YWAM leverages automation to increase communication and simplify processes

Learn how YWAM Orlando uses Virtuous to personalize relationships with 10,000 supporters

Youth With A Mission (YWAM) is an international movement dedicated to presenting Jesus personally to this and future generations, mobilizing as many as possible, and training and equipping to go into the world and make disciples of all nations.

The Challenge

Impersonal Communications

YWAM Orlando has several unique constituent segments to communicate with. Donors have one set of interests, while the young missionaries who graduate from the Discipleship Training School have very different needs. “We have a lot of alumni and donors and we’re trying to administer both. Both require totally different types of communication, but they both live in the one system. So we need to be able to do both. We have two people for that, but one software,” says Alastair Cuthbertson, Digital Communications Director.

With their previous software, eTapestry,  there was no way to effectively segment communications. A young missionary a year into program delivery and a loyal, long-time supporter had to get the same message, or no message at all.

“Before we used Virtuous, we didn’t have any automation capabilities, either for communications or internal workflows. As a result, our communication was very generalized. We would send a mass email to thousands of people, send mailings to thousands of people. We tried our best to be personal, but the reality was our software wasn’t giving us the capability to be very personal with our donors. All of our fundraising strategies were very generalized and that was probably our biggest weakness.”

YWAM Orlando

Insufficient Data and Processes

YWAM Orlando has a development team of five, three at the time when they were choosing a new CRM. That small team is responsible for a pool of 1,000-2,000 donors, and a total of 10,000 contacts when alumni and other connected individuals are included. “We wanted a software that was going to be working in the background for us, magnifying the reach of our channels and the personalization of our team to our donors. We had a good rhythm going, but we were definitely reaching our limit because there were three of us in the department trying to manage thousands of relationships and our software wasn’t working with us to allow us to do that in a way that was personal.”

Without a nonprofit CRM that could track donor signals and milestones, Alastair knew the team was missing out on opportunities to engage personally. “Our software wouldn’t tell us when somebody was lapsing, and even if it could have, we would have to send emails to each of those individuals every single time. And when you’re looking at 10,000 people, that is a bit of a nightmare,” says Alastair.

How We Helped

Automation to Connect Personally

Alastair uses automation workflows to engage different segments of contacts in the most relevant ways. “When a student graduates from one of our training programs, they now receive an automated string of emails, tailored to them and the unique situation they’re in. Before we had Virtuous, that would have been more or less impossible for us to do, because I would have needed to schedule emails individually. In Virtuous, we have seven emails in some of these Graduating Student workflows. So, to do that in eTapestry, I’d be manually sending 35 graduating students one set of emails, while trying to also manually send emails to students graduating from different programs. It would be absolutely impossible.”

Within Virtuous, Alastair can create triggers that set off automated personalized workflows to celebrate milestones and recognize interactions. “We are able to send automated content to people who have experienced a specific interaction with us, whether it be a graduation, or a first-time gift, or exceeding a lifetime threshold amount of giving.”

Hyper-Listening to Donors

Since adopting Virtuous, YWAM has much more insight into their donor data, helped by Virtuous Signals, predictive and analytic tools. “Once someone lapses, we have a workflow so they receive specific content with a specific call to action to try to reengage their giving. We have that all automated, we don’t even have to manage that. Those donors begin lapsing and – boom –they’re receiving the information we want them to receive, given the situation they’re in. It’s allowing us to be far more invested in them.”

“As a small team, we just can’t manage that by ourselves. So Virtuous is kind of a sixth team member, helping us manage our relationships.”

– Alastair Cuthbertson, Digital Communications Director

Automation is about more than email. YWAM’s team uses automated tasks in Virtuous to manage their donor relationships across channels. They’ve created workflows triggered by donor data, like reaching a lifetime giving milestone. “Maybe a donor gives $50, but it pushes them over a $10,000 life-to-date giving threshold. Virtuous recognizes that. We’ve set up an automated task which signals us so that we can actually call that donor and thank them. That wouldn’t have been on our radar with our previous software,” Alastair says.

Better Tools, Streamlined Processes

Instead of relying on multiple systems, YWAM Orlando can now run and track all of their fundraising and marketing through Virtuous. They use Virtuous’ events management function to track attendance and RSVPs, keeping donor data all in one place. They also use Virtuous’ grants management to track applications and ingoing and outgoing grants. All of their fundraising is more streamlined, relieving the burden of moving data around manually on their small team.

Virtuous is not a stagnant system. New features and updates happen every month. “Our previous software just wasn’t offering innovative tools,” says Alastair. “Virtuous is constantly adapting and listening to the feedback of customers to build out things that are most serving us, the user. It’s really streamlining the database. We can be more effective. Virtuous is willing to adapt, change things, listen to our feedback, bring in new tools.”

For YWAM Orlando, these changes made a big impact.

“I would strongly recommend Virtuous to anyone who wants to switch their nonprofit CRM. They facilitate an easy onboarding experience and the tools they provide help nonprofits communicate with modern donors in a very personalized manner – far more than any other tools we’ve used”, says Alastair. “I would advise anyone using Blackbaud eTapestry to switch to Virtuous because the reality is the modern donor is not looking for generalized communication. They want personalization communication. With Virtuous, we were finally able to do that.”

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