Home Study: Non-profits Missing Major Online Fundraising Opportunities

Study: Non-profits Missing Major Online Fundraising Opportunities

According to a new report just released by Convio, Edge Research, and Sea Change Strategies, an out-dated approach to online fundraising may be costing charities as much as $100 billion. Because few large donations are made via the web, some charities feel that large donors are not active online, but the results of the study, which surveyed 3,000 donors from 23 major non-profit organizations, challenges that notion. The so-called “wired wealthy” are indeed active online, says the report, and very generous.

The “wired wealthy” as defined by the report are people who give at least $1,000 per year to a single cause, who average $10,896 in donations per year to charities, and have a median gift size of $4,500.

“The main theme that jumped out at us is that major donors — or the wired wealthy as we call them — are very active online with the intention of becoming even more so when it comes to their philanthropic support,” said Vinay Bhagat, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer for Convio in a press release. “Based on what these important donors told us, we believe a tremendous opportunity exists for nonprofit organizations to better leverage their online presence to improve the online experience of the wired wealthy.”

Convio, Edge, and Sea Change expect that the results of their research will change the way some charities approach online fundraising. Specifically, they found that more than half of those surveyed preferred giving online, and 80% said they did at least some of their donating via the Internet (and a good portion do it via credit card to get the frequent flier miles). That’s imporant because even though the “wired wealthy” made up just about 1% of donors to the charities involved in the study, they accounted for approximately 32% of their annual gifts.

Unfortunately for charities, less than half of respondents thought charity web sites were generally well-designed, that charities did enough to connect with them online, or that they were inspired by charity sites. So how can organizations better connect with these important constituents? Email is one method. According to the study, 65% of the “wired wealthy” always open email sent from charities they support, and about 3/4ths of respondents said that email reminders about the renewal of an annual gift are “appropriate.” But just 43% thought emails from charities were usually well-written or inspiring, indicating that thus far email has been a lost opportunity for many non-profit organizations. Further, a large majority of respondents said an email letting them know how their donation was spent would make they more likely to give again, as would controls on how often a charity was allowed to email them.

More than half of respondents also use YouTube, which points to online video as another pontential way to connnect with wealthy donors online.

“We believe this research will fundamentally shift the way some nonprofit organizations approach their relationships with major donors online,” said Mark Rovner, Principal of Sea Change Strategies.

The study revealed three distinct personality types among the “wired wealthy.”

  • 29% are Relationship Seekers – Relationship seekers put the most stock in how a charity web site forms a connection with them. They tend to skew younger (under 45) and are most likely to engage in social activities with the charity. 2/3rds of relationship seekers say that a charity’s web site plays a role in whether or not they give money.
  • 41% are Casual Connectors – Like relationship seekers, so-called casual connectors also seek a connection with the charity. However, for them it is less personal — they’re more interested in things like how efficiently the charity is using their money and want easy access to that information.
  • 30% are All Business – The all business set doesn’t care about feeling connected to the charity, rather they want the donation process to be as easy and painless as possible. They also tend give the most money.

It certainly seems possible to appeal to each of those personality types via a single web site, which is exactly what the authors of the study hope will happen. “The research provides important insight into the ways non-profits can better connect, motivate and retain these donors. The results of this research will provide a variety of different non-profit organizations — both large and small — the tools to assess their online strategy and make adjustments where necessary to better capture big opportunities,” said Rovnar.

In September, we wondered if the web was still a windfall for non-profits. With online donations up 37% in 2006 according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, it is clear that the web, if not yet the main point for charitable donation, is playing an increasingly more important role. As part of that online fundraising strategy, targeting the “wired wealthy” is something that charities should be taking into account.

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