We’re pleased to return this month with another Nonprofit Leader feature. Today we’re chatting with Bruce Everhart, Vice President of Donor Development and Channel Strategy at Moody Global Ministries. Bruce has been part of the Moody family for some 30 years. In our conversation he discussed the reason Moody has had “staying power” for him, how technology impacts their organization, and his advice for someone who may be interested in a similar career path. Enjoy our conversation with Bruce.
HS: It’s rare that someone stays within one organization for decades! Tell me about your career trajectory thus far that has taken you to your position now at Moody.
BE: I moved from Kansas farm country to Chicago to study for one year at Moody and I got stuck. (laughs) Chicago and Moody is a pretty good place to get “stuck.” I found so much depth and variety of ministry here; it’s just never ending.
I developed a passion for radio back in college and a first real job in my early 20’s at a Moody affiliate in Topeka, Kansas. I sort of “cut my teeth” on radio and fell in love with the medium. I worked every shift at that little station from overnights, to morning drive and weekends. At that point I really wrestled with the Lord about full time ministry in radio and then decided that’s what I wanted to pursue. I graduated (University of Kansas) with a journalism degree, but still felt I needed to fill a gap with Bible & Theology education, so I came to Moody to complete a one-year associates program. While studying I took a part time job at Moody Radio and the sky started to open for me. Since then, a series of open doors and opportunities have come, and I’ve simply followed that path. I’ve logged almost 29 years here, 25 of those in radio and most of that focus was managing the flagship, WMBI Chicago. In 2013 I was asked to take on a more centralized role in donor marketing for both radio and our education cause here.
Moody has always had staying power for me because of its mission to equip people for ministry and the centrality of the Word. Its impact is far reaching. Moody Radio is one of the largest producers of original Christian content, and they say “the sun never sets on a Moody grad” serving somewhere around the globe. I’ve had chances, but it’s been hard to walk away from this trusted brand that is having such wide impact.
HS: What is your perspective on the growth of radio? It seems like podcasts are really taking off. What does that mean for Moody Radio?
BE: Radio is certainly not dead like some say. However, the smartphone has rewritten the media landscape in the last five years. There is definitely a transfer of radio response that’s moving to digital platforms like podcasts and streaming. Our present challenge is to add marketing components on our high performing digital channels and make sure that messaging is as tight on digital as it is over the air. Plus, media fundraisers today need to be aware that people are navigating multiple platforms. They listen in their car, and go back and listen on-demand while walking, jogging and doing housework. Moody Radio is seeing tremendous growth in podcasting.
The riddle to solve is this, though. While classically, terrestrial radio has been our main acquisition tool, that audience is fractured these days. We are not abandoning radio, but truly believe the greatest opportunity for growth is with present and new audiences as they navigate new digital channels and offers. Leveraging this growing dispersed audience is our present opportunity.
Given all the media choices today, one of our biggest challenges is donor distraction. In the past, any fundraiser might have been able to communicate a really good message through one channel to get someone’s attention, but today communicating with a single channel is utterly impossible. You’ve got to recycle content on multiple channels to translate your message because of such massive media distractions. A classic communication flow that may have worked five years ago is fractured and ineffective today. Our modern user/listener/donor demands a more sophisticated message and content strategy.
Where are we heading? Well, the new normal is: “Amazon.” What I mean, is there’s a sort of expectation by our constituents to understand them as much as Amazon does. They anticipate us bringing content to their smartphones that is meaningful, customized, quick, and on target. Doing this cost effectively is necessary for our future success.
HS: Tell us more about your current role at Moody.
BE: I serve as the Vice President of Donor Development and Channel Strategy, so I’m the “mass channel” guy. Think of the donor pyramid, where major and deferred donors are at the top, and the masses, the fullest part of the database are toward the wider angle. Our team is responsible for developing and directing communication and messaging to the widest part of our constituency. This includes direct mail, digital fundraising, and radio campaigns for listener-supported radio and tuition-sponsored education causes at Moody.
Another challenge we and other non-profits are facing is the reality that people are giving to fewer organizations than they were ten years ago before the 2008 economic collapse. There’s a strong head wind out there, and we have to strongly differentiate our cause from the rest of the field. We have honed our case drilling into what makes Moody unique and communicating the real impact that God is making through the ministry in a clear and compelling way.
The last two or three years, we’ve worked very hard to craft a laser focused case for support that demonstrates how a single donor can make a lasting impact. And by God’s grace, we’ve experienced some success, which is deeply encouraging. But there is still opportunity. We’re looking for ways to customize those messages and respond to the needs and desires of each individual in our database. We call it the donor experience, serving them well on their terms as they interact and self-select the content that is important to them. Our mission in Moody’s donor development team is to deliver a “renowned donor experience” to each individual that not only deepens their experience with Moody, but ultimately their walk with Christ.
HS: Can you share a little about your experience working with Pursuant? Pursuant and Moody have worked together for several years. Have you been a part of that partnership for the duration? What has been your experience working with Pursuant?
BE: Since I took this role three years ago, I’ve enjoyed a close relationship with Pursuant. When I served in Moody Radio previously, Pursuant was our principal consultant.
I believe our most significant work together has been establishing our case for support and we crystalized that early on. Moody was going through some brand realignment at that time, and that work was formative to our core messaging throughout our program as we narrowed into the distinctives that make Moody so unique.
Currently, we’re spending a lot of energy updating our acquisition model. We want to steward every person touched through our ministries in radio, education, and publishing; moving these audiences forward, and serving and nurturing each person appropriately as they take the next step in their walk with Christ. This will include sharing even more ministry content, and when appropriate, inviting them to invest in radio or education causes with a gift. Pursuant’s expertise in this area is incredibly helpful.
Pursuant has an understanding of who we are at Moody, and a depth of passion for our mission to equip people in the truth of God’s Word. This has kept our relationship strong and provides staying power.
HS: What is your career advice to someone who is attracted to the path that you’ve taken?
BE: In terms of career advice, I sometimes think of a lyric from that old country song I heard back home in Kansas, “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be fundraisers.’’ (laughs) Well, maybe it didn’t quite go like that, but to be honest in some circles, fundraising is not that attractive as a career. That said, I’ve come to realize it’s a most “noble” pursuit. It really boils down to this. As fundraisers, we are inviting people to partner in work that is making a lasting impact for the Kingdom. I believe someday we’ll all be asked, “what did you do with the things I gave you?” Ultimately, each of us as stewards are responsible to the Lord for what we do with things He has graciously provided us. We all have certain skill sets, abilities, and passions that are God-given and not our own, so steward them well!
Beyond that, find something you’re really good at, and make the most of it.
My StrengthsFinder says I’m an Arranger | Positivity | Relator | Maximizer | Achiever, so one of the fun things I get to do is find talented experts in a diverse organization like Moody and rally everyone to a table to generate powerful ideas. I’ve got a little Positivity as well, so I’ve found adding a dose of encouragement to a team most times fuels the fire.
I’m humbled and thankful to God that He has blessed this journey of mine. While those open prairies back home in Kansas still call my name, for now Chicago is still home, and I’m truly looking forward to the path He carves for us in the days ahead.
Thanks so much to Bruce Everhart for taking the time to chat with us. To learn more about Moody Global Ministries, check out their website here.