Since last August, Dalton Fuqua at Craver, Mathews, Smith & Company has been systematically monitoring the online communications streams of fifty nonprofits — a broad range including advocacy groups of all persuasions, educational institutions and health/medical organizations.

He's been looking for interesting practices, patterns, innovations, trends, etc.

I've had a peek at his findings and was struck by one in particular.

Of the fifty organizations with which he registered online, using a nom de plume, ONLY FOUR experimented with contacting him in the mail.

So why is that a big deal?

Because the evidence is mounting that online prospects (including those who have signed-up online for a non-donating purpose … e.g., petition signing and e-newsletters) are quite responsive to direct mail appeals. Personally, I've seen e-petition names significantly outperform historically best-performing direct mail rental lists.

Target Analysis Group makes this important “migration” point in its recent Internet Giving Benchmarking Analysis (see this Agitator post on their study):

“… a substantial portion of online donors migrate steadily to direct mail in lieu of online giving as they continue to renew and support the organization.”

Across their study group (12 organizations), a median of 46% of online-acquired donors gave via direct mail in their renewal year.

Can I guarantee this will be every group's experience? No, the data, as consistent as it is, is still limited. And, as TAG points out, groups vary considerably in how they have gone about mixing the two channels.

But, if it holds, this is a pattern of huge importance to nonprofit fundraisers. At the very least, each organization with any significant online fundraising experience (or even just a sizable email file) should be testing the proposition for yourself. By keeping donors segregated by channel for fundraising purposes, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table.

I'm prepared to bet that truly integrated direct fundraising programs, smartly combining online with direct mail (and even telemarketing) appeals & cultivation, will outperform any “silo” programs. Of course this means your online folks and your direct mail folks need at least talk to each other (and preferably, be organizationally integrated)!

Not testing this important possibility is a cardinal sin. And if you're leaving money on the table as a consequence, you oughta be fired.

This article was posted in: Online fundraising and marketing.
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