Is Online Fundraising Really “Growing”?
Probably. Very likely. Almost certainly. OK, definitely.
But maybe not as much as various studies seem to indicate.
Philanthropy Journal has kindly assembled in one convenient post three of the best reports on trends in online fundraising …
- Convio, estimating 27% growth in median dollars raised from 2005 to 2006;
- M+R Strategic Services and the Advocacy Institute, estimating 40% in average amount raised from 2003-04 to 2004-05; and,
- DonorDigital and the Target Analysis Group, estimating the three-year cumulative growth rate in online donors at 101%.
But most groups are raising most of their online dollars from existing donors. Some of these folks are simply switching giving channels, from mail to online. So we continue to wonder: how much of this online giving is really new, incremental money and how much is merely substitutional … in other words, cannibalizing direct mail?
Has anyone dared to calculate that proportion for their organization or their fundraising clients?
[Of course the prerequisite for doing the analysis is that the direct mail folks and the online fundraising folks need to be talking to each other.]
Convio is zeroing in on the issue. In this recent study of one of their clients, SPCA of Texas, they found that donors engaged via both online and direct mail channels did indeed give at higher rates. Their most pertinent conclusion: “Dual-Channel donors gave as much through offline sources as offline-only donors, indicating that the online channel does not cannibalize revenue from direct mail.”
Hats off to Convio for an excellent piece of analysis (though I'd quarrel a bit over whether offering dual channels “creates” more committed donors or whether more committed donors are simply more likely to utilize both channels when available). Given the stakes, much more analysis of this sort needs to be done.
If you run fundraising at your nonprofit and don't replicate this kind of testing and analysis in your shop, you oughta be fired.