Nten offers two new articles covering online giving: Steve MacLaughlin offers an optimistic overview, showing how online giving continues to increase despite difficult economic conditions and why an integrated (online + offline) approach is best; Rebecca Higman and Katya Andresen discuss how nonprofits can continue to engage constituents after their initial online gift, promoting recurring gifts and by remembering to thank them for their support.
Two events coming up soon: nonprofit marketing guru Kivi Leroux Miller offers an online fundraising bootcamp on Nov. 4, focusing on optimizing your web site and online donation page, targeted email marketing and using social media; her advice is always on target. If you specifically need help with email, take a look at next week’s Boston Email Fundraising Bootcamp, featuring experts such as Idealware‘s Laura Quinn and Firefly Partners‘ Maureen Wallbeoff. While social media is the hot topic of the moment, email will be with us for a long time and should be a centerpiece of your online strategy.
Asking corporate sponsors or like-minded charities to send ‘chaperoned’ e-mail messages on an organization’s behalf
Using multiple channels, e.g. social networks, video, e-mail, and text messages
Many nonprofits (including mine) raise significant revenues through athletic events, such as walks and endurance type events. But the Chronicle reports this too is also getting harder, encouraging us to provide lower-cost ways to participate, adding new types of events, encouraging more constituents to actively fundraise, and aggressively seeking more participants. This article encourages us to stay positive and seek creative approaches to stay afloat. Helping supporters to raise funds through third party events is sometimes overlooked as a further stimulus to overall fundraising.
No one knows more about usability than Jakob Nielsen; he recently tested nonprofit web sites and found that much can be done to optimize online giving. Major points:
nonprofit web sites are good at attracting new donations but less so in ‘sustaining long term donor relationships’
potential donors primarily want information on the organization’s mission, objectives and work as well as how it uses donations but few nonprofits provide this information prominently on their home page, where many constituents begin (and may end) their research
donations are discouraged by usability problems relating to page /site design and by poor content not optimized for the web
Not to my surprise, Jakob also mentioned how poorly large affiliate based organizations integrate national web sites with local chapter sites, saying that most looked ‘completely different’ from the main web pages. At my organization, we provide templates to insure some level of consistency, but there still isn’t enough coordination to insure consistency with our national site.
This report shows the value of doing actual user testing, not just asking others in your nonprofit what they think users want. Don’t wait until you’re ready to do a full web site redesign, which for many of us may not happen very often. Use inexpensive tools such as 4Q and SurveyMonkey to learn how your web site can be improved.
online giving continued to grow rapidly in 2007 & 2008, even though there were fewer natural disasters which stimulated past years’ contributions – many of us take this for granted, but online giving is still relatively small compared to direct mail giving.
online donors give larger gifts than ‘traditional’ donors but have slightly lower retention rates – why are we losing donors’ loyalty? Is it too easy to opt out of email communications?
while online giving is an important source for new donor acquisition, online donors may not be cultivated to their full potential after acquisition – this is an important point; using a ‘welcome series’ of communications works much better than simply adding someone to an email newsletter list.
online donors often migrate to other channels, especially direct mail – I’ve long advocated the value of multichannel marketing, but it’s still interesting to find out that many will start online than give offline. When I asked long term fundraising expert Michael Johnston recently to predict how much longer direct mail would survive, he confirmed that it would be quite a while yet.
direct mail donors rarely give online – so while online donors will go offline, offline donors usually won’t contribute online? This was a surprise for me.
Twenty-four nonprofit organizations participated in this study, released by Target Analytics. Interestingly, the headline of a NY Times article summarizing the study read Study Shows First-Time Online Donors Often Do Not Return. Clearly, we’re still figuring out what works but CARE’s Tobias Smith offered an interesting perspective, suggesting that we be “less worried about what channels donors use and offer them a variety of channels through which they can give.” So if anyone tells you to focus only your efforts online when seeking new constituents, remind them that it’s too early to phase out traditional methods, such as direct mail. Personally, I rarely pay much attention to direct mail, but many of our supporters still do.
DonorDigitalrecently released a report, Perfecting Your Page: Can donation page optimization boost online giving? Apparently the answer isyes. Report highlights:::
Bigger donate buttons help convert more donors
Color of donation button can also increase conversion, but not all colors will work well
Streamlining donation form by eliminating unneeded fields will increase conversions
Politeness gets better results over a forceful call-to-action when reminding constituents why donating is important
Using forceful language such as ‘Donate Now!’ doesn’t work better than simply saying ‘Submit.’
Thanks to Amnesty International, which detailed its findings in the report, which can be downloaded free from theDonorDigitalsite. They used the firmOptimostto do multivariate testing, where multiple parts of a web page are tested on a live web site. Although product was expensive, apparently the results in additional donations more than made up for the cost.
mStonerprovides an interesting look atHow Donors Use the Internet. Interestingly, success of a nonprofit’s web site can’t only be judged by the level of online donations, since many visitors will check out an organization online but continue to give offline.
Does online fundraising offer a huge opportunity for most nonprofits? Yes. Does this mean that the more traditional direct mail methods should no longer be used? No! Many other bloggers recently discussed this issue:
I agree with Seth’s point that online fundraising clearly is not meant to replace direct mail fundraising. Some people may always respond best to direct mail, while others enjoy doing everything online. The real challenge, as Seth points out, is to convert the donor to an active supporter of an organization’s cause, or who encourages others to get involved. Whether a donor gives offline or online, getting someone to get and stay engaged has the biggest benefit for our organizations.
Through a two week sample of donors in September 2007, the survey analyzed how much people give to charity in single donations and the differences between online and offline donations. Below are some of its major points (withmy comments in italics):
about 2/3 of Americans gave to charity in the past year, but only 6% gave online. This is much lower than I would have expected, but surely this will continue to grow rapidly.
convenience or speed is the top reason for giving online.This is why it’s so important to make the online donation process as simple as possible, e.g. not having too many steps and not asking for too much information.
most contributions are below $100, regardless of the method of donation.While many nonprofits focus on major gifts, it’s clear that small donations play a critical role.
on average, the online gift is about the same amount as offline gifts.This is the most surprising conclusion. At most presentations I’ve heard on this topic, online gifts are always described as being higher than offline gifts.
the most frequent response for not donating online was not having a computer or Internet access. This will change as Internet connectivity becomes more universal.
although people under 35 are more likely to make online gifts, the greatest share of Internet donors (50%) are between 35 and 54 years old. This also is a surprise, but the survey explains that more people in this age range give to charity than any other age group.
there is little difference between the percentage of men and women giving online, and little difference in the types of charities they support. This suggests that segmenting constituents by gender may not be helpful in stimulating online giving.
Why do people give? I found these ideas on a blog post entitledFundraising 101:
They believe you are making a difference in a cause they care about.
They value your work
They see it as an investment
They get something in return
They feel good about themselves
Returning a favor
Solving a problem
Sending a message
Receiving quality information
Aligning with peers
Bringing justice to the world
To encourage constituents to support our organizations, we need to appeal to one or several of these motivators. A compelling story with a rationale of why the donation is needed will show better results will always show better results than a general appeal.
Online approaches are particularly effective for emergency / current events related campaigns
Online giving is expected to continue to rise
Online fundraising is considerably less expensive than offline efforts
But anotherarticle by Abny Santicolapoints out that the most effective strategy is a multi-channel approach, not using just one or the other: “Numerous studies have found donors contacted via multiple channels are more valuable and give larger gifts than single-channel donors do. But analytics and match-back for integrated campaigns can be tricky because it can be hard to demonstrate how communication through one channel affected response via another.”
As I’ve posted previously, I definitely agree that using both channels together is definitely the best solution. The challenge, however, is to get different parts of an organization working together that are accustomed to working separately. This will only happen if those who are responsible for online strategies also recognize the benefits of integrating offline campaigns which clearly still have much to offer in raising funds and engaging constituents.