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How Can I Boost My Online Giving Program?

February 29th, 2012

Numerous studies have shown that the average online gift is typically higher than those by mail. (Actually, the multi-channel donor gives the most of all, but online is essential.) So, how do you drive people to give online?

It’s important to note that while direct mail is still responsible for the majority of most organizations’ annual giving income – and shouldn’t be overlooked or placed on auto pilot – there’s no question that online income is growing by leaps and bounds.  Even as total overall philanthropic giving wavered during the recession, then slightly grew, online giving enjoyed massive increases.  Nonprofits that ignore this trend do so at their peril.

Other trends to watch are the Blackbaud Index of Charitable Giving and the Index of Online Giving, which are both measured monthly.  These indices are based on a collection of over a thousand different nonprofits, and also available by segmentations of nonprofits, such as size of organization or type of industry. (e.g., arts, animal welfare, human services, health, education, etc.)

There are several ways to bolster online giving from your constituent base, but one good way to start is to check the research recently published about which cities are already most generous about giving online.  It’s not that you should exclusively limit yourself to these areas, but your most aggressive online campaigns and test launches would likely do well in areas that are most amenable to giving online already.

As Sara Spivey of Convio wisely noted, there is a high correlation to these areas and the geographic locations that have the most broadband, so keep this in mind as well when targeting your constituents with online campaigns.  Even if they didn’t make Convio’s Most Generous list, a more wired community will likely be more receptive to your online campaign!

When you cross reference these lists with another overall Most Generous list (all philanthropy, not just online), you see different cities entirely – except for Washington, DC.  It would be advisable to aim other campaigns (mail, phone, etc.) at these areas that are so philanthropic.

And what if your constituent base isn’t national – or in the cities listed?  How, then, are you supposed to join in the ever-increasing online giving ranks?  There are still ways to encourage your donors to give online.

First and foremost, make a point to ask them for their email addresses at every opportunity.  This includes leaving ample room for them to write it in on all direct mail response cards, event registration cards, etc.  When a donor does donate, register or otherwise respond to your organization online, make [email] a required field, so that you are collecting these online as well.  (Also make [First Name] and [Last Name] required, so that when you send emails out, they’ll be personalized, instead of “Dear Supporter,” form letter type correspondence.)

The average person has three email addresses.  If a constituent gives you multiple emails, how does your database store these?  Are they replaced?  Are they labeled as [work] and [home], or [email1], [email2], or [preferred]?  Make certain your system can handle multiple addresses.

Whenever you send out a direct mail appeal, be sure to encourage online giving in all aspects of the mailing.  This includes the letter, reply card and return envelope.  Designate a direct hyperlink specifically for that appeal, such as [charity.org/donate].  Track two separate responses for the mailing:  [response by mail] and [response online].  Over time, with repetition, you’ll see the [response online] in your mailings increase, as your dual channel donors grow.

Another – often overlooked – way to increase online giving is to take a critical look at your homepage. Where is your [Donate Now] button?  Is it easily visible?  Is it above the fold?  Is it part of the template?  (Can I still find it if I’ve been navigating within the site?)  How many clicks does it take me to get to the donation form from the home page?  Once I’m there, how many clicks does it take me to complete my transaction?

The online community is about immediacy.  If you’re taking too long to service these donors, you’ve already lost them.

What other ways can you think of to expand your online giving base?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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