if there’s one thing that we need more than ever in our landscape, it’s unity on mission. We’re all here for the same purpose. That’s to make Jesus famous. We just do it in different ways.

As you turn your attention to these ten objectives in 2024, our prayer is that God will continue to give you strength, discernment, personal purity, passionate obedience, and a heart fully devoted to the Kingdom work God has in store for you this season.

Cheering you on as always!

For more leadership insight around what to keep on your radar in 2024, check out the entire Cause+Effect podcast episode, Ten Trends to Watch in 2024.