Googling for Donors
May 9, 2006
By Nick Allen
Nonprofits usually use search-engine marketing -- buying keywords on Google, Yahoo!, and other sites -- to drive traffic to their sites, sell merchandise, and enroll supporters on their e-mail lists. Many organizations are buying keywords, and many others are taking advantage of the Google Grants program, which offers free keywords to selected nonprofits.
Amnesty International USA has been taking the next step, acquiring donors directly on search engines -- and making money on the acquisition -- through a program that involved testing a wide variety of keywords and continuous editing of the words based on their efficiencies. It also involved testing different copy for the search listings, as well as testing multiple landing pages to improve the conversion percentage and increase the average gift size.
In the typical direct-mail or online fundraising program, nonprofits expect to pay to acquire a donor and get a positive return on investment only with a second or third gift.
But in a recent three-month period, Amnesty spent $14,600 on Google and Yahoo! keywords, and brought in 380 new donors and almost $38,000, says Kyra Stoddart, direct response and online fundraising coordinator at Amnesty International.
The average acquisition cost was $38 -- but the average donation was $100. The keywords attracted both existing Amnesty donors and new donors. Existing donors gave an average of $125 (including several $1,000+ gifts), while the new donors averaged $45. In April, Amnesty International spent $2,700 and raised $9,800, providing a return on investment of better than three to one.
"Search provided lower cost-per-donor acquisition than the other online marketing venues we were using," says Kyra. "In addition to fundraising, we also received millions of free impressions. What we don't know yet is the lifetime value of the search donors compared to donors from acquisition channels."