Thu, May 14 2009

Online fundraising growing, but slower; Donors giving but less

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

There’s lot of juicy data in a new study just released by M+R Strategic Services and the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN).  The eNonprofit Benchmarks Study* (get it here) measures the effectiveness of nonprofit internet fundraising and activism programs for last year.  We like it here at Network for Good, because it shows why the Internet is important to what all nonprofits do.

The headline: people are still giving online (up 26% from 2007 to 2008 by their count), but they are giving less.

This is very much in line with what we’re seeing here at Network for Good, where we’re seeing more donors and more donations, but lower average gift sizes.

Here are the key findings I found most interesting:

-Online fundraising was up by 26%.

-Monthly gifts account for 9% of online gifts - steady from 2007.  We can do better than this, folks!  The average size of a monthly gift was $21.

-Email fundraising and advocacy response rates held steady this year, compared to declines in previous years. 

-The average online gift size was $71, down $15 from the previous year. This decline was most pronounced in the fourth quarter of 2008.

-Email lists continue to grow, though more slowly every year: growth was at 17 percent in 2008, down from 19 percent in 2007 and 21 percent in 2006.

-Fundraising emails sent to previous donors received response rates more than three times as high as those sent to non-donors.

-Message volume remained steady between 2007 and 2008. The average subscriber on a study participant’s list received about 3.5 messages per month in both years, despite marked increases in volume in the fall of 2008, presumably due to the election.

-In the months preceding the election, message volume increased dramatically, but email open rates, click-through rates, and response rates did not suffer as a result. 

-Email lists continue to grow, though more slowly every year: growth was at 17 percent in 2008, down from 19 percent in 2007 and 21 percent in 2006.

-19 percent of email addresses “went bad” annually, due to bouncing or unsubscribes – the same as in 2007.

-For most organizations, almost one-third of all online actions are taken by the most active subscribers – just seven percent of the list.

-Alerts sent to previous action-takers on a given issue received response rates three times higher than those sent to the full file.

-Email click-through rates fell in all issue sectors.  Advocacy emails have higher click-throughs that e-nes and fundraising appeals.

[*The 2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study analyzes data from 2008 and evaluates the changing landscape of nonprofit email programs, fundraising and advocacy. The data came from 32 major nonprofits working on environmental, legal/civil rights, health and international aid issues.]

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Thu, May 14 2009

Five Things You Should Never Say to an Online Donor

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

This just went out in the Network for Good newsletter - authored by my colleague Rebecca Ruby Higman.  I’m sharing because I liked it.  A lot!  Hope it’s useful in your nonprofit marketing and fundraising.

Picture one of your supporters sitting at her computer. She’s browsing your website. She just finished reading a heart-warming story of success about someone whose life has been transformed by your nonprofit’s program, and there’s a tear in her eye. (There’s also a bit of broccoli between her front teeth, but don’t focus on that now.)

Now you watch with baited breath: Will she convert from supporter to donor? What can you say during this open-minded moment of truth? What should you absolutely avoid saying during this crucial time?

If you peruse the Learning Center, you’re bound to find information about effective messaging, good donor stewardship and tips to get your online fundraising off the ground (peruse away!). But for all the warm fuzzies and smart messages you’re sending, consider these five things that you should never say to your online donors:

“I’m not trustworthy.” Obviously you would never have a headline on your nonprofit website: “Don’t Trust Us with Your Money.” However, make sure that’s not the message folks are reading between the lines. Are you set up to receive online donations? Did you hide your enigmatically- named “consider giving” page beneath 12 layers of informational pages? Are your physical address and annual report listed and easy to find? Legitimize your online presence, validate your online visitors’ preference to donate online and show your site visitors you need and appreciate their help.

“I take you for granted.” If your website forces supporters to search for a long time to find out how to, you know, support you online (or if there’s no way to support you at all), it’s frustrating – see point 1. If online supporters are not acknowledged, it’s downright ungrateful. If your site is set up for online giving, ask yourself, “What happens when people donate?” Do they hear from you again? Do they get a tax receipt? Is the only thing they get a receipt? The quickest way to turn a donor into a one-timer is to neglect the follow-up.

“I have no idea how much you should give.” Of course your donors will give in varying amounts, and you want to allow that sort of flexibility to your supporters. However, to say, “Give whatever you want” is not a specific, tangible ask. Make it easy (and easy-to-picture) to choose a giving level. Here’s an example: Recently one of our Network-for-Gooders sent a birthday fundraising ask that outlined exactly what a $37 donation would buy (“the food for a healthy, homemade breakfast for 15 homeless men and women”). Set up custom giving levels (like Malaria No More’s “$10 buys one bed net!”). Paint the picture of how the money will be used.

“What’s your name again?” If you met a donor in person, you wouldn’t greet him, “Hi, friend.” Why treat your online donors any differently? In your email marketing and outreach, be sure to include personalization whenever possible. Use whatever data you have to create the most engaging messages possible. For example, “Hi, Bob! I wanted to reach out and say thank you for your $20 online gift–” (This works if his name is Bob, of course.) And here’s a helpful hint: If it looks like a form letter, sounds like a form letter and quacks like a form letter, it’s a form letter and your donor will know it. Although, sending something is better than nothing, which brings us to point 5–

*Nothing at all.* And, the most important thing to avoid saying to online supporters and donors: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Radio silence. If you know nothing else about the Internet and all this Web 2.0 business, you should know this: The Web is about engagement and building connections. Thank your donors. Encourage monthly giving. Offer other opportunities to get involved including volunteer openings, signing up for your e-newsletter and so on. If you donor came in as anything above and beyond “anonymous,” take that opportunity to build a relationship and make the most of it.

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Tue, May 12 2009

What bloggers I’m reading: 5 posts worth your time

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

1. Read Jeff Brooks on Target’s benchmarking data on online fundraising.

Jeff says: To me, the big surprise to me is that the human services sector is down 3.4%. In a down economy, when the very situations these organizations are built to help change are everywhere and top of mind, why are they raising less money?

2. Read Nancy Schwartz on why your new website is not news.

Nancy says:

No one else cares if you have a new Web site. It’s not about what’s important to you… What your base does care about what the site changes do for them—what the value is for them.

3. Read Peter Deitz on what friends to friends fundraising IS working online.

Peter says: I’m going to share with you a few campaigns and platforms that have done really well in the last year.  Interestingly, they all share one thing in common. They treat seconds, minutes, and hours as perfectly reasonable units of time in which to raise money, coordinate volunteers, and communicate with supporters.

4. Read MarketingProfs on what to do when you’re out of topic ideas for your blog.

They say (and I do): Talk about three blogs you like. There’s no need for in-depth analysis—simply link to an outstanding post at each site with a line explaining why it’s worth your readers’ time.

5. Check out Margaux’s great extreme makeover of a nonprofit website.

We’re going to have her tell us more about it on a future Network for Good 911 call.


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Thu, May 07 2009

6-Minute Guide to Winning Fundraising Campaigns

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

I wanted to share this great set of tips from my colleague Rebecca Ruby Higman here at Network for Good (pictured).  Enjoy!


A myth surrounding raising funds online is simply that “if you build it, they will come.”

Where are these ghoulish, baseball-bat-swinging donors who are wildly impressed by your donate button? (No offense: I’m sure it’s lovely, easy-to-find, big and above the fold, right?)

Unfortunately, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find those die-hards. The ability to donate online is becoming commoditized. Donors are no longer impressed by it; they expect it. But, how do you appeal to those potential supporters? How do you encourage click after click?

How can you jazz up your button and generate excitement around it?

Unlike our friends in “Field of Dreams,” we in the nonprofit sector need to do just a bit more than wait for our supporters to show up. We need to be interesting and engaging. Most importantly: We need to be proactive.

One of the best ways to do that? An online fundraising campaign.

What constitutes a campaign?

-A specific goal(s)
-A set of actions you need people to take in order to reach that goal(s)
-A timeline – start and end dates

Read on to learn why an online campaign may just be the ticket to greater online fundraising success:

Campaign messaging gives you fresh content for your email marketing. There’s no question that we all get into a rut… er, rhythm… when it comes to our e-newsletters and online communications. Event announcement here. Volunteer story here. Perhaps a small ask for money here. Spell-check and send. By creating a campaign with specific goals and deadlines, you’ll have lots of fresh fodder for your emails: results updates, deadline reminders and ongoing contest opportunities.

This messaging also applies to offline communications. See point number 1 and consider how you can integrate all of your communications. Perhaps you can include a campaign-specific buckslip in your next direct-mail package. Maybe you have fliers or a banner at your next event. All of these activities bring us to point number 3…

It drives traffic to your website. When you get your supporters in the habit of visiting your site often (to check for fresh content, campaign updates, etc.), it will deepen the connection they feel with your organization. Folks who have already donated may share your URL with their friends. Potential donors will have the opportunity to get more context about your organization’s work. A campaign with communications that always lead back to your website is smart marketing.

The call-to-action carries a lot of weight. As much as we aim to create urgency in our fundraising appeals, our messaging may not seem quite as timely to our potential donors. Part of the anxiety associated with donating is the inherent, “Can’t I do this later?” argument. Campaigns have built-in urgency; your potential supporter has to complete an action by a certain date for it “to count.”

You can incorporate personal fundraising. Here’s one of our favorite fundraising mantras: People give to people. And which people do they trust? Their friends, family and network of acquaintances. While you may be dabbling with Facebook and Twitter, you can use a campaign as an opportunity to dust of your person-to-person fundraising techniques: incorporate forward-to-a-friend links on your website and in your emails; encourage supporters to spread the word on their own social networks; and, provide some starter text they can copy and paste. (Note: Be prepared for a slew of “one-hit wonders” who you will need to cultivate and follow-up with directly. These are the folks who donate to a friend’s cause without considering building a relationship with your organization on their own.)

Incentives could be the tipping point. If you’ve engaged someone to the point that they’re considering supporting your organization’s cause, a campaign and its associated incentives could entice a potential donor to pull out his or her handy credit card. A campaigns fits the bill because it’s already got the deadlines and timeline built in; you just need to associate a giveaway (coupons or gift cards you’ve had donated) or offer to be featured (on your website, social networks, emails, etc.). People love to see their name in lights-or bold-face type in this case.
Not sure where to start? How do you go about running an online fundraising campaign? More specifically, a successful online fundraising campaign?

Download Network for Good’s new e-book “Fundraising Campaign in a Box” below “Related Articles” to get your campaign off the ground.

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Thu, May 07 2009

4 ways to get people to trust your organization

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Reader Sonia emailed me today to note her local paper is doing a series of exposes on charity.  (Fortunately, Sonia’s organization is not in this story - nor shoud it be!)  But Sonia worried this type of coverage, by raising doubt about charity in general, could hurt giving to her organization.

Here’s what I told her:

You want to regularly assure all of your donors and prospects that you’d never be caught up in the shenanigans exhibited by the sorry crew in the paper.  You do that by how you behave, not by what you claim:

1. Show how you stretch your dollars in tough times.  Show how you pinch every penny to ensure that the hard-earned gifts of your supporters go to your programs and not inefficiencies.  Show you’re a careful and thoughtful steward of their contributions.

2. Be specific in your appeals.  What is the need?  What will donor dollars achieve?  Be as tangible as possible.  There is a reason people love and Donors Choose.

3. Show where the donation goes.  When you thank donors, are you quick about it?  Are you specific about where the money went?  Do you provide them with regular progress reports on the results of their donations?

4. Whenever possible, have third parties attest to your effectiveness.  Make sure as much of your messaging as possible is said by donors, trusted third-parties and beneficiaries rather than just you.

In short, I’d focus on living up to this list rather than lamenting the newspaper story.  You don’t need people to trust charities.  You need them to trust you.

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