So, what comes “next after” this?
It’s a question people ask every day, whether about the next work project or the next step in life.
For Jeff Giddens, ACU Class of 2005, and two friends, the answer was in the question itself, as they formed NextAfter, a company that helps nonprofit organizations leverage conversion rate optimization to grow fundraising revenue.
After earning a degree in communication from ACU, Jeff led the digital marketing team for Mark Cuban’s television network. He got into fundraising through a family business and transitioned to the nonprofit sector, working in marketing and membership for North Texas Public Broadcasting. He then transitioned to consulting, working with a number of organizations like Compassion International, Mercy Ships, Feed the Children, and Dallas Theological Seminary, helping them grow digital fundraising programs. But in 2011, he stumbled on the concept of conversion rate optimization, which changed the course of his career.
Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is the tactic of testing to improve conversion metrics – whether that metric is revenue, transactions, average order value or retention. CRO is used commonly by high growth for-profit companies but is not well-known among nonprofits. While tech companies leverage optimization to grow revenue, often exponentially, nonprofits struggle to grow their fundraising – and grow their impact.
The idea for NextAfter came from this knowledge gap. It was while working for a fundraising agency that Jeff and his partners, Tim Kachuriak and Kevin Peters, began to realize the same optimization techniques used in the corporate world could work for nonprofits.
“Nonprofits often lack resources,” Jeff said. “That’s why optimization is so impactful – it doesn’t require many resources. It just forces you to look at things a new way: from the donors’ perspective.”
In their first optimization experiment for the George W. Bush Presidential Center, they changed one sentence of an email and saw a 42% increase in fundraising revenue.
“We were hooked,” Jeff said. “We knew we had something that would be tremendously valuable for nonprofit organizations.” Since then, they’ve run more than 1.000 fundraising experiments—and they freely share everything they have learned with the nonprofit community.
“NextAfter is not a nonprofit, but we are a cause-based organization – and our cause is generosity,” Jeff said. “The world we want to see could be created if people were more generous.”
And tapping into human nature works in their favor. “God designed us to be generous—we aren’t meant to hold onto our stuff tightly. That’s why it feels good to give—even for people who don’t have a faith,” Jeff said. “But everything in our culture tells us to get more stuff and hold onto it tightly. We have the blessing of helping more people experience the joy of giving.”
NextAfter grew quickly and was honored as one of Inc. 500’s fastest growing companies in America in 2015. In just four years, the company has grown to 13 employees spread from Vancouver, Canada, to the main office in Dallas, to Jacksonville, Florida.
Jeff, who serves as president, spoke at a TEDx session at ACU this spring on “How Optimization Can Save the World.”
Jeff and his partners count themselves lucky. They created a business that earns them a living but also gives them the feeling of making a difference in the world when they leave the office for the day. Earning a living without the “good feeling” part would not be soul-satisfying to any of them.
“The mission of any business,” Jeff said, “has to be something bigger than just making money. We get out of bed every day because we believe that optimization, applied to nonprofits, could help unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world. And that’s a cause worth working towards.”