A current TV ad for a tooth whitening product says, “If you’re not whitening, you’re yellowing,” clearly defining the negative impact of inertia. Translated to our industry, “If you’re not optimizing your online fundraising, you’re severely short-changing your mission.” Does this seem overly bold? This true statement is based on our deep experience helping leading nonprofits and community foundations launch and optimize their online fundraising. Read on for the logic and proof points for this statement and find out how to avoid losing major gifts and new donors.
Status Quo = Funding Lost
Online giving (web, mobile, social media) is growing much faster than offline giving. Online-acquired donors who then give and advocate across many channels have the highest lifetime value. This makes them the ideal prospective donors.
Many nonprofits decide to reduce or merely maintain their online investment based on their own results or on benchmarking reports citing cumulative results from organizations whose online channels are their weakest links. But results are a classic chicken-and-egg situation. For example:
- Online fundraising significantly drives and inspires major and total offline gifts — not just online revenue. In fact, online fundraising is really about brandraising and inspiring all of your donors. For example, a Kimbia customer recently ran a one-day online giving event that raised $2.3 million online. However, during the event they also received $4.5 million in offline contributions from donors inspired by the event, including a long-committed but previously unfunded $2.5 million gift. And within a month, two additional donors gave $500,000 each as post-event “matching” funds for donations made during the event. These important metrics are often not included in online return on investment (ROI) calculations and are not included in industry reports.
- Your donors may be experiencing your channels but not your brand. That is, your online and offline channels may not be working together and optimized to develop the deeper relationship needed to achieve greater brand awareness, giving and lifelong advocacy.
- Online fundraising is still very new, best practices are not intuitive and there are few experts. Conversely, direct mail has been honed over decades. Also, most enterprise-level technology is optimized for direct mail and donor list management — not for the real-time A/B testing capabilities of the Internet or the multiplying effect of online advocacy, international campaigns and chapter/affiliate programs.
Done well, online fundraising increases brand awareness, recruits ideal donors and drives significant online revenue in its own right. When implemented as part of a holistic fundraising approach, it also recruits more donors and increases major offline gifts and total donations. Done poorly, your mission loses.