Just released today is this excellent report on online giving from Network for Good and TrueSense Marketing.

From the Executive Summary:

  1. The study covers $381 million in online giving through Network for Good’s platform, including 3.6 million gifts to 66,470 different nonprofits from 2003-2009.
  2. The online giving experience has a significant impact on donor loyalty, retention, and gift levels. The more intimate and emotionally coherent the giving experience, the stronger the relationship between donor and nonprofit appears to be. In other words, online fundraising is all about relation-ships, as it is in offline fundraising.
  3. Personality matters. The loyalty factor for donors acquired through generic giving pages is 66.7% lower than for donors who give via charity-branded giving pages.
  4. Analysis of cumulative online giving (i.e., giving added up over time) via different pages powered by Network for Good shows that donors who gave via charity websites started at the highest level and gave the most over time. Those who used giving portals started lower and gave less over time. Those who used social giving opportunities gave the least initially and added little afterward.
  5. Recurring giving is a major driver of giving over time and should be strongly encouraged in the giving experience.
  6. Online giving spikes during the month of December and large-scale disasters. During disasters, donors are more likely to consider new giving options, while in December they are more likely to give based on relationships with the charities.

The report is so full of nuggets that I scarcely know where to begin. But the major theme is that online giving is as much about forming and cultivating donor relationships as any other form of fundraising. In that context, I’m struck by the second point in the following finding:

“The average size of online gifts is falling and is attributable to two factors. First, online giving is becoming more mainstream. Early adopters to technology—who tended to be wealthier—represented a large portion of early online giving. Now, a more representative group of donors is giving online.

Second, the recent rise of portal giving and social network giving has pulled down average and median gifts online: When giving was analyzed by specific venue, charitable websites showed a less dramatic drop than when social networking sites were included.” [Echoing the ‘personality’ point made in #3 above.]

The study makes this observation:

Nonprofits should not conclude that giving portals and social networking charity sites are a bad thing. They are a valuable service to donors, and they’re proliferating. They likely funnel gifts to organizations that wouldn’t have received them otherwise. They also probably serve as an “entryway” or “on-ramp” for people who are new to charitable giving or your cause.

I’m not as sanguine. My view … fine, exploit them. But anything that gets in the way of establishing a direct relationship with your donor as quickly as possible is problematic. Get around it!

This is a must read piece of analysis.

Tom

P.S. Do you know where you’re online fundraising team is right now?! Like every other bit of online giving analysis I’ve seen, this study underscores the importance of Super-December … 33% of all online giving occurs in December. Indeed, judging from their chart, it looks like 70% or more of December’s gifts arrive in the last half of the month.

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