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New Research Helps Us Better Understand Donors

Lori Halley 22 June 2011 2 comments

Here is a brief overview of two fundraising research reports published this month that offer interesting insight into donor behavior.

2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report

When donors give to an organization through more than one source (e.g., direct mail and the Internet), are they more likely to:

  • give larger gifts?
  • be retained at higher rates than those who give through only one source?

These are some of the questions that Target Analytics (a Blackbaud Company) addresses in their benchmarking research about online and offline giving. They’ve used data gathered from 15.6 million donors and more than $1.16 billion dollars in revenue to draw some general conclusions about multichannel giving in their recently published 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report.

After five years of research, they've drawn the following key conclusions:

  • direct mail giving is still the overwhelming majority of fundraising revenue;
  • organizations must find ways to optimize multichannel  giving versus hyper-focusing on internet giving alone;
  • nonprofits must closely consider how fundraising channels work in relation to one another versus as competing initiatives.

Key findings of the 2011 report include:

  • It has become increasingly common for new donors to give their first gift online.

  • In aggregate, online-acquired donors have much higher cumulative value over the long term than traditional mail-acquired donors.

  • Every year, large proportions of online-acquired donors switch from online giving to offline sources – primarily to direct mail.

  • Without the ability to become multichannel givers by renewing support via direct mail, online donors would be worth far less.

The report also notes that “organizations that use a wide range of techniques — beyond direct mail and the Internet — to acquire new donors do tend to have robust fundraising programs. While implementation of these multichannel acquisition programs often requires higher levels of investment, having a variety of acquisition methods available often results in greater success.”

Want to read the full research report?

Donors guide to recurring banner


Heart of the Donor

In an overview of their Heart of the Donor report, Grey Matter Research & Consulting suggest that "donors are the lifeblood of most not-for-profit organizations.  So it’s critical to understand them---their behaviors, their beliefs, their motivations, their perspectives, their desires.” And, as Katya Andresen (Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog) suggests in a recent post (where I learned about this study) “making sweeping assumptions about donors and activists is dangerous.  Our guesses are often wrong, and that’s why getting to know our supporters is critical to effectively engaging them.”

Heart of the Donor, a study commissioned by Russ Reid Company and conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting, explores how Americans interact with nonprofit organizations. Through telephone and online surveys of 2,005 American adults in both English and Spanish, this research investigated how political persuasion, ethnicity and age impacts donors. 

The study offers some interesting findings, including dispelling the myth “that religious people only support specifically religious causes.” In fact, the study found that:

  • among donors who attend religious worship services on a regular basis, just 41% supported a cause they described as “religious,” other than any contributions they made to a place of worship.
  • donors who attend religious services are more likely to have given toward disaster relief (68%), domestic hunger or poverty relief (66%), helping people with disabilities (56%), health care or medical research (54%), and veterans’ causes (52%) than they are to have supported specifically religious work.

For the Heart of the Donor's key findings you can read this Grey Matter overview and you can also request an executive summary.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 22 June 2011 at 9:00 AM


  • heather said:

    Wednesday, 22 June 2011 at 6:18 AM

    It's so hard justifying spending so much money on print campaigns when you have a non-profit budget. The data supports that direct mail still brings in the majority of dollars, but do you think that has something to do with the fact our donors are conditioned to receive asks in the mail? Maybe if we get creative and use other forms of interactive fundraising the oh-so-savvy donor will realize that donating online  can be just as attractive AND saves everyone money.  

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 22 June 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Yes Heather, creativity is key. But the commentary on this research that I've seen online suggests that the key takeaway is that organizations need to develop truly integrated multichannel programs. Of course, this entails both the right creative treatment across all media (email, phone, direct mail and web) as well as the ability to capture data on your donors so you can track and analyse their donor history.

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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