A Multi-Channel Giving Surprise

I wrote last month about the continuing trend in the growth of online giving released in the annual online giving report by Blackbaud. While reviewing the materials on Blackbaud’s site, I stumbled on a previous research report, 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report. Here’s the part that stopped me in my tracks:

The report notes that online giving is increasing, that online donors tend to be younger than direct mail donors and give less initially. But here’s the kicker, the data from 28 major national nonprofit organizations indicates that these organizations take the online donors and transition them to direct mail donors.

Hang on!

These organizations take new donors who came in online and put them in the direct mail slot? Why? I asked Frank Barry of Blackbaud that question. He agreed it sounded crazy, but the facts are that donors who convert from online to direct mail end up giving three times more. Given these data the desire to convert donors to direct mail makes sense – but only in the short run.

I hope organizations will take a longer view, which is that donors are capable of giving more online, but we need to get more intentional about how we engage them in conversation and action, and give them compelling reasons to give. Continuing to convert them to direct mail will ultimately be counter-productive because the cost of direct mail is very high, losing donors when they move is an industry hazard, and keeps donors in a tiny giving silo as opposed to enabling them to become doers, connectors, creators and fundraisers for causes.

Maybe his online and on land giving conversion is just a blip in time, part of the large transition we’re making, or at least I sure hope it is.

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Allison Fine

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