Don’t Dump that Direct Mail Program! The Limitations of Online Fundraising

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June 1, 2011; Source: AdvisorOne | According to a recent study by Blackbaud, online fundraising is useful for acquiring donors but less useful in retaining them – a valuable piece of information for hardworking fundraisers. Particularly interesting is the degree to which direct mail still plays a major part in retaining even those donors who give their first gift online.

According to Blackbaud the findings were derived from the most recent transactional data available for the 28 organizations participating in Target Analytics’ donorCentrics online benchmarking service. The nonprofits in these online benchmarking groups are “prominent national nonprofits covering a range of sectors, including animal welfare, the environment, health, human services, international relief and societal benefit.”

Other key findings about online donors:

  • The majority of gifts are still received through direct mail, although it has become increasingly common for new donors to give their first gift online.
  • Online-acquired donors are significantly younger and tend to have higher household incomes than mail-acquired donors.
  • Online-acquired donors tend to give much larger gifts, but have slightly lower retention rates than mail-acquired counterparts.
  • In aggregate, online-acquired donors have much higher cumulative value over the long term than traditional mail-acquired donors. However, long-term value varies depending on the donor’s origin gift level, and the substantially higher gift amounts given by online-acquired donors can mask issues with retention.—Ruth McCambridge