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Online Fundraising: More Than a Point and Click

(Dec. 14, 2010) A report from Network for Good shows that not all online giving is created equal. Different paths and different methods to giving have different returns. And as with all other types of fundraising, relationships matter.

People may give online because it is convenient and easy, but they do not give more, or give again, unless they feel connected to the cause. Not even your website's "Donate Now" button can stand alone and be successful. That is the advice of Network for Good and TrueSense Marketing, which analyzed the gifts processed by Network for Good from 2003 to 2009, totaling more than 3.6 million gifts and 66,470 different nonprofits.

Looking at the ways people give online, they found that online giving was most successful when people were brought into a genuine relationship to the nonprofit and its mission. Customized, charity-branded giving pages, integrated with the charity's website, collected more money in total and led to more future gifts than did generic giving pages that do not resemble the rest of the organization's website.

Giving portals, where a donor can look search for charities and find any number of charities through one website, attracted less funds. Although they are convenient for donors, people gave smaller average gifts (25 percent lower than website donors) and fewer portal donors continue giving through the portal.

What is the difference between a donor going to a branded giving page versus giving to a generic web page or a portal? It's about the giving experience.

More Than a Transaction

Just because you are asking for money online does not mean you leave out donor cultivation. As the report explains, "raising funds online is not about the technology any more than raising funds through the mail is about paper." If they have a better experience online, they will give more, and more often.

A big piece that is often missing is the follow-up. Does your organization access the donor information available from gifts made through online giving portals? Only half of charities that receive funds in this way actually do, says Network for Good. What about Facebook, do you know who has donated to you in this way? Treat these platforms as an on-ramp for donors and future cultivation.

Enhancing the online giving experience may be as simple as making the design of your website clean, clear and inviting, keeping your organization's profile up to date, including on portals and social media, and thanking donors promptly and thoroughly, as Network for Good advises.

Here are some more highlights from the research.

Improving the Online Experience

  • 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. Small improvements to the online experience can make a big difference in donations.
  • Giving on social networks is significant, but donor loyalty is highest on charity websites that build strong connections with donors. Personality matters on these websites: The loyalty factor for donors acquired through generic giving pages is 66.7% lower than for donors who give via charity-branded giving pages.
  • Analysis of cumulative online giving (i.e., giving added up over time) via different pages powered by Network for Good shows that donors who gave via charity websites started at the highest level and gave the most over time. Those who used giving portals started lower and gave less over time. Those who used social giving opportunities gave the least initially and added little afterward.
  • Recurring giving is a major driver of giving over time and should be strongly encouraged in the giving experience.
  • A third of all online giving occurs in December, and 22 percent of annual giving happens in the last two days of the year. Online giving (by dollars) on Dec. 31 is concentrated between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. in each time zone.
For the full report, go to

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