The Agitator’s Week in Review. This was a week that began and ended with drama and suspense. In Washington, D.C. “The Bailout” which went down in flames on Monday rose from the ashes on Friday amidst a torrent of fear and loathing on Main Street. In between, in St. Louis, millions glued their attention to the one and only Vice Presidential Debate.WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 29, 2008MONDAY: Direct Response TV Lessons. Tom’s often wondered why animal welfare and protection agencies don’t also follow the most consistently successful nonprofit fundraisers using DRTV — the child sponsor agencies like Save the Children, Worldvision, and Christian Children’s Fund. In the online era, DRTV can offer multiple impulse response options, not just 1-800 numbers, and Tom sets forth reasons why “online DRTV” offers perhaps limitless opportunities. He notes a recent DMNews article reviewing the status of DRTV, with a very informative focus on the ASPCA and its masterful use of the medium. Well worth a read.TUESDAY: Latest Fundraising Stats: Read ‘Em and Weep! This week Target Analytics released its Index of Fundraising Performance for the first half of 2008. Fewer than one third (31%) of the organizations in the index had positive donor growth in the first half of 2008 – a continuation of the declining trend over the past 2.5 years. Revenue per donor continued to increase with 68% of the organizations in the index showing an increase. AND… despite the increase in per donor revenue, when adjusted for inflation, real revenue has actually declined a cumulative -5.8% in the past three years. The economic uncertainties of 2008 aren’t helping, but these trends have been occurring for the past three years. Whatever sector your organization operates in, take a moment to read Target Analytics summary of acquisition and retention trends in your sector.WEDNESDAY: Online Fundraising – Prez Candidate Style. Candidates McCain and Obama are aggressively using paid search word buys to court prospective supporters. As Tom reports, the concept is pretty straightforward, but execution can be complex. This Ad Age article describes the process in some detail as employed by the McCain campaign, which gets the nod for being more ambitious and sophisticated. The same techniques are available — and apply — to online prospecting (and persuasion messaging) by nonprofits. Note that these “paid search” tactics represent proactive, affirmative outreach (going where the fish are), as compared to “search engine optimization” which is all about crafting your website so as to attract search traffic passively (hoping the fish will swim to you). How many nonprofit online fundraisers are up to this level of sophistication? Please send some examples to share.THURSDAY: Is Email Dead? Or Just Dying? Just when online fundraisers are beginning to get a handle on email fundraising (testing customization, subject lines, etc), a new challenge is raising its head. Large numbers of netizens are abandoning their traditional email and choosing instead to message directly via their social networking sites. It’s like having cell phone users disappearing from your outbound telemarketing lists! Says Nicholas Einstein of Datran Media, writing in DMNews and citing new data from Jupiter Research: “… the rapid adoption of social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace has transformed the way many consumers interact on the Web. Some customer segments, especially younger ones, now spend an increasingly large percentage of their online time on these sites and primarily use them to communicate with their peers. These same consumers, according to a recent report from JupiterResearch, are apparently spending less time in their e-mail inbox and may be paying less attention to the messages they receive there. This shift is causing some to question, perhaps prematurely, the future of e-mail as the dominant social networking tool.Ah … relevance! How many times do fundraisers need to hear this word?! Whatever the medium, relevance is what makes the world go round. This is why the adage is right: A poorly crafted message sent to right audience might work. But the perfectly crafted message to the wrong audience doesn’t stand a chance.FRIDAY: Online Fundraising on MySpace. With 120 million users, MySpace has teamed up with PayPal to introduce a fundraising widget for individual and nonprofit members to use on their MySpace sites. They seem to be promoting it to celebrities to create some buzz. Here’s an example of the widget singer Hilary Duff is using to raise funds for St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital. Her MySpace widget has raised $8,885 so far. Nothing released yet as to how much money overall is actually being raised via the MySpace platform. But with the sheer user scale of MySpace, Facebook and others, the use of personal fundraising widgets will certainly proliferate. Our own DonorTrends survey indicates that while fully 58% of “Newbies” (those born after 1964) have personal web pages, only 3% so far use personal fundraising “badges” or widgets on their sites. To the degree these tools are adopted by younger folks, apart from any immediate $$ results, they are helping to “train” a new generation of donors. That’s terrific in itself.Your Weekend Bonus. It’s no coincidence that this week’s Agitator content focuses on new media/online innovation and experimentation. For the eighth consecutive time in nearly three years the Index of Fundraising Performance makes clear that ‘business-as-usual’ approaches in traditional direct response fundraising are producing declining results. Alternatives have to be found. And some of those alternatives are likely to spring from the world of online fundraising and communications. In the near future we will release our DonorTrends “Status of Online Giving in America”. A lot of change has occurred since our first study in 2006. Here are just 5 reasons why we’re paying close attention to the emerging trends in online giving:

  1. The pace of online giving has significantly increased – an estimated 31% in the past two years alone. In 24 months giving has moved from the hundreds of millions to well above a billion, no matter what source is doing the estimating.
  2. Donors giving more than $100 per year are disproportionately online donors, and this propensity increases sharply as giving amounts increase. 82% of those giving more than $1000 a year to charities, causes or campaign give online.
  3. In our current study we found intriguing racial and ethnic signals about online giving. For example 59% of Hispanic respondents are online donors; 92% of African-American respondents contributed online, topped by 92% of Asian-American respondents. NOTE: We will conduct additional inquires on racial and ethnic trends to confirm these findings. But if these early signals are correct the future of online giving is bright indeed because these groups will soon represent the majority of Americans.
  4. The sharp growth in online giving has occurred across all age groups and non-profit categories. Despite a tendency of some to write Seniors out of the online fundraising equation the most impressive growth has occurred among older donors.
  5. We found that the existence of a thriving interpersonal online fundraising network is hugely important for the future. With nearly 60% of donors born after 1964, with 25% of donors born between 1946 and 1964, and at least 25% of those born before 1946 visiting such sites, the platform is taking shape for a far more online distributed form of grassroots fundraising — the coming Web 3.0 of fundraising.

True, Postage and Telephone still dominate, but The Mouse is gaining.Have a great weekend.Roger