How Nonprofits Keep Up with Online Fundraising

Online fundraising optimization—a fancy schmancy term for improving how nonprofits raise money via the internet. Over the past few years, this has been a hot topic, likely because the growth in online giving has been nothing short of remarkable. In fact, in the past 10 years, no other fundraising channel has seen such impressive numbers. Online giving in the U.S. now exceeds $20 billion annually and has continued to grow at double-digit rates for most of the past decade.

More donors are embracing online giving, especially those who tend to be younger, wealthier and make larger gifts than traditional direct mail donors. These donors are driving the shift to online for a variety of reasons, including convenience and mobility.

So the million-dollar question is, how are nonprofits keeping up? Dunham+Company and Next After joined forces to study several NPOs’ online fundraising processes. A team of researchers went online to 151 leading nonprofit websites to experience and assess these key areas that are critical to online fundraising—the email registration process; email communication; online donation experience; and gift acknowledgement.

To see the how NPOs scored overall and view the results of this study, you can download the online fundraising scorecard.

Want just the highlights? Here are some key takeaways.

Everyone Has Room for Improvement

Even the best of the best have opportunities for growth. But one important key finding was this: Direct marketing oriented organizations (those that send a lot of direct mail and understand the role of multichannel communications) tend to outperform organizations that emphasize traditional high-touch fundraising (i.e., major gifts, planned giving) in their online optimization. What does this mean? It suggests that, over time, donors will move to support nonprofits that embrace online fundraising and engagement from end to end.

Potential Supporters Aren’t Feeling Compelled to Subscribe

Nonprofits know their stuff when it comes to opt-out and privacy policies—but that doesn’t matter much because most are not giving people good reasons to subscribe to their emails. What’s worse is, when people actually do subscribe, more than one-third of nonprofits fail to send them anything within 30 days.

Email Appeals Are Less Than Appealing

Ready for this? The study showed that most nonprofits aren’t emailing their constituents enough. And when researchers studied over 1,300 emails, they found conflicting calls-to-action, poor mobile performance and awkward transitions to the website. The trend towards lower click-through and conversion rates in nonprofit email appeals now makes sense. Email marketing works, but only if it’s executed well.

Too Many Nonprofits Make Online Giving Too Complicated

Too many clicks. Too much information. Too many fields. One of the biggest reasons online giving has seen such phenomenal growth is it’s easy and convenient. But this study suggests that organizations are making the making it harder than it needs to be. Research also showed that NPOs need to step it up in mobile optimization, especially since 50% of emails are being read on mobile devices while website views on desktops are declining.

Online fundraising is growing, to be sure—but there is still significant opportunity for nonprofits to bring in even more money by making some simple but important changes.

How Nonprofits Keep Up with Online Fundraising

Randy Hawthorne

As the former Executive Director and Editor for Nonprofit Hub and a Professional Certified Marketer, Randy shares his passions of marketing and education with nonprofits to help them implement marketing and organizational leadership principles so they can grow their organizations. Randy lends his marketing and organizational leadership expertise to a number of nonprofits in his community. Outside the office, Randy works with high school and college students and mentors young professionals to develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

February 25, 2014

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