Ready For More Change? (Part Two)

In the midst of a global pandemic, we’re encouraged at the way donors have stepped up. It seems to be a decision of stewardship and not philanthropy. Donors are not asking if they should give, but where they should give.

My good friend Michael Tomlinson joined me on The Dunham Podcast to talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected ministries and nonprofits. Here’s the second part of our conversation:

MT, what are you anticipating in the days ahead? What are you most excited about as you look at organizations in our industry coming out of the pandemic?

Michael:  I can think of two things. One has to do with the hearts of donors and the other has to do with the kind of lessons we’re learning organizationally. Before I do that, let me briefly speak on the cloudy side.

There’s something keeping me up at night. This is something that we have seen in the Giving USA report over the last five years. It’s the attrition of donors in the religious sector.

Year on year, out of the key sectors that are being monitored, we’re seeing less generosity from an individual standpoint.

My theory to the crisis of a shrinking, mass donor group in the religious sector is that there’s a crisis of trust in our culture. That erosion of trust in organizations generally, whether that be political, corporate, or at a ministry level, is partially because of access in the news and social segregation.

If we simply wait it out, I think we’re going to continue to see this challenge become harder and harder… even as we get better and better with the tools we have available.

On a higher note, I’m super excited to see not only dollars go up in this time of crisis, but engagement go up. To me, it’s a deeper indicator to see engagement track with dollars. Because if we just saw crisis dollars rise with good communications and development work, it would be simply checking off a box to make ourselves feel better.

But to see engagement increase on the social, digital, email, direct mail, and broadcast channels means that you really have a share of heart space with that audience.

I think you learn the truth in times of crisis. We’re in times of crisis and we’re seeing the truth. So that’s a bright spot and we should be rejoicing about it.

On the organizational side, something that none of us would have signed up for is being told by our country that all of your employees have to work from home. Pre-pandemic, I think we had about 15% of our staff work either in remote offices in four locations across the country or from home. In 48 hours, we jumped to 100%. So that gave us the opportunity to assess whether we could make this work.

As we look forward to the future, we will probably end up in a hybrid model even when things are safe. We may actually shrink our headquarters’ footprint. We will probably end up somewhere in a 50/50 environment because there are definitely functions, creative being one of them, where they are far more productive.

Trent, what has been the most surprising thing for you in relation to Dunham+Company?

Trent:  I think for Dunham+Company the biggest surprise has been how God has used us in this season in ways that we couldn’t have anticipated.

We decided that no matter what comes our way, we’re going to be flexible and nimble and we’re going to keep at it. We circled up and came together.

We locked arms with churches and ministries and got creative. We saw it adapt and change and reform and then adapt again. There’s this constant innovation that’s happening as we look back four or five months later and say, “We’ve innovated four times on this one initiative in order to stay fresh and relevant and keep people engaged.”

It’s exhausting but worth it. It’s the kind of tired where you get home at night, you put your head on the pillow and you say, “This is a good tired.” You’re spent for all the right reasons.

To hear Trent and Michael’s entire conversation and get more insight on how your organization can improve your strategies during this ongoing pandemic, check out The Dunham Podcast episode, Ready For More Change?

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