Every fundraising consultant worth their salt talks these days about integrating the various available channels … most often with specific reference to the direct mail and online channels.

Meantime, the big online fundraising firms continually bombard us with data on the growth of online donations. For example, earlier this month Convio reported it had passed the $1 billion mark in online gifts for the year, compared to $608 million by the same time last year (good on ya, Convio!).

But we keep asking for more insight into the actual interplay of these two channels, and see very little data of this kind shared.

So we were absolutely thrilled — finally — to see this article by Holly Hall in this week’s Chronicle of Philanthropy. She reports data on the extent to which direct mail drives online giving. It’s from a study conducted by Campbell Rinker for Dunham & Company, a firm that works with Christian charities on fundraising.

The key finding: 37% of donors who give online say that when they receive a direct mail appeal from a charity, they use that organization’s website to actually make the contribution. Half of Gen X and Y donors do this.

Finally, some data that begins to shed light on the actual donor behavior going on with respect to these two critical channels.

One wonders how many nonprofits are able to source your online gifts accurately, so that true ROI’s can be ascribed to your fundraising efforts in each channel.

I suspect the problem with assessing cross-channel donor behavior stems in part from the division of responsibility that still exists (direct mail versus online) in many nonprofits, which is paralleled in turn (in larger nonprofits) by competing consultants.

And even if organizations have gotten over the (difficult) hump of compiling a unified giving profile of each donor (combining giving through all channels), the analysis of which communications are driving which donations through which channels is still daunting. So, we might know aggregate data (e.g., those donors using both channels give more), but we still might not know or analyze the underlying cause and effect patterns … how donors are actually responding to the multiple messages they are receiving.

This is an area where heaps more data sharing by nonprofits would be healthy.


This article was posted in: Communications, Direct mail, Fundraising analytics / data, Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing, Research.
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