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Pritcher New CEO At RKD, Kersten To Become Chairman

It is not even two weeks into January and it has already been a busy month of transitions at fundraising agencies working with nonprofits. The latest is at RKD Group in Dallas where long-time executive and founder Tim Kersten will become chairman and Chris Pritcher becomes chief executive officer.

Pritcher has 15 years of executive nonprofit marketing leadership experience and joins RKD after eight years at Merkle, Inc., where he held positions that integrated data, analytics, creative, and strategy capabilities toward significant growth and value creation. The plan is for Pritcher to not only continue to lead the agency’s creative but to also focus the firm on product development.

“We are still here to help clients solve problems as a trusted advisor,” said Pritcher. For product development, “we’ll be investing our dollars” for clients “to get a better view into their data.” That means better integration of services and then building from there. There is no immediate plan to develop a cooperative database product, he said, calling the market saturated with competitive products that can be used.

While the future of fundraising will involve implementing more artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and dynamic creative, “in reality those are just tools,” said Pritcher. For example, new systems can write copy, but Pritcher said he believes no technology can yet write copy that is personal enough for a connection to donors.

“All we are is about relationships,” he said of fundraising. The data tools help create a donor segment level to which the creative team can make connections between the charity and donors.

Multiple studies show that the sector continues to bleed donors, with acquisition and retention of first-time donors who give $100 or less the most volatile of donor silos. He believes that those donors right now are most susceptible to economic pressures such as inflation and headlines of a potential economic recession.

Pritcher was senior vice president and head of vertical markets strategy at Merkle Americas prior to joining RKD. He was a vice president at Royal and Company and a business analyst at Capital One.

Kersten is transitioning to chairman after five decades of building a firm to 475 employees located in 38 states and Canada. The firm has more than 400 clients and offices in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, and in Boston; Lincoln, Nebraska; Stoneville, North Carolina; and, Kansas City, Missouri.

Kersten was a fundraising consultant who then went to work at one of the sector’s storied firms, Grizzard, as executive creative director. He was chief creative director at TrueSense Marketing before hanging out his own shingle again launching Tim Kersten Consulting. He took a stake in and became chief executive of full-service agency Stratmark in 2011, which was rebranded as KerstenDirect in 2013.

KerstenDirect and fundraising firm LW Robbins were combined in 2014 which evolved into RKD Group. There were a few acquisitions along the way, including AlphaDog Marketing, DMI and Summit Marketing.

“RKD is known for its innovation and creativity in connecting donors with nonprofits. Chris’ perspectives will be a strong asset as we build on our success into the next chapter of charitable giving,” Kersten said via a statement.

Early January has been busy in the world of fundraising consulting. Two of the nation’s largest caging, data and technology firms serving the nonprofit sector were joined when Moore acquired Merkle Response Management Group from Merkle, Inc. It was a deal long in the making, having been rumored for more than a year. There was a reorganization of the list management division at Data Axle. And, the last of the Indianapolis acquaintances who launched fundraising platform Bloomerang in August 2012 stepped down. Ross Hendrickson turned over the chief executive officer’s corner office to Dennis Fois.