Online Giving: It's Still About Relationships
What matters most in fundraising is the relationship you establish with your supporters. The stronger the relationship and the better the giving experience, the more people donate. The weaker the ties you build, the worse the results.
This is especially true of the online experience. People go online because they're seeking to connect with other people, with things they like and with causes they love. Technology enables them to forge stronger connections, and people therefore come to nonprofits with high expectations for the way we treat them online. When we do little to build a relationship, it disappoints. And it hurts our fundraising results. I'm not making this up, and I've got the data to prove it.
My nonprofit, Network for Good, spent much of the past year analyzing lots of giving through its platform. The study covered $381 million in donations, including 3.6 million gifts to 66,470 different nonprofits from 2003-2009. Here's what we found: Just as the strength of the donor-charity relationship heavily influences offline giving, the online giving experience has a significant impact on donor loyalty, retention and gift levels. The more intimate and emotionally coherent the giving experience online, the stronger the relationship between donor and nonprofit appears to be. In other words, online fundraising is all about relationships.
Giving on social networks is growing, but donor loyalty is highest on charity websites that build strong connections with donors. Donors who gave through charity-branded websites via Network for Good started at the highest amounts — $180 in 2007. By the end of 2009, the average cumulative giving per donor had risen to $257, a 42.8 percent climb in value in two years compared to a 40 percent rise for portals and 8.8 percent for social-networking sites.
The loyalty factor for donors acquired through generic giving pages is 67 percent lower than for donors who give via charity-branded giving pages. Small improvements to the online experience can make a big difference in donations.