Creative LeadershipStrategy & Marketing

In a Digital World, What’s the Best Method for Fundraising?

I have posted many articles on this blog regarding the need for churches, ministries, and nonprofits to continue to use direct mail as a means of donor development.  But I’m always met with some push back from people focused more on texting, or online giving. After all, e-mail and social media are cheap and quick and they target a vast percentage of the population. But the problem is this: for all their promises of being quick and easy, e-blasts and social media still do not do well with the target market who is actually giving the lion’s share of gifts to ministries and other non-profits.

Here is a staggering number for you:  Only 7% of all charitable giving is done online.

Mary Hutchinson, President of Inspired Direct, asked the e-communication questions that matter most to Lynn Howes, Partner at Analytical Ones. Collectively, Hutchinson and Howes have done comprehensive analysis and reporting for ministries of all sizes.

Here are some of the nuggets she shared with me:

• People use Smartphones to read information, but they don’t give (apart from the $10 text here and there). It’s pretty easy to understand this one; most people don’t want to key in all the credit card data, and are concerned about mobile privacy.
• The industry standard for email open-rates is 14.72%. The click through rate is only .7%
• Industry standard for visitors to the websites converting to donors is 2%.
• Your email list should be growing by 22% a year or something is wrong.
• There is no right answer on how often to e-blast. Every ministry is different, and content is king. Your donors will tell you (and show you through their giving frequency) how often you should be communicating with them via e-blasts.
• Your best donors give via multiple channels (i.e. direct mail and phone, or direct mail and email).

The conclusion?  There’s no question that email, texting, and online giving are growing, and will become more critical in the future. But the statistics indicate that the vast majority of giving to nonprofits, churches, and social causes is still through the mail. Part of the reason is that the older demographic are the greatest givers (by far), and mail is their preference.

The final word is this:  It’s not about how we want them to give, it’s about how THEY want to give.  Provide every possible platform for fundraising to your donors.  Continue exploring other ways of giving, but don’t dismiss direct mail.  It’s still doing the heaving lifting when it comes to helping organizations change the world.

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  1. I think there is some truth to this. I also think however that the reason online gifts are so low is because organizations think all they have to do is paste a donate button on the site and watch the money roll in. Putting a donate button on a web site or sending emails that are unsolicited and intrusive amounts to the same thing. It a world that is social and always has been, even before the internet, it is about relationships. Think about it, I bet the last 3 out of 5 times you donated to a cause it was because a friend, family member, or business associate asked you to. And you did it because they asked not because it was direct mail or a button on a site.

  2. I had to laugh at a study another market research firm did showing how common online giving was among seniors. I guess it never struck them as a problem that the study was done entirely online.

    In 2010, Grey Matter Research partnered with Russ Reid Company for Heart of the Donor – a comprehensive study of donor behavior and perceptions. We also found that direct mail was clearly still king, and continues to have a major impact even among younger donors who are “supposed” to be addicted to online and mobile.

  3. Mary’s findings are absolutely on target. There’s a vast difference between the dollar amounts of donations generated by our ministry’s direct letter than by online giving. As long as we keep getting effective results, we’ll keep sending mail out. The key to the letter is: it feels personal and genuine, we know our audience, and it’s geared towards relationship.

    Thanks Mary. If anyone knows how to tap into a donors mind, behavior and habits…. it’s you.

  4. I agree, Phil has said it many times, you don’t make your money on social media or TV, you make your money in the mail. In fact, our team is at the Post Office right now collecting the mail!!! 🙂

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