Two recent studies, one from Blackbaud and one from Merkle, put online fundraising’s share of giving in perspective. Merkle, looking at large nonprofits, gave online 15% of the direct response fundraising pie, while Blackbaud, looking more broadly at all charitable giving (with online giving from 5,000+ organizations), gave online fundraising  7.2% of the total charitable giving pie.

In the case of Blackbaud, their measurement showed online giving increased 7.9% in 2016 over the previous year, while overall giving grew about 1%. [Roger drew some warnings from the Blackbaud report here.]

As a reference point, three years ago, in 2013, a huge year for increased giving, Blackbaud, looking then at 4000+ nonprofits, reported that online grew 13.5% and overall giving grew 4.9%. And at that time online giving represented 6.4% of all charitable giving. Thus an increase in the pie from 6.4% to 7.2% between 2013 and 2016.

So clearly, the volume in giving is still coming overwhelmingly from traditional channels.

This led Jeff Brooks, in Online giving a big deal … but not THAT big, to caution “…you’d have to be nuts to walk away from traditional giving channels”.


Yet, as I browse the fundraising ‘trades’ and blogs, it seems that online giving significantly ‘hogs’ the airtime and column inches.

And so when studies like these appear, I’m actually surprised that online isn’t capturing more of the pie by now. It make me wonder what attribution rules individual nonprofits are applying to their gifts — e.g., how is a gift attributed that is transacted online but stimulated by a direct mail piece? I suspect that nonprofits are applying a wide range of ‘business rules’ (or none) to categorize their donations.

Merkle’s 2017 Nonprofit Digital Benchmark Report is more focused, looking at online practices at 79 nonprofits with annual revenue of $10 million or more. On average, these large nonprofits devote 16.2% of their overall direct response budgets to online fundraising, and 7.5 employees to run their online program.

How does this online vs. traditional balance play out in your nonprofit in terms of dollars, staff time and mind share invested?

Clearly you must master the online channel, but are you over-enthused in your commitment to online fundraising … in danger of being ‘nuts’, as Jeff would put it, and neglecting traditional channels?


P.S. While granting that it looked at a select sample of larger nonprofits, the Merkle report nevertheless contains some useful stats that you might want to compare to your own organization. For example, 43% of their website visitors came from a mobile device, 2.5% of website visitors went on to make a donation on the site and, for these organisations, the average annual value of an email subscriber was $7.71.


This article was posted in: Direct mail, Fundraising analytics / data, Integrated fundraising and marketing, Mobile marketing and fundraising, Online fundraising and marketing.
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