Study Shows First-Time Online Donors Often Do Not Return
Another issue is that nonprofit groups tend to add donors acquired online to their direct mail lists, which encourages those donors to give in more conventional ways.
“Direct mail may not be a Maserati, but it’s very effective because it is very highly evolved,” said Lori Held, membership marketing director at Trout Unlimited. “We know how to ask for money using the mail, but most organizations are still trying to figure out how to do that online.”
Nonprofit groups face a number of challenges in trying to reach donors electronically, Ms. Held and others said.
For one thing, they must have a team dedicated to fine-tuning and improving their Web site and another team for e-mail marketing, both of which are added expenses. Nonprofit solicitation materials often get caught in systems that trap spam and other unwanted e-mail. Other systems eliminate the compelling images that are so effective in direct mail.
Still, the demographics of online donors are enticing for charities. The study found that of the donors who made at least one online gift in 2008, roughly a third had incomes greater than $100,000, while about one-quarter of those giving in other ways fell into that category.
“I think what we’re learning is that we need to be less worried about what channels these donors use and offer them a variety of channels through which they can give,” said Mr. Smith of CARE.