David Bowden · Co-founder & Executive Director, Spoken Gospel | David is a spoken word poet and Co-Founder & Executive Director of Spoken Gospel, a nonprofit that has a mind-boggling 50 million-plus engagements of their video, devotional, reading plan, and podcast-based content. Hear his tactics for engaging recurring donors.
Many nonprofits struggle to deliver meaningful content in a way that engages their donor base. It tracks; you can have the coolest impact story, but if it’s just sitting on your website waiting for donors to come to it, it’s not truly making the impact it was designed for.
If that sounds like something your nonprofit struggles with, this episode is for you! Today, Funraise's Director of Growth Marketing, David Schwab, is talking to David Bowden, spoken word poet and Co-Founder & Executive Director of Spoken Gospel, a nonprofit that has a mind-boggling 50 million-plus engagements of their video, devotional, reading plan, and podcast-based content. They’ve got 151,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel!
We think “holy moly” is an appropriate response.
Plot twist: Spoken Gospel’s entire content creation model relies on lots of listening, not talking. David focuses on building individual relationships based on each member’s unique interests—and it’s paid off in a strong recurring program that responds to Spoken Gospel’s needs and asks alike.
Sure, David’s got the greatest story ever told to guide Spoken Gospel’s nonprofit story, but making the content itself approachable and relevant is key to attracting the type of donor that sticks around for the mission long term. So listen in!
Hello and welcome to this episode of Nonstop Nonprofit!
Many nonprofits struggle to deliver meaningful content in a way that engages their donor base. I mean, you can have the coolest impact story, but if it’s just sitting on your website somewhere waiting for donors to come to it, it’s not truly making the impact it was designed for.
If that sounds like something your nonprofit struggles with, this episode is for you! Today, we’re talking to David Bowden, spoken word poet and Co-Founder & Executive Director of Spoken Gospel, a nonprofit that has a mind-boggling 50 million-plus engagements of their video, devotional, reading plan, and podcast-based content. They’ve got 151,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel!
I think “holy moly” is an appropriate response.
Plot twist: Spoken Gospel’s entire content creation model relies on lots of listening. David focuses on building individual relationships based on each member’s unique interests—and it’s paid off in a strong recurring program that responds to Spoken Gospel’s needs and asks alike.
Sure, David’s got the greatest story ever told to guide Spoken Gospel’s nonprofit story, but making the content itself approachable and relevant is key to attracting the type of donor that sticks around for the mission long term. So listen in!
David Schwab Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the nonstop nonprofit podcast. This is your host, David Schwab. And today we have my friend David Boden not to be confused with us, the founder and CEO of Spoken Gospel. David, thanks for joining us today.
David Bowden Yeah, absolutely, David! Glad to be here. Always good to meet another David.
David Schwab All right. Well, I'm very interested and excited about this episode, David. I've been keeping an eye on your organization ever since I was introduced to about a year ago, actually. Now, keeping an eye on what you guys do. Inspired by not only the movement that you're bringing, but also inspired by the way you're changing the way to deliver your message or your mission, but also changing the way you approach fundraising. And those are two things that I'm really interested in just talking about and bringing back to our audience today, because I think there's going to be some really cool insights because, you know, a big conversation in the sector right now is how do we reach the next generation? But more than that, who is the next generation? Who's the next generation we're serving and who's the next generation supporting us? But before we get in too deep, when I start off, give the audience a chance to get to know you. So please introduce us to yourself. Obviously, you started Spoken Gospel. How long has spoken gospel been around? What was it like starting a brand new organization and was that your first foray into the nonprofit sector? Had you been in in other organizations before that?
David Bowden Yeah, man, lots of questions. So it was not my first foray into the nonprofit space. Right out of my undergraduate degree, I started another nonprofit called Give a Goat, and we gave goats to poor families in the Philippines to help them reach self-sufficiency, do like agriculture and stuff like that. And that went great. We ended up giving it away to another parent organization that was doing other work in the Philippines so I could move on and kind of spent almost a decade after that, traveling and speaking. I do something really strange called spoken word poetry, which some people are either like, Oh yeah, I've totally seen that, or they give me like deer in headlights looks and have no idea what I'm talking about. And was able to do that, was able to publish a couple of books with a HarperCollins imprint. And about in 2017 started to realize that I was kind of taking a shotgun approach to life and what I felt like my calling was and wanted to really focus in on one thing and through some time of discernment that led me to what is now spoken gospel. So at the end of 2017 decided that there was like a whole bunch of things in my past that all lined up in one direction. And so we were like, Man, wouldn't it be really cool if we could have like a media nonprofit that created free resources that help people work through this really difficult book called the Bible and help them see how all of it in varying ways pointed to the person of Jesus. And if it was beautiful, if it was artistic, if it was modern, and what if we gave it all away for free was this idea. And so we started doing that. I started like recruiting some people that I felt like should be involved. And we had some crazy moments where people were quitting dream jobs to come join the team. We raised our first round of funding through an awesome major donor foundation and got to work in 2018. Released our first video in 2019, and over the last four years we have had over 50 million significant engagements with our free resources and it's been nuts. And so we've got about 20% left of the Bible to finish covering with our resources, and then we'll be done with our first brush of the project.
David Schwab And so it's the six years, five, six years, two to get through phase one. That's pretty that's a it's a long time to be dedicated to a single, single task.
David Bowden Yes. Yeah, it's definitely been a lift, but it's been a ton of fun the whole way. We've learned a lot and how we approach things at the beginning. They've definitely changed, especially as the team's grown. We've brought in more specialized and talented people, so it's been it's been awesome.
David Schwab That kind of sparks right into my next question is now sitting on the other side of a global pandemic where everything is virtual and everything is video first, before that thinking 2017 2018, no one was really thinking video content first or digestible, engaging virtual content. What was it like approaching that in a world that prioritized physical engagement, specifically thinking on the ministry side too? How was it starting an organization and starting something that now makes total sense but then probably felt different or foreign or a little off?
David Bowden Yeah, that's a really great question. I don't know if we felt like we were doing that because, you know, we're digital. Natives, you know, kind of as kind of mid millennials. And we were just like what we wanted to do was reading the Bible is really hard. It's, you know, it's like it's a discipline that even a lot of Christians struggle with. And we were like, We don't want to make people read a whole bunch of other stuff before they're trying to read the Bible, because then it's just like reading on reading and we're like, Man, people are digesting content through video, you know? It's like, Oh, I want to know how to fix a tire. What do I do? I look up a YouTube video on how to fix a tire, right? I want to know how to make pie. Oh, I look at a YouTube video. I'm not going to you know, we're not reading menus or recipes anymore. And so the difference, though, came in how we position ourselves before and after the pandemic. Before I had to explain that, I had to say, like. Right. You know, and I had to give stats. I was like, most people engage content through video. It's the fast growing platform. It's where education happens, here's the benefits of video, education, blah, blah, blah. And now I don't have to qualify that anymore. People more quickly understand the value that's brought from that because they were forced into a position where they were doing Bible studies for, you know, in their homes with, you know, with their families. They were trying to send resources to church members or stuff, and they needed it to be digital, They needed it to be video. And it really helped if it was free. And so now that just makes sense. It's more the water we swim in now. Yeah.
David Schwab So I want to, you know, double click into that a little bit because what you were talking about is something that I think is so critical is you you saw the trend that the next generation of consumer, for lack of a better term, would be was going, like you said, the next the next generation of the people that we want to serve at our organization are digital natives, right? What do digital natives do that are different from their previous generations? Well, they're consuming content. They're going like their first place to search for something is YouTube. It's not Google. Now we're even pushing that further and saying the first place people search the next generation, the first place to search is Tok or Instagram. They don't even go to Google or YouTube anymore. So that's a different topic for a different time and maybe a different generational podcast host. But like you said, look, I'm recognizing the difference here and I think it's so important to recognize that like, hey, you recognized a difference. And to be able to approach that difference, you started something totally different. But how would you recommend or how would you approach, like if you were part of an organization that you know, has been around 20, 30, 40, 50 years, They've got some deeply ingrained processes. They think they know who they're talking to and they're like, I need to go reach this next generation, maybe not next generation of donor, but like I don't want my services to stop being useful or stop being found just because we're communicating to an older generation. How would you recommend someone in that seat starting to think about or figure out where that next generation is and how to start producing content or things for their needs?
David Bowden Yeah, that's a really good question. It's a it's a big question. I think that we weren't trying to reach the next generation. That wasn't our goal. We were trying to create resources that did two things. One, that gave us an outlet to explore and express everything we were learning about. A different way to read your Bible. And we were we were just dying to get that information out. And I process when I create. And so, like, I've I've written a couple of books now, and the reason I wrote them was I was like, I need an excuse to study this for a year and write about it, like, because I just need to process. And so in the same way, I was like this new, different way to read your Bible. So interesting to me. I really want to explore how to do that. And the other thing was I want to make stuff that I want to watch and that my friends want to watch. And so we were making it for us and like, you know, if we'll enjoy it and if we will ingest it, then other people should too. So that was like a big thing. So in the situation you set up with the like more like old hat kind of organization that has standard practices and like has a way of doing things and they're trying to reach a different generation. I would probably bring those kinds of people in and say, How are you engaging with this kind of mission, you know, and get them to be a part of the conversation and create with them, Not for them, I think would be a really helpful way to do that, because that's what we did, we made with our generation, you know, and that made it for our generation. Right. And I think there's just also the idea, But it's a little different cause we're a content organization like our our exempt purpose is to make stuff, you know, And so it's a little different because you might be talking about fundraising materials or, you know, things like. That when it comes to how to engage a different generation. But for us, we're just like, man, if you just make something that's good and you like watching, it stands to reason that others will too. The one other thing that really influenced how we got where we are now in terms of our approach with video, it being live action instead of animation, having a diversity of presenters instead of one presenter kind of defraying the celebrity culture that's very prevalent inside of American evangelicalism. Like all of that was done because of relationships that we had with partners and other people in our industry. So we learned the most by partnering with people who I think traditionally would be seen as competitors, but we saw them as collaborators. So people who literally a donor might choose to give to this organization instead of us, but we don't care because if we work closer together, we're both going to get better. And so we learned a ton by working with people who literally have our same mission and we would share donors with. But by doing that, we created a better resource and different distribution partners because we weren't afraid to partner with competitors. So I think that's really important too.
David Schwab Yeah, it's there's there's a lot to unpack in that response. But I'll start with, you know, just what you talked about there is working with your competitor, right? That feels strange to say, but in the nonprofit sector, it really is true. And I can relate that back beyond just from a ministry perspective. Like, I got my career started in fundraising and when I was starting, we called it network Fundraising, where you worked with a local organization that has a delivery process that's very common all across the country, and so you're able to get economies of scale. So we did this with food banks and homeless shelters and organizations like that where we could say, okay, yes, your the way you deliver is unique. The way you work is unique, and your audience and the people you serve are unique. But also the fundamental way that you're delivering your service is the same. And when you work together, you're able and this was this was in the context of fundraising rather than delivering content. But very similarly, you know, when you work together, even though, sure, you might be vying for the same donor dollar, you're also able to exponentially grow the way that you're able to impact the people you're serving, which is ultimately the goal. The reason that your organization is there in the first place is to deliver more value to the people you're serving. And so I love that you touched on that and talked about how, like you went to organizations that would have traditionally been seen as competitors. And I think those organizations probably valued the fact that you were you were coming to them to to learn and to collaborate.
David Bowden Yeah. And we've made I mean, those of those are still like our best friends and best like partners. Even though we are technically competitors, we've both increased in like our excellence, our reach because we're working together. And I think you have to, especially in the nonprofit space, we have to get comfortable with, are we trying to fix a problem, address an issue, or are we trying to grow a brand or a company? And it's like in the nonprofit space, we're trying to fix something that's broken. And if other people are doing that too, we should not see them as competitors. They're doing the same mission as us. Let's do it together. I think it's so important.
David Schwab Right, right. Partners, partners in a mission, yes.
Yeah, partners in mission. And in my experience, that has only increased people's, like, donor's trust in what we're doing. Like we've not suffered financially because we've been generous with others. Like that's just, I don't think that's how the world works. So it's been really good for us.
David Schwab Yeah, I think conventional wisdom tells us we need to be stingy or protective of our resources, but more and more I'm seeing the more generous, the more that you can give away, the more that you can let go and de-protect, that's probably a wrong word, but the more that you can let go of your resources and the more that you can give away, whether it's to the people you serve, to your customers or to other organizations that are doing maybe the same thing you are, the more success you're going to have. It reminds me of another guest we had on the podcast a few weeks ago, Beth Fischer from Meltwater Trotter Ministries. They are starting this style where, you know, in they had several, for lack of a better term, competitors in and around their organization. And they looked and said, you know, what would a for-profit company do if they were working and vying for the same market share with organizations that did something relatively similar. So in this case, a donor would choose, I'm going to go here or here. They started looking at go, Well, we're all doing the same thing and we all offer complementary but progressive services to the people we actually intend to serve. So why don't we just work? Together under one umbrella. So that way the donor doesn't have to choose between us or them. So a little different than what you're doing. But also it reminded me of what they're doing there. So I think that's really cool.
David Bowden Yeah. Also very similar though, like we're we're even those relationships are moving into exploring that like, you know, Have you ever heard of the term Collective Impact Alliance?
David Schwab I haven't heard of the term, but I think it's probably what we're talking about.
David Bowden Yeah. And it's like, man, let's not make people choose like, we're doing the same thing. Let's do it together and let's let's let donors give to one big problem that lots of organizations are trying to solve. So, like, we're exploring that with friends right now.
David Schwab That's really cool. That may be I may have you back as you're exploring that, just to unpack that specific idea and how that's working. I don't think we have the time for that today. You created content that you wanted to produce, that you wanted to consume, to reach the type of people that you wanted also to consume your content because they needed it just like you needed it. Reminds me of a story one of our founders, Justin Wheeler, always tells. He before he was the founder of Fundraise, he had started a couple nonprofits and one of them being an organization that had a predominantly teenage donor base, which is strange in the world of fundraising because the predominant donor is 65 plus, and at that time it was like 65 plus direct mail. I'm going to write a check to give to your organization. And when he was doing this, their primary donor ended up being, you know, 15, 16 year old high school students. And he geared everything he did at that organization to be to feel like a grassroots effort that was honorable by that audience. And so you talking about how you produce the content that you wanted to consume and having that be what became valuable to your your audience reminded me of of that story of how he built his effort naturally around the people that he wanted to invite in. And I promise I'm going to make it a point with this, but something that I've been I've been mulling about a lot is as we make the shift from maybe, you know, content management to thinking about fundraises is inviting your donors into the fundraising process like what you were talking about, inviting the people you want to reach into your content production process. But thinking about donors specifically is inviting donors into the fundraising process. So if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to unpack this a little with you. Like how would you approach thinking it from this way? Like if you wanted to produce a fundraising appeal and you wanted it to be valuable for your donors, what would you do? How would you approach engaging donors in a way to produce a fundraising appeal that felt natural and felt authentic to them?
David Bowden Yeah, I think the question like is aiming towards a specific kind of answer, and it's like, I almost have to redirect the question itself a little bit to say, what do my donors find valuable? Like, like, I don't even like calling them that. Like there are partners in making this happen. So it's like, what? What do they find valuable right now? What are their desires? Why do they care about Spoken Gospel? Why do they care about this mission? Why are they giving and listening to them and understanding what they find valuable? And, you know, usually that's what we find valuable, too. And it's like that's where if you got the Venn diagram of what we and our mission are focused on and what our partners and donors are focused on, and you do an overlap, that center is what I would base our appeals around because people will give to what they're passionate about. And like so much of our donor base are just people using our resources. And we hear the story of like, I started using your resources and it was feeding me and, you know, my spiritual walk so much that I decided I should probably give back since you guys were giving so much to me. And that's the relationship. And so I think we would want to build a fundraising appeal around what's going to add value to our partners lives and they're on mission, too, in their life. They're on mission. How do we help them be on mission with us? And so we often like so we just had to redo the website or we've got a big project coming up with the Bible app, you version for Holy Week, the eight days leading up to Easter, and we're going to start experiencing like tens of thousands of new users coming to our website. And our website wasn't built for that. And so we've had to redo it. And that that came with a price tag that was kind of outside of our annual budget. And so what I did was I thought about people in our already giving community that are passionate about missions, evangelism, technology, things like that, that I know that they care about great websites, I know they care about service, eye tracking, I know they care about cybersecurity. I know that they care about, you know, bringing people who don't typically read the Bible into a good Bible reading experience. And I reached out to like seven people. And just told them the need. Then the whole website budget was funded in like two days because it's a story they care about. And we had a we had that story and I just talked to them as individuals. I didn't send a mass email and I'm talking about like we had to do a pretty big race, but I didn't do a mass email. I didn't do a big campaign. I talked to people, you know, face to face, video chat, you know, And it's like that kind of knowing who you're partnering with, speaking them directly and bringing them into a mission that they're already passionate about, I think is what the whole mission donor relationship should be like. So I don't know if that answers your question, but that's kind of how I view things.
David Schwab Yeah, that is exactly the perfect answer to a question, to the question I was asking. And it, it it reminds me, my friend Andrew Olson, he now is with a new organization and he's been in the fundraising space for so long, decades in the fundraising space, and has continued to run into issues with doing what you were doing. Like, Hey, as an organization, we have a chance to do something like once in a lifetime opportunity for our organization, but we need to be able to scale to reach the impact. Oh, but it's not in our annual budget, so we're just going to let it go away.
David Bowden Or it's.
David Schwab Going to like, oh, that actually that budget comes from a different vertical, so I'm not going to spend my time investing in it, even though it's ultimately going to pay dividends for the people we serve and for our organization. And so he he started as an entirely different type of agency, specifically to help organizations do what you were just talking about, authentically building relationships with donors. And I think it's so it's so cool to hear you talk about that and how you were able to, one, know your donor base well enough or your support or your partner base well enough to know, like, Hey, I can go invite these handful of of partners into what we're about to do with a relatively high degree of confidence that we can deliver on what we need to do, because I know they're passionate about this. So I'm going to I'm going to ask a probing question here. How have you prioritized building those relationships with donors? So when you faced this type of big challenge that you had no way to foresee, you knew who to go talk to?
David Bowden Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, and the answer is we don't take our partners for granted, right? Like when when people give to us financially. So often I'm sending them an email as the executive director, I'm sending them an email and it's usually a video message that I'm sending thanking them and then sending them a little calendly link to set up a meeting. If they want to chat, I want to hear their story. I want to know why they gave. I want to know, you know, what they like about spoken gospel, what they wish was better. And that feedback loop is so important. And then I actually get to know the people that are making my job and the accomplishment of this mission possible. I think like if you don't have that priority as a fundraiser or in my case as the leader of of a nonprofit, something is very off because it's like those are the people that are making it possible. They're on mission with you and you need to treat them somehow as part of the team and you have to have a feedback loop. You have to know why they gave, you know, like what they want to see happen or else you're never going to be able to be responsive enough to be able to make those kinds of asks. And you're just you're not honoring them as a person and as a donor. You're just it's like another just number across your screen. So I think for me, it's just like honoring the human on the other side of the gift is really, really important. And it's only ever improved our mission. We've we've learned so much about what we're doing right, what we're doing wrong. We've we've realized that, oh, my gosh, so many of our donors are actually coming through our podcast, not through what we what we spend more of our budget on, like our big video introductions. Although more donors come from there, we're like, Oh my goodness, So many of our most passionate donors are podcast listeners that don't really watch the videos, man. We need to make sure they feel honored and seen and know that their what they're contributing to. And we wouldn't have known that without having conversations and without learning about people's past and passions. I'm not going to know that they would really love to invest and have the opportunity to invest in a new website, But when they're presented with that, they're like, center, my bullseye, thank you. Because they are on mission too and they want the opportunity to do that. So I just to answer your question shortly, I just high priority on knowing our donors is what sets that kind of success up.
David Schwab Understanding and knowing that there is a human behind a gift is making a difference to your organization.
David Bowden Go figure.
David Schwab Yeah it it connects. I've been saying this for years is that it is time in the nonprofit sector that, like, we can no longer look at donors as an ATM. Donors are investors and they're not like at some point in an organization's life cycle. Sure, you're donors may be giving specifically because of who you are or who they know, like they may be investing in you. But there is a threshold that every organization reaches in their growth where... And you want it to be this way. Your donor is not giving to you. They're not giving, like a donor is not giving to Spoken Gospel. They're giving to your mission. If you're mission, if you're if you're a homeless shelter, they're giving to get that person off the street for that night. If they're if you're a food bank, they're giving to feed that family for a month. If you're a humanitarian relief organization, they're giving to impact the people who have been like who who have been impacted by that disaster. If you're a ministry, they're giving to share the message that you have with your audience. And I think it's so, so incredible to hear the fact that you as a leader and you as an organization have taken the the big first step in prioritizing, not just the understanding that they're investing in your mission and giving to your mission rather than to you, but also taking the time to understand who they are and what they care about. So that way you're able to turn around and go, Hey, we have this really awesome opportunity. We can't do it unless we have people like you lean in and I know you care specifically about this thing. Like I can probably count on two fingers the number of organizations I know that could call someone up and say, Hey, I know you care about cybersecurity and I need I need funding for this because we have this really big awesome project. To know your donors that intimately, to know your your partners that intimately is is really cool.
David Bowden And what's amazing about that is we also get to actually treat them as full people. So like it allows you to not just come to them when you need money. Like we go to people when we need advice in their area of expertise, right? When we need them to like, check out how our servers are set up for international distribution or like, yeah, any number of of needs you might have. It's like you have people inside of your donor pool that have more to give you than money and they wish you would ask them and they wish you knew them because they want to contribute their skill and their individual gift things and passions to what you're doing. But if you don't know them, they'll never have that opportunity because you'll never know to ask for it in a mass appeal. It's not until you're in dialog with somebody that you're like, Wait, you're really good at that. Oh my gosh, we have this huge problem. Could you help us? And that's when people stop feeling like an ATM is when you stop just asking them for money. But inviting them to be on mission with you, not just through like your narrow volunteer program, but through like a holistic understanding of who they are. And this isn't rocket science. Like it's just having a 15 minute phone call with someone, right? You know, like, it's not hard. It's just you have to prioritize it and you have to see that it's valuable in order to make that jump.
David Schwab Yeah, what you're talking about a lot reminds me again of another podcast. We just had a guest, Erica Carley from Chime Charities. She has embedded this culture there where very similarly donors are people and the priority number one is understanding why a donor partners with the organization and then giving them a chance to tell their story and be thanked and be heard and be seen. I'm going to put you on the spot. You may not have this number right, right on the top of your head, but do you know what your donor retention rate is right now?
David Bowden Yeah, right. I think we're at and we're a younger organization. We're not even five yet, but I think we're at two years and three months right now.
David Schwab Mm hmm. So the majority of your donors have been with you at least half for just about half of the time. Your entire your organization's been around, which is. Yeah, that's phenomenal, because where I was going with that is, you know, Erica has led charities to a point where they have, you know, a like a 98, 99% donor retention rate, which is just unheard of in in an industry where good is 50%.
David Bowden Oh, wow. Yeah.
David Schwab And the only way to to break the cycle, the downward cycle that the industry is in is understanding this critical fact that donors are people and they're investors and they they want to be part of your mission and they may not have the time, the talent or the resources to do what you do, but they have a way to invest in the end cause.
David Bowden Right. Yeah. Yeah, I don't know what else to add to that. It's just true.
David Schwab Yeah. So I'm going to shift gears a little bit, dig in a little deeper on fundraising, because I know you talked a little bit about, you know, how you founded you got some major donors and and foundations to invest early on. You've grown. Now you're doing some more of that, like mass market style fundraising. You're starting to I know you guys are starting to get into that. But one of the things that I really I found really interesting is that. Before you went from major donor and foundation straight into mass market, you prioritized building a pool of recurring, giving recurring givers, monthly donors or reliable recurring givers. Was this an intentional choice or just kind of fall in place for you guys?
David Bowden Yeah, it was extremely intentional. We actually had a completely different funding model before we launched our first video, and it was in talking with one of these organizations that I told you about that people would see as a competitor. And they gave us a whole day with their executive leadership team and their chairman of the board because we're very similar media bible like very similar organizations. And they gave us a whole day to just ask questions and learn best practices. And one of the things they pushed on was our funding model, and they showed us the success they had just by giving everything away for free and then offering people the opportunity to help fund the studio, basically monthly recurring giving. And so we left that meeting changing everything. And so we moved into, you know, our public launch with please consider becoming a monthly donor to help us continue to release the stuff for free as our primary call to action, because it just democratizes and empowers average ordinary people to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It's and it's like it's how we it's how we process even spending money now, you know, and I know we probably have monthly withdrawal fatigue at this point with Netflix and Internet and everything coming out. But for a lot of us, we often think about it. What it was that cost a month is now kind of how we think about things. And and so it also just kind of fits that like cultural mindset too, with how we think about description mindset. Right, Totally. And I think in even in the ministry, like in the ministry world, the Christian space people are used to giving monthly to their church or something like that. And so it fits. There's like a paradigm for it. We're used to it. And I think it also just allows like a flexibility for a lot of our partners when they want to like to pause for a month or two. If something bad happens and they need to recover, it's not like they made this huge upfront investment and they're like, and then life happens. And so we've seen that be really helpful for them too. Yeah, it was an extremely intentional decision and we've been thrilled with how that's happened and we've tried to create a goal for X percent of our budget. We want to be for monthly giving and then when we hit it, then we allow our budget to grow again through like a a major foundation gift or something. And then we start to try to grow our crowd of of monthly donors along with that. And that's kind of how we plan to grow over time.
David Schwab That's very interesting how as a leader in an organization, how has it felt having that foundation of reliable funding as you've been dreaming about the future of your organization?
David Bowden It's I mean, it's invaluable. It's just like to because it's not like again, yes, on one hand, it's amazing to know, you know, with a good degree of confidence that you've got X amount coming in month over month, you know, year over year. And it's not like, man, I hope that one foundation doesn't pull out or everything goes away. So that's huge and that's that's irreplaceable. The other side of it, though, is it's amazing. What gives me more confidence is not the monthly gifts that come in. It's that I know that there's hundreds of people inside of that group that when the bottom falls out or if something terrible happens or if an amazing opportunity comes, we're able to go to them and say, help or hey, check this out or help us process this. Like we lost a really we lost our second largest donor at the end of last year because they had a financial downturn. So their foundation had to cut a lot of their giving. And all we did was and we're talking six figures and, and all we did was we went to our monthly donors. We presented them with the real problem and they showed up and helped us cover that. And it's like so because they're people that are in with us in the mission. So it's not even just like this financial safety net, although that is huge and we call them. I talk to them every month through a video and we call them the backbone of our organization, like it holds everything together, but it's also just that relational network that is just irreplaceable. I just love being on a mission with them because they're just amazing.
David Schwab Yeah, it's awesome. Not just not just a reliable source of funding, but a veritable army of reliable supporters and people who are fully vested in what you're doing.
David Bowden Yeah.
David Schwab That's awesome. My last section here, last question for you. So you talked a lot as we focused in a lot of, you know, when you started spoken gospel, how you had a chance to sit with organizations who did what you've done. Our who who are already doing what you wanted to do. Maybe in a little bit of a different way. But you got to to go seek that counsel. Let's let's go the other way. Like you're now. You're five years in. You've been doing this for a while. You've had a lot of success. You've made a lot of mistakes. If you were sitting down with yourself now in that same capacity, like a new founder or someone who has a dream for an organization, what are two or three things you would say like, Hey, if you're going to go this route, you need to be aware of this, or you need to think about that in the same way as someone was like, Hey, you guys need to prioritize recurring giving to have a sustainable foundation. What are those two or three things you would say? Like, Hey, if you're thinking about starting an organization today, here's what I would strongly recommend. You like stage one do.
David Bowden Mm hmm. Yeah, I definitely would tell them that from day one, they need to be treating their donors like people, because I think that was something we had to learn and we would have gained so much more insight and would have brought people along the journey so much better that we would be farther along than we are now had we not felt like we had to just treat them like donors because it wasn't that we didn't want to engage them, we didn't know that we should or how to do it. And so I think just knowing like, Hey, hop on the phone at least once every six months with every one of your monthly donors and just talk to them and just hear why they give here what they're passionate about here. If there's anything else they wish they could contribute to the team and they can't yet, like talk to the people who are supporting your mission, I think would be the number one bit of advice that I would give. And then I think the other thing that I would I would talk about is find your mission like really clearly what exactly you're trying to do and do it just extremely well. You know, if you're going to build a well, you know, in in Africa, make sure it has the qualities along Djibouti, the accessibility, the political climate, everything around it that needs to actually happen to make that well, sustainable and and long lasting and then like, show people that. Well. Right. Like, people want to know that what you're doing is the best and that what you're doing is really good. And so for us as a content organization, it's a little easier where it's like we're just trying to make really good content. We're trying to, you know, kind of have like these what would be seminary level, you know, teachings on a really basic level that any Christian can understand. And that is what has made us like, really fun to work with, with other organizations is just because we're what we're doing is good. It's good stuff. And so I would just say, like, talk to your donors and whatever your mission is, do it really stinkin well. Like, just be excellent at it. If you're going to open a food pantry, make it the coolest food pantry ever. And then I think the third would be open up a feedback loop. Make sure you have a feedback loop with your end user who you're serving. Make sure you're hearing from them if what you're making is valuable. Because we did that way too late in the game and some of the stuff we're doing now, I wish our original resources had benefited from that feedback and would have made it better. So just open up that feedback loop really early on and you'll improve.
David Schwab Awesome. So one treat donors like people. Invite them into your mission to know what you're about and stay focused to that so you know what to say yes to, but more importantly what to say no to. And three coming back to number one, open up a feedback loop. Treat your partners as people. Learn what's working, learn what's not, and be able to to move and be nimble. I love it.
David Bowden Yeah.
David Schwab All right, David. Well, thank you so much. I've learned a lot. I've really enjoyed our conversation here. If our audience wants to learn more about you or Spoken Gospel, is there other than, you know, www.spokengospel.com, is there a good place for them to go check out or learn more?
David Bowden Yeah, I would say yeah it's we are actually a .com. So www.spokengospel.com is a great place to go and then if anyone out there is like a Bible reader, most likely it's possible you probably have the Bible app on your phone from our friends at YouVersion. And if you don't have that, I would download that app. It's free. Everything on it is free. It's amazing. So the Bible app just search for Bible in your app store and download it. It's amazing. Lots of free reading plans, lots of free videos, and we put our reading plans and stuff like that on there and it's probably the easiest way to work through our content. Book by book is on their platform, which again is one of those like people who should be competitors, but we just see them as collaborators. We want you to use them and support them. And so yeah, those are the two places.
David Schwab Awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time.
David Bowden Yeah, David, thanks for having me.
David Schwab Yeah.
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