Data, Technology, and Building the Most Generous Generation in the History of the World with Tim Kachuriak from NextAfter

Tim Kachuriak is the Founder, Chief Innovation Officer, and Optimization Officer at NextAfter, a fundraising research lab and consultancy. They specialize in work with cause-driven businesses and nonprofit organizations to help them better understand their customers and inspire their donors to give generously. He's also the founder of The Human Coalition, a nonprofit that is committed to the goal of rescuing children and families from abortion. Tim joined us on Cause & Purpose to tell the story of how he was able to take career experiences from the world of advertising marketing and fuse it with the world of social impact. We also got tons of actionable insights for nonprofits to go along with the exciting tale.

Tim Kachuriak was always passionate about advertising marketing, which is why he started his own ad agency after graduating college. But after five years he wasn’t fulfilled. He wouldn’t solve this puzzle until his church asked for help with the marketing for a capital campaign. Boom. Right then and there, Tim knew he wanted to work with organizations who made a difference in the world. So, he took a job at a nonprofit in Florida, leaving behind the agency life. Little did he know that his journey would ultimately bring him back to an agency, the founding of his own nonprofit, and the creation of NextAfter—a fundraising research lab. His adventure is rife with excitement and countless lessons for our listeners. You’re going to love this episode of Cause & Purpose:

Florida didn’t pan out how Tim hoped it would. In less than a year the founder tragically passed away from a heart attack, and they went from $36 million per year to $18million.

They had an agency partner who specifically helped nonprofit clients. And as the sunset on Florida for Tim, it rose on a new opportunity in Dallas with the agency.

It was there that he realized the worlds of social impact and advertising marketing weren’t mutually exclusive. Tim began helping nonprofits how to articulate their value proposition through digital means.

His work began to lay the foundation for breakthrough studies that would one day be conducted at NextAfter’s fundraising research lab. One of these future tests, for example, was inspired by his agency work on value proposition.

He asked 127 different nonprofits: “Why should I give to your organization?”, and the results showed four key dimensions nonprofits to an effective value proposition:

  1. Appeal: It has to be something people like and something they want.
  2. Exclusivity: Your work must offer something different than the others diluting the marketplace.
  3. Credibility: People need to believe that you are the one who will make change happen.
  4. Communication: You have to clearly articulate what you’re doing.

Though, before he founded NextAfter, Tim would first start his own nonprofit: The Human Coalition. His goal was to help women in crisis pregnancy situations connect with resources when they needed them most.

“When somebody is faced with [crisis pregnancy], the first place they turn is the internet. They’re going to Google a solution, and the neat thing about that is you can reach people at their point of need and connect…[we needed] to be there.”

This brought about yet another light bulb moment for Tim: more nonprofits needed to understand these types of insights, not just his own. In a perfect union of his multiple career passions, Tim would go on to found NextAfter to help understand social impact from the donor’s point of view.

NextAfter’s goal was thus established: their work would seek to unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world. Tim and his team do this by erring on the side of generosity at all times themselves. It’s why all the studies and insights from NextAfter are easily accessible to all.

“I'd hate to think that erring on the side of generosity is going to come and bite you in the ass…I never look at people as competitors, they’re industry allies. We’re all working together for the same cause, so why would I not share with somebody else?”

And what he can offer the world is testing and data validation with real-world application. It enables organizations to mitigate risk, try something new, and prove it with data. Testing even has the power to optimize the entire culture of an organization and the way they operate.  

“Every single test opens up new opportunities for breakthroughs down the road…Start trying to take smaller risks. And then those will lead to greater opportunities to make some fundamental shifts in how you approach your work.”

When Tim graduated college, he didn’t know his passion for advertising and marketing would be matched with a voracious hunger to help people through social impact organizations. And her certainly didn’t know he would find a way to unite these all under one roof.

You could say that the culmination of his life’s work is to experience the miracle of generosity. And he’s doing this by decoding, at least partially, what inspires humans to give through data collection, expert analysis, and artful application. If you haven’t already seen how he’s doing at NextAfter, we highly recommend stopping by for a look.

Key Questions and Takeaways:

You never know where life will take you, so be open to any and all opportunities.

Relationships between for-profit and nonprofit entities are crucial for the future of social impact work.

Cultivate a mindset of testing to better understand your supporters and optimize your organization.

Treat others not as competitors, but allies to help in the work you do.

Support

Tim

's Work:

Follow along with NextAfter's work, read their case studies, and give Tim a follow on Twitter.

Explore NextAfter

Episode Transcript:

C&P: Tim Kachuriak Cut 1
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Mike: [00:00:00] you grew up in Pittsburgh. Tell me what life is like as a kid. And I'm always curious as well. Where people get their philanthropic instinct. Did it come from parents did you not have a philanthropic upbringing?

Tim Kachuriak: growing up in the Burg. Pittsburgh is a very much hardworking blue collar town where people are, as hard as their ax handles. I loved living there. I The Steelers, the pirates, the glory days of the Pittsburgh penguins, so big sports town.

It was like a Wonderland. We would just go camping in our backyard. And was just this really cool thing as a kid. My mom was actually really lonely during this time.

I didn't realize this at the time my dad was traveling a ton and I remember watching old home videos and the one year. We're opening up presents and it's like all these things, for kids that don't have a dad around, like the thing you throw the ball at, and it comes back and catch it yourself kind of thing.

Cause dad's not there to play catch and stuff. and that's where I grew up. I went to college in Pittsburgh graduated right after 9/11. , Which is a tough time to enter into the job force.

especially for somebody that wanted to break into advertising marketing, which was [00:01:00] really what my passion was. , but I worked at a country club all during high school and college nine years. And I used to joke that I had 432 aunts and uncles that were captains of industry.

And the guy that was actually the president of the country club was president of the second largest ad agency in Pittsburgh. So I went and met with him and did my little dog and pony show for him. He's like, Oh I'd love to hire you. And then he started wring his hands and looked down and he's like, but we just laid off 30 people yesterday 9/11 hit our industry harder agency harder, sorry, can't help you.

And that was my experience coming out of college. So it was six months of wandering in the wilderness. Just trying to find somebody that would give me a shot. I ended up meeting a serial entrepreneur at a golf outing. And we started talking a little bit and he said, what are you looking to get into?

And I told him, and he said maybe you could do a couple little projects for some of my little businesses I operate. And I was like, great. And he's like, why don't you start your own business? I was like I don't know how to do that. He's like I do, we've got an incubator on the second floor of our office building.

I'll give you a desk, I'll introduce you to people. I'll be your partner. And the rest is up to you kid. So I was like, that sounds sweet. What do I got to lose? I'm living in my parents' basement at the time I had just [00:02:00] graduated college. I've got no romantic interests. I've no overhead.

So it's like, what do you got to lose? So that was actually my first job experience coming out of college is running my own business for about five years. And it was pretty fun.

Mike: No dependents, nothing to lose . That's the perfect time to get into something like that.

Tim Kachuriak: Exactly.

Mike: I think it's an interesting experience too, because, , I feel like a lot of startup entrepreneurs can relate to that as well as a lot of nonprofit people. you know, As a startup founder, you have an idea you want to run with it. You think it's going to be great. And you just go sometimes. And the cause sector, usually something happens to you or you discover something you're passionate about changing the world in a certain way, and you don't necessarily have that business background or training or acumen.

So even though yours was a for-profit endeavor, are some of the things that, you learned from those crazy days.

Tim Kachuriak: first and foremost, I got in touch with my deep rooted, insecurity. Here's somebody who has never been in the workforce and now I'm having to go make it happen every single day. So I learned a ton about business. I learned about going and getting customers and keeping them happy and, [00:03:00] eventually built a team and had payroll and the things related that were like, you don't have money in the bank on Monday and you gotta make payroll on Friday.

So I think it was a really great grooming period for me personally. And this merges into like how I got into the nonprofit sector. So I did that for about five years and loved what I was doing, totally just wired to do this kind of stuff. And we basically start off as just , we'll do anything that pays money and then gravitated more towards interactive marketing and digital.

And at this time, this is like when, the general market ad agencies, they didn't have in-house capabilities to do that stuff. And so they would outsource it to little boutiques, like our shop. So we were hooked up with a lot of the ad agencies in Pittsburgh. Loved what I was doing.

Wasn't really thrilled about the clients who we were working with. Not that they're bad. we had a lot of legal clients and a lot of automotive dealerships, nothing wrong with car dealers and lawyers. But it just didn't really spin my wheels. About five years into it, my church was actually doing a capital campaign to build a new building.

And I was like I'll do all the, marketing stuff for that. And it was the first time that I was doing something I felt like I was [00:04:00] wired to do, but for, cause I believed in, Once you get bit by that bug, it's hard to go back and make car dealership websites.

That was the point where I was like, I think it's time to try something new. And a good friend of mine had just made a bold career move himself. He was a financial planner. He shut down his practice and he went and accepted a job as an executive vice-president at a nonprofit in South Florida.

So I called him up one day. I'm like, Hey man, what's going on down there? He's like, dude, should come check this out. I think he could really help us. I just hired this new VP of ops. The guy's a legit rocket scientists used to work for Direct TV, sending satellites into outer space.

MIT guy. You'll love them. So I leave Pittsburgh. There's six inches of snow on the ground. I get to Fort Lauderdale, the ambient temperature is 81 degrees. And step off the plane. My interview is at this place called the Aruba beach cafe, which is right on Avenue, right on the sand. it was just totally not a fair fight.

all of the sliding glass doors are open. Like The waves are crashing onto the beach the sea breeze is blowing through my hair. the guys playing the little [00:05:00] bling bling bling bling that, I'm just like I'm in. So get back to Pittsburgh. In the matter of 60 days we sold our house.

We sold our business and moved from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The crazy part is the day I got there. The head of the organization who had been there for 35 years, he was kind of like a celebrity, like leader of the organization had a heart attack. He was hospitalized for nine months and then he passed away.

So we went from being a $36 million year organization to 18 and 12 months. So it was like this death spiral that we were in. And I was hired to do like, digital communications stuff. And then They're like, whatever you're doing on the internet, figure out how that stuff actually makes money.

Because we're hemorrhaging right now. So that was like my first violent shove into fundraising And I didn't really like it. I didn't understand it. I had no grounding, but what I discovered is that there's Agencies that work with nonprofits and help them with their fundraising.

And we worked with one in Dallas and that's basically how I got to Dallas, which is a whole nother story.

Mike: How did you guys get through [00:06:00] that? this day and age the with the COVID pandemic going on, a lot of businesses are having that resilience challenge, what did that mean for your organization to have that huge obstacle placed in front of you and how did you guys adapt to it?

Tim Kachuriak: We had to figure out how to do, our work in an era without our founder, which means we had to pivot. I actually got to be part of like the team that put together a series of five key new initiatives. And we had this whole new mandate and pitched it to the board and they were behind it.

They were on board with it for about six months. And they're like, nah, we just want to go back to what we were doing in the past. And so , that was the writing on the wall for me, that it was time to move on.

Mike: Did you have to make staffing cuts?

Tim Kachuriak: Yes. The first six months I was there, it, it seemed like every Friday we were having people that were leaving and were shutting on different aspects of the organization.

It was tough. It was really, really tough.

Mike: How'd you guys get through that? What were , some of the tools that you use to, adapt in the face of really difficult time like that?

Tim Kachuriak: I was just really looking ahead there's a time for like mourning being sad over losing colleagues and things, but you have to figure out [00:07:00] what's going to happen next. for me, would always just focus on, all right what are we going to do tomorrow to try to overcome , this challenge.

Mike: I imagine that led to a lot of tough conversations with donors and board members and, folks like that. How did they respond when you started having those tougher conversations?

Tim Kachuriak: Yeah. I mean, , At one point, when we were in our , death spiral, we did something that was kind of radical. We had a fully staffed, call center, and we had to lay off the entire call center. So we had each person in the company from like the CEO down to the person that, cleans

the floors did like a four hour shift in the call center every single week. And. What we're doing is just calling and thanking donors. And it was awesome. , it was really cool because just being able to be on the other side of that and talk to some of the people that were supporting us and just thank them for their support and letting them know what was going on.

And two things happen. I think number one, it was the first month that we actually got in the black. And the second thing that happened is that it, rejuvenated the staff. every single person was like so much more fired up about their work.

And so to me, that was [00:08:00] like a great lesson of everybody's in the, customer service business, everyone's in the, donor fundraising business inside of a nonprofit organization. And it's not something to be taken for granted. these are your partners and you got to treat them as such.

Mike: Yeah, . the folks who were not in marketing and fundraising, they got them on the phone also with folks.

Tim Kachuriak: Everybody.

Mike: Awesome. It's amazing. as a donor, that's a phenomenal experience to have someone a leader in an organization or someone who not soliciting your gift.

Reach out like that. It's cool to hear the other side where , there's intrinsic value for those people as well, to reconnect with our supporter base.

What was it that turned you around on fundraising

Tim Kachuriak: the agency we work with is a company called KMA Direct Communications based in Dallas and the head of that organization. He helped me understand how, what you're doing in fundraising is connecting people to opportunities to invest in something that they care deeply about.

So it's almost like you're an impact investment banker, Where you get to basically connect people to causes that they're deeply passionate about. And then all of a sudden it became very appealing to me. And [00:09:00] I said well, that sounds really cool. tell me more. And so he, said, , why don't you come to Dallas?

It was like, I don't know what your prospects are here. He's like, We've been doing direct mail for 30 years and we're trying to move into this brave new digital world. Maybe you can help us start a digital fundraising division. I did. And that's how I got to Dallas.

Mike: I sorta have the same philosophy and, I used to have a lot of trouble, but just personally making asks like that And I think a lot of development directors and development managers have a little bit of stress and struggle around this. I always think of it as sort of said it, but it's an opportunity. You're giving someone an opportunity to invest or be a part of something they see as deeply personal for them.

It's investing in a change. They want to see in the world. Is there a formula to how to make an ask like that so that it seems like that opportunity versus something subtractive.

Tim Kachuriak: Yeah. What we focus a lot on is trying to help non-profit organizations think through and articulate their value proposition. If you go and ask a nonprofit, Hey, what do you do? they can go on for days days and days. They'll talk all about what they do. Okay. But if you ask them a very simple yet profound question, which [00:10:00] is if I'm the ideal donor for your organization, why should I give to you rather than some other organization or not at all, they freeze.

And oftentimes they can't answer. And by the way, this is systemic inside of our sector because we did a study few years back called the "Why should I give to you?" Study, studied nonprofit. Value proposition index study, where we asked 127 different organizations across multiple different verticals.

We asked them that question four different ways. So we called them on the phone, went to the one 800 number called the number. Hey, they're going to give you a gift. Why you, rather than someone else? Not at all. And then we listened and we transcribed their value proposition. We contacted them via email, fill out the contact, us form same thing.

We messaged them, direct message on Facebook. And then we also looked at their donation page to see how they answered that question. What we found is that. Non-profits aren't great at answering that question. Oftentimes what we find is they speak with forked tongue, they might say one thing in one channel and something else a completely different channel.

And so it's this [00:11:00] simple, fundamental question that everybody should be prepared to answer. And yet oftentimes we don't have a good answer for that.

Mike: Now we're really going down a rabbit hole here. mean, What you're talking about basically is brand. The strength of a brand, the brand identity is how you know, if you should invest in an organization a or organization B that are doing extensively the same cause related work.

Tim Kachuriak: that's right. And based on some of our testing and research, we found that there's like four key dimensions to an effective value proposition. The first one is appeal. It has to be something that people like, something that they want. It has to be a change that A mass amount of people want to see made in the world.

So that's appeal that's number one. Number two: it has to have exclusivity. If something you're doing is really appealing, but there's like 800 organizations doing the same thing. The number of organizations is diluting the potency of your value proposition, right? So like it has to be exclusive and unique.

It has to be credible. I've got to believe it. I've got to believe that you are the one to be able to make this change happen. And then finally it [00:12:00] has to be communicated clearly. So clarity is the last piece of that. And we've tested , really focusing on optimizing each of those different dimensions of value proposition.

We find that , when you can get all those things working together it's pretty powerful.

Mike: Yeah from watching some of your videos and from speaking to you previously, and I'm sure that the audience can tell already you're a very gifted storyteller. How did you fall in love with storytelling? What was it about that medium, the ability to craft the narrative that you just became passionate about?

Tim Kachuriak: Because it's the most effective way to get a message across. and the more and more that I've studied, just really how our brains work. And actually how we process information and ultimately how we make decisions, because let's face it when you're in the fundraising business, you're in the decision engineering business is what you're doing.

You're trying to get people to make a decision of yes, I'm going to give yes. I'm going to give it a large amount. Yes. I'm going to continue giving. in order to do that, you have to understand how the brain works. And what I learned is that the part of the brain that's actually responsible for decision-making has [00:13:00] zero capacity

for language, it doesn't understand all the facts and the figures and the stats that you're throwing at it, the logical brain will rationalize the decision wants to make, but if you really want to grip somebody and pull them in to the opportunity, you have to lead with a story, it has to make them feel something.

And so that's, why I think story is so exciting and glad that it's becoming a topic of greater conversation in our space.

Mike: Yeah, throw out some buzzwords that assuming familiar with Simon Sinek

Tim Kachuriak: Oh, sure. Yeah.

Mike: For an organization that has not invested in their own storytelling, in addition to the framework you mentioned the four pillars, how would an organization go from being purely program-related to beginning of marketing program is starting to craft the stories they want to tell that will reach a specific audience.

Tim Kachuriak: one problem I see oftentimes is that if you read a lot of fundraising messages or nonprofit messages, they read like news stories, they just present almost formulaic, facts. Here's the problem here's the solution and , here's how much it costs kind of thing.

And that just doesn't like [00:14:00] compute as well as actually singling out and trying the story of one specific individual and drawing somebody in. So the conversation by just telling one person's story and using that as an extrapolation of a larger problem. So that's one way to kind of get into, honing in on that, so to speak.

Mike: You're a founder and , on the board of a nonprofit organization The Human Coalition. Can you talk a little bit about What was the inspiration for starting that and what does it do?

Tim Kachuriak: The human coalition was actually birthed out of an opportunity to really be able to help women that are in crisis pregnancy situations be able to connect with resources that can help them. And what we learned is that when somebody is, faced with that problem, the first place that they turn is the internet.

And they're going and trying to Google a solution for that. And the neat thing about that is that You can be able to reach people at their point of need and connect them to the resources that they need. And that was birth of that and what it's grown into is really just organization's about trying to save as many babies as possible.

Mike: The One thing I really appreciated about the website and kind of the [00:15:00] storytelling you're doing is lot of pro-life organizations, at least the ones that I've seen, tend to have these really of gruesome storylines yours, doesn't The Coalition.

From what I can tell is very much about hope and the opportunity of having a child with stuff like that. How do you differentiate with other pro-life organizations that are out there and how did that messaging evolve for you guys?

Tim Kachuriak: First and foremost, I think we've always taken very much a data-driven approach. Because it's primarily a digitally based Organization, we can actually track everything. So we've constructed funnel and we can measure the conversion rates to each different stage of the funnel.

And what that's enabled us to do is really to optimize every stage of the process. And it started off as just trying to like basically solve the marketing challenge , and what's evolved to is okay, we can go and get the phone during, but if. Somebody is not there to answer the phone, then that's another challenge.

So then we started a call center where we can actually be able to feel those calls and answer, , 95% of those calls whenever they come in. And then it turned into the challenge of how do we optimize? You know, the consultation part of it. [00:16:00] And so we started testing all different aspects of atmospherics.

Like how do we make the people that come in our clients feel comfortable In the process. testing different ways of actually laying out the furniture in the room. for example, like one thing we learned is having. Some sort of piece of furniture that separates the counselor from the person that's coming in is, critically important to make them feel comfortable.

And having big fluffy pillows, because what would happen is people would come in, they grab a big fluffy pillow and they'd sit on couch and the table across the counselor. things like that can make a huge difference make that a successful engagement.

Mike: What's the end result that you're going for? What is the goal that funnel?

Tim Kachuriak: Ultimately to, you know, get more people to experience the joy of, being a parent, honestly , that is the ultimate goal is to save a child and save a family.

Mike: I'm curious as well. if somebody doesn't succeed in that path, if they end up deciding to go ahead and have an abortion, how do you guys handle that as an organization?

Tim Kachuriak: We'd come around them and just continued to be there to be able to help them and just support them in whatever decision they make. it's [00:17:00] not coerced. . It's what we've learned as we've collected more data.

And we've had at this point, like tens of thousands of conversations with oftentimes they're in a situation where they're being coerced and forced into making a decision, they don't really want to make. part of what we provide is a support system and a continuum of care so that regardless of whatever the outcome is they're able to receive that care and be comforted.

Mike: Was that always the goal from the outset? There are many aspects of the abortion issue that you could have tackled I'm just curious just for you personally how do you define the parameters of what this organization specifically will work on and why was that most meaningful to you?

Tim Kachuriak: I think it's really just about meeting the person at the point of need. that's the thing is if you realize that. The people that are most in need of your services are not flipping through the yellow pages or driving by looking at billboards, which is how most of the people in the pro-life movement have advertising years.

But they're actually searching online. then you need to be there. for us, it was really about solving, like the marketing issue [00:18:00] related to that.

Mike: And what are some of the successes that have come out of it? what's a story that you look at, from people that have gone through the program that, make it worthwhile for you.

Tim Kachuriak: It's the smiling little baby faces that, when people are able to connect with their child and don't even know how to describe it. It's awesome.

Mike: we've talked a little bit about NextAfter already. I'm curious. us the elevator pitch for what next after is. And give us a little bit of the inspiration behind it. Why it was something that you became passionate about wanting to get involved in and growing

Tim Kachuriak: . . Next after is really three things. We're a fundraising research lab. We're consultancy and we're a training Institute. And each of those three pillars supports what I think is our unique value proposition. Starting with the research. We do two kinds of research. we do forensic research and applied research on the forensic side.

We're analyzing large amounts of data across the sector. And what we're looking for the data is patterns that lead to opportunities to really unlock greater digital fundraising performance. The challenge we've run into is that the kind of data that we're most interested in analyzing [00:19:00] either doesn't exist or is not readily accessible.

Because what we're most interested in is trying to experience the charity, the non-profit from the donor's point of view. So to get that perspective, we found the best way is really just to become donors ourselves. what we do is about four or five times a year, we'll launch one of these major mystery donor studies where we'll go and subscribe to hundreds of different organizations.

We'll monitor everything that they send us. We'll analyze it. We'll wait for them to ask us to give a financial gift. And when they do, we respond by giving an online donation as small as $20 as large as $5,000. And then we continued to monitor how those organizations engage with us. Once we've crossed from being a casual visitor to subscriber to donor and Mike it's fascinating work what's always so interesting is how wildly varying the communication experiences from organization to organization.

And when we do one of these studies, oftentimes I'll have two organizations that are similar in terms of their size, their scope, their area of focus. And yet they have two radically different communication practices. So when we see that, we say, okay, if [00:20:00] organization is doing one thing and organization, B's doing something else, how do we know what works best?

So we take a lot of the insights that we gleaned from the mystery donor work, and we use it to power, the applied research we do, where we're basically using the web as not just a channel, but as a platform to run rigorous scientific experiments so that we can understand what works and what doesn't work.

So it becomes a laboratory in essence, and I think to date we've documented over 2,500 different experiments across everything from Facebook ads to email campaigns, to landing pages, to individual little micro elements inside of each of those different things. And we've learned some stuff being a consultant, everybody looks at you, like you have all the answers and deep down inside, we know we don't. when I discovered testing, that was , so liberating. I was like this could work or this could work. Let's go try it. Let's go let the market, help us understand what's most effective.

So we take all this stuff we do in the research lab. We bring it over to the two other parts of our company. The NextAfter Institute's all about training we've developed tons of resources. Most of [00:21:00] them are free. we do eBooks and templates and guides and webinars and all that kind of stuff.

And the last couple years we've developed eight different certification courses. In everything from email fundraising optimization, landing page optimization, turning Facebook likes into donors, copywriting for nonprofits. And that's really about trying to equip more nonprofit fundraisers to be more effective in digital fundraising.

I think the reason why digital marketing and fundraising sucks so bad is because the barriers to entry are so low. anybody could just go like blast out an email or post something on Facebook. And so that's led to like the proliferation of really crappy digital marketing.

So that's what we're trying to undo with the Institute. And then the final piece is our consultancy. And we work with about I think 30 to 33 large nonprofit organizations across North America, primarily. And basically what we do for them is try to engineer what we've found from our research and from our testing that delivers consistently better results.

Mike: I'm [00:22:00] curious. I wanna make sure I actually phrase this in the right way there are best practices out there. There's a lot of stuff people can read about how to craft an email, how to put together a website, things like that. And sure. A lot of, of that's been validated by the studies you've done and I'm sure you've uncovered some new things as well.

What are a couple of insights that are not industry best practice at this stage that you've uncovered through the research that you think organizations ought to pay attention to?

Tim Kachuriak: give you like one, quick example. so one of like the macro findings from our research is going to sound simple, but it is actually quite profound. People give to people, they don't give to email machines, they don't give the websites, they don't give to direct mail campaigns.

They give to people. And so the more that we can actually humanize our communication, the more effective it will be. So what I mean by that? if you look at most nonprofit email solicitations or appeals. They've got lots of HTML and graphics, images, and big clickable buttons. If you read the copy, it sounds like it's written from a professional copywriter because in fact it is, and the problem is, when a potential donor sees that in their inbox, all [00:23:00] they see is somebody trying to market to them.

And the problem is that people don't want to be marketed to, they want to be communicated with, so one test that we've run with dozens of organizations we've done in different countries. We've done it in different languages is scraping away all the marketing veneer, getting rid of the images, getting rid of the graphics, getting rid of the buttons, writing.

A plain text, email, and even rewriting the copy. So it sounds like it's from one human to another human, 300, 400% increase in donations when you take that approach. it's things like that of like just simply humanizing communication. I'll give you another example on donation pages.

If you look at most nonprofit donation pages, they have very little copy. And the reason why is they want it to be clean by the time somebody clicked the donate button , they're ready to give. So I just want to get out of their way. I want to reduce friction. That's not true because less than 25% of people that hit that donate button actually complete the transaction.

the reason why they don't complete the transaction is because don't have a grasp of the value proposition. So actually adding copy to the donation page, if you look at a [00:24:00] lot of the donation pages that we've tested, they have lots and lots of words on them. And that produces significantly better results than very few words, because it gives people, it anchors them to that value proposition and helps them take that with them all the way through the transaction.

This is something that we've tested with, multiple organizations. , the one rule that all of us have learned is , you'd never want to disrupt somebody while they're trying to complete a transaction. Anything that you do that could cause them to second guess that could be a bad thing.

So as somebody goes through and they've gotten through the bulk of the work, they filled out the payment information. They've selected how much they're going to give. They hit the submit or donate now button. What we'll do is we'll have a pop-up that comes up. And it'll say, hold on a second, before you actually complete your transaction, can I give you something to think about, which is a super big risk, right? Because you're, disrupting the transaction that could steal away from transactions. instead of giving whatever a hundred dollars say, would you consider giving $15 a month, and that will help create more of a sustaining impact and value proposition.

No, I don't. And it [00:25:00] just does the one-time donation. Yes. And it automatically goes and factors all the math and changes it from a one-time gift to recurring gift. When we've tested that we've seen like between 36 and I think it was 64% increase in recurring gifts. And the most important thing is it didn't actually diminish with any sort of statistical validity, the percentage of people that actually recurring a gift.

So it has no impact on whether or not they give a gift. It's just actually increasing your, recurring. So huge, huge opportunity. And , something I think is now being baked into a lot of giving software to make it more of a standard feature.

Mike: If it's not baked in how hard is that to do? I'm just asking because numbers in terms of increasing recurring revenue, give, value of that specific gift, all those things. it's a no brainer thing to do. The value is clearly there.

So for organizations that have not done that yet how hard is that to implement?

Tim Kachuriak: It does take a little bit of programming, If you're giving system doesn't do that natively, you're going to have some, programming work I mean, It's not overly complex but it does take a little bit of extra customization and configuration.

Mike: I've noticed the [00:26:00] phrase, I don't know if this came from you or if it's a NextAfter thing, but the line really resonated to me that you're on a mission to unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world. Is that yours or is that NextAfter it's

like, how did that idea come about?

Tim Kachuriak: Yeah we started off just being a company, a business. And somewhere along the way we, realized that we may not be a nonprofit organization, but we're very much a cause-based organization and our causes to decode what works in digital fundraising, get it into the hands of as many fundraisers as possible so that we can achieve what is our cause, which is to unleash the most generous generation in the history world the net effect of making people more effective of communicating their value proposition, connecting people to opportunities.

To invest in impact and the changes that they want to see made in the world that's a beautiful thing. That's something that can captivate my imagination for the next 40 years. And so that's actually our mission and our vision statement and out of that everything we do flows.

So, we don't have to go and create all of these resources and spend so much time trying to Put [00:27:00] that out into the marketplace, but we do that because that's achieving our mission. And that's helping us reach our vision.

And

Mike: Yeah, think along those lines too you guys are very transparent as an organization. We talked a bit last time about giving away your best stuff. The portions of the constantly raise the bar. it's a little bit of a trap I think that nonprofit organizations can fall into where they resist that transparency they keep certain secrets guarded and things like that.

Have you notice this in the space?

Tim Kachuriak: No I mean, that's human nature, right? We have our trade secrets and all of our special secret sauce. But I'd hate to think that erring on the side of generosity is going to come and bite you in the ass. I to think that hate generous is a bad strategy for life. And that it's going to actually come down and take you down someday, but that's actually, one of our values is err, on the side of generosity and we have different ways that we try to live that out.

Mike: Has that been like a no-brainer baked into the culture from the beginning? Or did you face challenges internally as you guys were growing in terms of enforcing that, transparency and that level of openness?

Tim Kachuriak: I don't think so. I never looked at people as competitors, their industry allies. [00:28:00] we're all working together for like the same cost. why would I not share that with somebody else?

Why would I not be open and transparent to yeah. What we talked about before, if I give away my best stuff today that puts positive pressure on me to come up with something better tomorrow. And I want that ingrained inside of our culture. I want people to never be satisfied.

, we're adequacy is the enemy of excellence and good's the enemy of great. And you know, we're constantly trying to figure out what's next after. I think that's a good thing.

Mike: Are there ways or times in the evolution of next after where you guys struggled with something had some interesting successes and you've looked back and then like it's that raising the bar thing that got us through.

Tim Kachuriak: yeah. All the time. All the time, We put on this big conference every year. it gets more and more expensive. It's more and more outlandish. the pageantry. I mean, I think two years ago we turned the Ellie Cockins opera house in downtown Denver into a circus tent and literally put on a legit, circus performance with acrobats and stuff flipping around on stage.

To me, that's the fun part of trying to figure out like how to make it bigger and better.

Mike: So getting back to sort of of [00:29:00] the next after work what are the biggest pitfalls you just see in the space that you just on a visceral level, just want to correct.

Tim Kachuriak: I think first and foremost, we have to change our vernacular. You we use the words like blasts, I'm going to go email blasts and I'm going to hit my targets. we have to realize that the people on the other side of the screen or table or envelope or whatever, they're living, breathing complex human beings.

And we need to treat them as such. Donors aren't stupid. They're not going to give a donation just because you tell them to you have to give them again, that compelling reason or the value proposition for doing so. We have to change the way that we think about our supporters.

Mike: Anything else come to mind or is that the biggest pain point for you?

Tim Kachuriak: think the other thing is taking big risks. One of the things that we did, we partnered with Dan Pallotta and we put his bold training inside of our Institute. And I got to interview him during virtual summit, I guess it was this year. And he encourages people.

He's like, look, we need to think bigger and bolder about our organizations and stop settling [00:30:00] for glass ceilings that we have over our heads. Right. And we need to blast through. I think that's something that is just so encouraging and exciting and just , thinking about like, how can we push past what the the standard is and, come up with a new standard.

Mike: I think that works on so many levels. you mentioned Dan's content I think that TED talk he gave it was 15 years old at this point. the idea of shifting away from the overhead comment like,, some people are paying attention to it.

Some people really took that to heart, but I feel like still an ongoing struggle if it's things on, that level where it's making a philosophical, cultural shift in your organization taking a big risk or even as simple as changing your donation flow to include a call to action, to do recurring instead, how does somebody who is seeing a challenge at the organization wants to make a change

they feel like there's going to be resistance to, how do they have that conversation? How do they justify , to the stakeholders you need to get past that it's worth investing in this new thing?

Tim Kachuriak: See, that's where I think testing is so valuable. What we like to say is like, we'll go in optimizing somebody's donation experience and we end up leaving, optimizing the culture of the organization. Because like, what [00:31:00] testing does, it enables you to mitigate risk and to try something new and to be able to prove it with data.

And what we say is look, Every single test B gets learnings, which opens up new opportunities for breakthroughs down the road. That's my encouragement is start testing more, start trying to be able to take smaller risks. And then those will lead to greater opportunities make some more fundamental shifts in how you approach your work.

Mike: I think that a great point is taking smaller risks and seeing some basic successes will also help to breed trust with the people that you need to convince. I've been a fan of NextAfter's research for a long time.

And I was excited to have this call and. Certainly I'm a believer in the scientific method and doing these experiments. But I think there's also a place for gut actions. see what the data says and you're like, I actually, just, my spider sense is telling me that this is what's out there.

How do you guys, and you personally with, the organizations you consult with, as well as you know, in the research that you do how do you navigate that sort of gut versus data attention and how do you decide to do based on pure data or pure gut or somewhere between?

Tim Kachuriak: [00:32:00] People talk about the relationship between the art and the science of fundraising. So The arts is like all of the crazy ideas that we could possibly have, or, our gut instincts or our visceral responses. But we try to validate those with the scientific method and data.

you use art to come up with something new but test it and be able to make sure that your, guts, right. because oftentimes we can be led astray by our initial

Mike: what's the path not taken. What do you think you'd be doing right now, professionally, if you were not working on NextAfter and The Human Coalition and your other projects?

Tim Kachuriak: I think I would be in the culinary arts. Yeah. love to cook man. That's like one of my passions asked for cooking lessons for my birthday. I love hospitality and entertaining and when people come to our house, like I'm in the kitchen the whole time.

and I'm in all my glory so yeah, I think I'd probably be a cook.

Mike: See I knew we'd get along. love cooking too. And making cocktails and hosting and things like that. Set of stuff you're currently working on what is the most important [00:33:00] cause that humanity can be tackling right now and why?

Tim Kachuriak: Outside of what I'm working on.

Cause I think my cause of generosity is one that's worth going after, Because like you think about it With all like the commercialism that we live in, where it's every single message we receive is all about feeding our own appetites and pleasures and stuff.

What philanthropy does is it takes us out of that. And it gives us this choice to make. Do I want to provide for myself something that I probably don't really need, more something that I want, or do I want to try to meet the needs of somebody else?

And I think that that's so beautiful and if we can get more and more people to experience that the miracle of generosity, it becomes addicting. because like really, really habit forming and, and then all of a sudden it overflows into other areas of your life. And I just think that that would totally change the world.

Mike: I've actually been amazed. The first couple of shows that we did the answer was usually environment or it was some specific established cause category. Over time, I've just been amazed but how many [00:34:00] people have said work on yourself. Self-care meditation, improving yourself as a person and your overall happiness so that you can then have a bigger impact in other areas. What's next for you? for NextAfter?

Tim Kachuriak: One thing that we've done recently, we appointed next after fellow at the Institute for sustainable philanthropy in the UK. Adrian Sargent and Jen Shang had that up and. they're pioneering all the research and philanthropic psychology. And so what our fellow is doing is, they're translating a lot of the stuff that they're doing on the academic theoretical level into things that we can go test online.

So that's been really, really fun. We're just getting started with that. We've run a few different experiments based on communal theory and some of these other things that they've been working on. I think it's really exciting. I think what we're going to find. Is that there is an opportunity to.

point non-profit organizations to data that suggests that yes, there's things you can do right now to game the system and to meet your calendar year end goals. But those are things that are not necessarily aligned with Building lifelong [00:35:00] partners with your organization. And if we can prove that and show them a better path and a better way at least based on their work not only will it be better for the nonprofit organizations, give them more resources into the future, but it leaves the donors feeling better about themselves, Where giving is actually building their identity as opposed to taking it away from it.

Mike: I'm excited to see the data that comes out of that. And one of the things that I talk a lot about with clients, this is you can look at all the best practices and all the statistics that you want to, and be concerned about donor churn and all that stuff. But if you focus on making every single touch point with a support or a positive one that builds that relationship versus attracts most of your challenges, as far as like human capital revenue are going to be pretty much taken care of.

Tim Kachuriak: Yep. agree.

Mike: When you're ready to hang it up, done with the work, ready to go on vacation and go back to Florida or wherever and have the breeze go through your hair. What would you like to have accomplished? you could have done one thing, to make it all worthwhile what would that thing be?

Tim Kachuriak: That we would be able to Somehow some [00:36:00] way, decode at least a part of what inspires people to give. that's the thing that I'm obsessed with. I don't know if that's a solvable riddle, right? Like why do people give, is the thing that keeps me up at night.

But if we can begin to decode piece of that. I think that would be awesome.

Mike: Do you have any guesses?

Tim Kachuriak: I find is it's different for everybody, Some people give because it helps them to belong. Some people give out of a sense of, guilt or, out of anger, right? I mean, there's all these different kinds motivations, but it's like, what is best way to lead people into the miracle generosity And that's the question.

Mike: How can people who are hearing this and want to get involved, support the work you're doing contribute hire NextAfter how can they reach you guys?

Tim Kachuriak: Certainly can find us online@nextafter.com. or they could find me on Twitter at, digital donor.

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More about

Tim

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Tim Kachuriak is the founder and Chief Innovation and Optimization Officer for NextAfter, a fundraising research lab and consulting firm that works with businesses, nonprofits, and NGOs to help them grow their resource capacity. Kachuriak is also the co-founder and board member for the Human Coalition, a member of the board of directors for Open Doors USA, an Advisory Board Member for the SMU Digital Accelerator, Advisory Board Member for Kids Prosper Kids, and an Advisory Board Member for the Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact.

Credits:

Cause & Purpose is a production of Moonshot.co
Postproduction by Christine Baird of Worthfull Media
Original Music by Justin Klump of Podcast Music and Sound

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Moonshot.co is home to Cause & Purpose, a podcast about leaders in the social impact sector. Hear their stories, successes, failures, and lessons-learned from lives spent in the trenches, tackling the world’s most important challenges.

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