Why we created the Nonprofit Innovation and Optimization Summit

First, let me apologize for the length of this—there is just so much I wanted to share with you and I knew you would appreciate it much more if I gave you the “full story.”

So, here it goes…

The conference that changed my life

About seven years ago, I experienced something that changed my life—or at the very least, the direction and velocity of my career.

It was springtime and I was in Miami, FL attending my very first MECLABS Email Optimization Summit. Being a seasoned marketer, I went into the conference with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder—I figured I knew most of this stuff and was just going to brush up on some skills, and maybe head back to Dallas with one new idea to try.

But that’s not what happened.

In the first 15 minutes of the opening Keynote, I was introduced to something that transformed the way that I thought about marketing. It was called “optimization.” Now, I had heard the term before, and even used it to describe things that I was doing, but what I quickly discovered is that most of my “optimization strategies” were nothing more than regurgitated “best practices.”

Getting past best practices

Now, don’t get me wrong—best practices are important. But what I’ve come to realize is that best practices are only a starting place, not the ultimate destination. What I mean is, I needed some way to push past the good results I was getting with best practices to the (more difficult to attain) great results that I wanted. And that’s what this conference was all about! Every speaker was laying out a systematic, scientific framework for testing and optimization so that I could push past good and achieve greatness.

So, being one of those types of people that can’t walk out of a store with a new toy without ripping it out of the package, I decided to run my first test before I even headed for home.

My very first test

At the time, I was working with the George W. Bush Presidential Center here in Texas and we were charged with doing all of the digital donor acquisition for their $300 million campaign to build the presidential library in Dallas. And our initial efforts were producing good results—very good results. Which in retrospect, makes what I did so much more gutsy (or stupid?).

You know, when you have something that is working well, human nature is to do everything you can to not mess it up. Well, I decided to do the opposite. I phoned in my very first official “experiment” from the floor of the conference. As it happened to be, we had an email going out that very day to 200,000 prospects. So, I had my team randomly split the list into two segments and we sent out an A/B split test. The control version of the email (Version A) was working so well that my client was actually reluctant to run the test. But after much discussion, we weighed the potential outcomes and felt that the upside was worth the risk. Now, being a pragmatist, to mitigate the risk of killing the campaign entirely, the new “treatment” (Version B) that we created based on the knowledge I was learning at the conference included only one little change—to the very last line of copy. Our thinking was that changing one sentence couldn’t make that big of a difference.

Boy, were we wrong!

In our A/B test, the new treatment (Version B) produced a 141% increase in clickthrough and a 42% increase in revenue!

So at that very moment, I was hooked. I realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life optimizing things. And not just anything—but online fundraising. I began to think about what optimization could mean for our industry—but even more importantly—for our world! And not just because nonprofits would have more resources to do more good—but because I thought if we optimized giving, we could inspire more people to experience the blessing of generosity. And that would radically change the world.

The Nonprofit Innovation and Optimization Summit

Which brings me to the Nonprofit Innovation and Optimization Summit (or NIO, as we like to call it). In the years since that first experiment, our team has been working hard to build relationships with some of the top marketing innovators and optimizers in the world. We have tried to learn all that we can from them so that we could apply the latest innovations from the for-profit space to our work in the nonprofit space.

Then, we got to thinking. What if we brought all of them to you? What if these marketing rock stars would be willing to share some of the knowledge that they’ve acquired working with some of the largest companies on the planet with organizations that are making the planet a better place?

And that is exactly what we are doing.

This fall, we are hosting the very first Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit, September 28 – 29 in Fort Worth, TX. And I wanted to personally make sure that you are aware of all that we are doing to ensure that this event is like no other event you have ever attended in Nonprofit-dom.

For starters, we have taken painstaking effort to engineer every aspect of the agenda so you have a transformational experience (like the one I had). We have integrated Live Testing where you will have opportunities to launch experiments from the conference so that you can put into action everything you are learning in realtime. We will even have pre-conference webinars and a technology sponsor that will provide you with free access to the same tools that we use to do A/B testing in our labs. Learn more about the conference agenda here.

Second, we have recruited some incredible speakers that will inspire you, challenge you, and equip you with useful strategies, techniques, and tools that will help you to transform your digital fundraising and marketing programs. Confirmed speakers include: Flint McGlaughlin (MECLABS), Amy Harrison (HarrisonAmy Copywriting), Michael Aagaard (Unbounce), Dr. Lee Colan (The L Group), Marcus Sheridan (The Sales Lion), Matt Bailey (Site Logic Marketing)—and many others! Learn more about the conference speakers here.

Third, we have chosen a non-traditional venue. The conference site is at Stockyards Station—an indoor Western-themed town in the heart of the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. This will be a “jeans and boots” conference so you can leave the business attire at home and be prepared to get your hands dirty optimizing your fundraising programs. Learn more about the conference venue here.

Finally, we have planned some unconventional networking opportunities so that you can develop lifelong friendships with fellow nonprofit innovators. We have rented out Billy Bob’s—the World’s Largest Honky Tonk for our party. This will round-out your Texas two-step experience with mechanical bull riding, armadillo races, team pig-penning, and of course some good old fashioned “boot scootin.” Learn more about all the fun and games here.

I really hope you will consider joining us for this one-of-a-kind event. Tickets are on sale now, and if you get yours before July 22nd, you can get in on the Early Bird Rate. As always, feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions. I’ll answer every email you send me — just click this link.

Thanks for all that you are doing to inspire generosity.



TimKachuriak Tim Kachuriak
Chief Innovation & Optimization Officer