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Study Shows Direct Mail is a More Important Driver to Online Giving than Online Communications

(Oct. 19, 2010) More than twice as many online donors say they were prompted to give an online gift in response to a direct mail appeal compared to when they received an e-appeal, according to a national Dunham+Company study recently conducted by research firm Campbell Rinker. In a surprising finding, 14 percent said that a direct mail letter prompted them to give online versus only 6 percent who said an email prompted their online gift.

Further underlining the importance of direct mail to motivate online giving, 1 in 3 donors (37 percent) who give online say that when they receive a direct mail appeal from a charity they use the charity's website to give their donation.

The younger the donor, the more likely they are to use a charity's website to respond to a direct mail appeal. One in two (50 percent) of generation X or Y donors say they give online in response to a direct mail appeal with 1 in 4 (26 percent) of boomers turning to online giving when they want to give as a result of receiving a direct mail appeal. Only 14 percent of those over 65 will do the same, as 3 out of 4 of this demographic prefer to give by mail.

The study was conducted among respondents who were invited to participate in an online research panel and who qualified to participate due to recent self-reported giving. 

In addition, the study found that the higher the household income, the more likely the direct mail recipient was to donate online. Nearly half (46 percent) of households making $75k+ said they would donate online compared to 37 percent of households making $25k-$74k and about one-third (32 percent) of households which make less than $25k.

"The purpose of this study was to try and understand what is driving online giving and how important offline communication is the source of increasing income to charity. What we found was quite surprising," said Rick Dunham, president and CEO of Dunham+Company. "Not only is offline communication important to driving online giving, it is actually much more important a catalyst to generating online gifts than we had anticipated."

"It is remarkable to think that as much as one-third of the response to any given direct mail appeal could come via a charity's website," Dunham went on to say. "And it is especially important to realize that 1 in 4 of the core supporter demographic of most charitable organizations--the Boomer generation--is giving online when they receive a direct mail appeal ... and that these donors, more likely than not, represent a high-value household. This changes both our understanding of the importance of offline communication to driving online revenue and the metrics for how we evaluate direct mail performance."

"More than ever, charities must pay close attention to the ease and relevance of their online giving facility," Dunham concluded. "With the significant percentage of donors using charity websites to fulfill their giving--including their giving as a response to offline communication--charities must invest in a robust and easy-to-use system that will maximize this source of revenue."

The study also hints at the increasing importance of online giving: one of every two donors has given online (48 percent) and seven out of 10 households making more than $75k per annum have done the same--albeit among donors who are online already and might be expected to behave this way. Gen X and Y donors are the most likely to have given online (54 percent) with 44 percent of Baby Boomers having done so and 30 percent of those over 65 years of age.

One other important finding from the study showed that the power of personal-to-person fundraising through social media is also increasing, as 15 percent of respondents said their online gift was prompted by being asked to give by someone through a social media site. This is especially important to donors under 40 years of age as 1 in 4 (24 percent) said this prompted them to give whereas only 9 percent of donors over 40 said the same.

Word-of-mouth fundraising also drives online giving as 20 percent of respondents say that their online giving was prompted by someone asking them to give in person. This is more pronounced among Baby Boomers (26 percent).

The study also showed that females are more than twice as likely to give in response to an e-appeal compared to males, with 10 percent of female respondents saying they were prompted to give online as a result of an e-appeal compared to only 4 percent of males.

The study was part of Campbell Rinker Donor Confidence Survey of 510 adults nationwide who had given at least $20 to charity in the prior year. All respondents were contacted via the internet August 24-September 8, 2010. A sample of 510 has a margin of error of +/-4.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Click here for additional information on the study (PDF).

This article was reprinted with the permission of Dunham+Company, a strategic consulting company in Plano, Texas.



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