In today’s blog post we are putting a spotlight on Open Door Mission in Houston, Texas. Founded in 1954 as a downtown Houston homeless shelter and soup kitchen, today Open Door Mission employs a multifaceted mind, body and spiritual approach with programs of recovery, learning, and healing. We got the opportunity to sit down with Nina Wilson Jones who serves as director of development and communications at Open Door Mission.
HS: What drew you to join Open Door Mission and move from the for-profit space into nonprofit work?
NWJ: I moved into nonprofit work from corporate life in the year 2000. I was really seeking to try new things professionally, things that fulfilled my soul. It all started when I reached my 15-year anniversary in banking, and I knew if I stayed much longer, I’d be professionally typecast as only being able to work in that industry. I loved my banking clients, but I felt I had to make a big move to continue to grow personally. So I was recruited to lead a new development office in higher education, and I took the opportunity. I realized that a lot of my corporate expertise was transferrable and I received the personal fulfillment in my work that I was seeking. Development work became a good fit for me.
In the subsequent 17 years since I first became a development officer, I had enjoyed major success in fundraising and difficult times as well. I spent some time as a fledgling entrepreneur but missed the constant interaction with lots of people on a daily basis. I ventured into retail sales for three years, largely to supplement my own small business income and while somewhat successful, I didn’t enjoy the work as much as working for a worthy cause.
I eventually decided to return to development work full time. I had always been involved with nonprofit work all along the way, in board and leadership positions with other nonprofits in my community. But when I consented to explore a full-time position again with an executive recruiter, God led me to Open Door Mission. You see, I am a devoted believer and do not make decisions without God’s spiritual guidance. Based on my prior experiences, the Mission may have initially seemed like an unlikely place for me to enjoy my work but beneath the surface, where the spiritual connections are made, it met my major employment criteria very well: to have meaning and fulfillment for the hard work that I do on behalf of a cause. As I have learned more about our clients and our programs, I have grown to love the ministry and the opportunity it gives me to grow spiritually as well.
HS: As trends around data, analytics, and technology move from the for-profit space into the nonprofit space, what gets you most excited about the potential impact these could make when it comes to fundraising?
NWJ: I have always brought my corporate financial analysis and sales/marketing experience to the nonprofit projects that I am involved with. I have never seen the corporate perspective versus nonprofit methodologies as separate, mutually exclusive approaches to achieving financial success. When I initially arrived at the Mission and there wasn’t as much in-depth information available as I was accustomed to using on a daily basis, it was quite challenging for me to determine the best way to create a course of action. I was most successful in banking when I had in-depth, comprehensive information about my clients and the marketplace. We are now moving forward with better data analysis in the nonprofit sector and at the Mission specifically so it is a truly exciting time for me to work with our Mission’s leadership, staff, and volunteers. I think that we are really moving toward maximizing our success with our donors who have supported this wonderful and vital ministry for decades.
HS: What are some of the biggest opportunities rescue missions have when it comes to embracing data & technology for fundraising?
NWJ: I think that as the sector embraces and begins to understand their donors with more in-depth data, they will realize that it really helps you to use often scarce resources more efficiently for your Mission. Your major gift program is more effective because you know exactly which donors should get the extra attention of your major gift team. Your events are more successful because you know exactly who to invite to events that appeal to their interests. Your direct mail campaigns can provide better messaging because you can track response rates better. And your reports to and feedback from leadership is more meaningful because the accuracy of reporting and trend analysis is more thorough and your board and senior executive have the tools to make the correct major decisions for your agency.
HS: Why do you think it’s critical to inject relationship-based fundraising into your program?
NWJ: The demographic shifts that are happening with social media platforms and online services nationally really demand that you cultivate and maintain individual relationships with your donors and supporters. As technology is embraced in our daily personal lifestyles, people become more accustomed to a personalized experience, even in their support of nonprofits. Donors will respond to your development program positively and GIVE when they feel comfortable with your mission and want to support your work in their own way (i.e. – using your digital platforms for new information, volunteering time, learning more about your work’s impact locally, etc.).
HS: How are you moving away from transactional to transformational relationship?
NWJ: We are doing this gradually but intentionally. We want to handle each transaction properly and always will do that. But we also don’t want to miss an opportunity to take an initial transaction and build it into a real, ongoing relationship with our Mission. We have limited resources, as everyone does. It’s a challenge everywhere. Money is raised primarily for programs and successful client outcomes. But with data that tracks responses from donors more accurately and on a timely basis, we can grow confident that we are interacting with our donors in a way that they enjoy supporting us. And we can follow up with our donors the right way to build for the future with each successful gift that we receive.
Pursuant is proud to partner with Nina and Open Door Mission by providing data-driven strategies and implementation for their direct mail & digital direct response efforts, as they work to fund their mission of transforming lives of men in Houston.
Learn more about the great work that Open Door Mission is doing by visiting their website here.