No Such Thing as a Free Donor
No medium — mail, telephone, e-mail or any combination thereof — works as well with online-acquired donors as it does with their direct mail counterparts. Which isn’t to say it’s not worth bothering; it just means we need to consider them differently and have an aggressive retention strategy to keep as many of them as we can.
Testing with some nonprofits shows a difference in their responsiveness to special appeals versus renewal notices, interestingly. For one group, online donors’ gifts to special appeals accounted for only half the percentage of additional gifts from direct mail-acquired donors, but response to renewals was roughly the same.
When analyzing the cost to acquire them, a significant portion of online donors are not “free” after all.
Regular match-back analysis indicates that anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of online donors received a direct mail acquisition piece in the weeks preceding their contribution. Unlike donors who find their way to your Web site on their own, a good number of online donors choose to give online simply because it’s the financial transaction method they prefer.
Truly “free” online donors who can’t be matched back to any campaign should be flagged and segmented separately so you can test, test, test to see what media, messaging and offers generate additional giving.
Like they say in fine print on diet commercials, “results are not typical.”
Not all bad news
However, donors acquired online are more valuable than direct mail-acquired donors in the first 18 to 24 months. They aren’t retained as well as direct mail donors, but one thing online-acquired donors are good for is bigger gifts and more of them.
They make larger first contributions and larger subsequent donations, and they often make more gifts per donor annually than direct mail-acquired donors — particularly in the first year.