- As printed in our regular column in Westchester Business Journal -

Actionable insights from donor experiences with online giving


Online giving is 7.6 percent of total fundraising, according to the 2010 Online Giving Report released by Blackbaud Inc. (blackbaud.com), and grew 34.5 percent in 2010 over 2009.

More important than sheer numbers is how to improve a donor’s online giving experience to create committed and loyal donors.

At the end of 2010, Network For Good, a nonprofit that provides an online platform for people to donate money to nonprofits, as well as an engine for nonprofits to process online donations (www.networkforgood.org), released a study performed in conjunction with TrueSense Marketing about online giving trends. A free copy can be downloaded at www.onlinegivingstudy.org.

The study covers seven years (2003-2009) and $381 million in online giving by 1,879 million unique donors to 66,470 nonprofits of varying sizes and types. The study aimed to create indexes that measured the value and long-term prospects of donors.

The findings only capture data from giving platforms powered by Network For Good. Still, they are a useful jumping off point to highlight strategic steps you can take to maximize fundraising resources and achieve your targets.

It’s still about relationships

The study found that the more intimate and emotionally coherent the online giving experience, the stronger the donor relationship and the greater loyalty, retention and gift levels.

How would your donors rate their online giving experience to your organization? Is it easy to navigate? Are you clearly communicating your mission, message and compelling need? Is urgency a factor? Are you expressing appreciation and offering multiple ways donors can become involved?

Consider generating an immediate thank you e-mail response for online donations from your board president, in addition to any automated gift receipt your system sends.

Branding and messaging are key

The study found that more online giving occurs on a nonprofit’s branded website (64.1 percent) than generic giving portals like GuideStar (25.5 percent) or social network giving (10.4 percent).  Donors on branded websites start with larger gifts and give more over time (38 percent more than through generic portals).

Good branding triggers an emotional connection with donors so make sure your website is up-to-date and powerfully communicates your mission and message. Then, reach out to donors coming to you through generic portals and social networks.

Offer a recurring gift option

Ten percent of the online donors in the study gave recurring gifts; 80 percent of those gifts were monthly. It is easy to capitalize on this type of donor by adding a monthly giving choice to your donation page with compelling examples of what a gift at various levels can do for your organization.

Gear up early

Consistent with offline giving, the study found one-third of all online giving occurs in December, with 22 percent on the last two days of the year. Capture this giving spike with powerful and repeated messaging in December, culminating with a final blast on Dec. 31.

Also, create a plan to connect and reengage these last-minute donors in the first quarter.

Social networking sites

The study focused on initial gift amounts and cumulative giving over time as indicators of the strength of donor relationships. Because ties between nonprofits and social network donors (e.g. Facebook Causes) are traditionally looser than other forms of online giving, social networks produced smaller initial gifts and smaller increases over time than other online giving platforms (the exception being disaster relief and friend-to-friend fundraising on personal health issues).