The release of the 9th Luminate Online Benchmark Report is an opportunity for nonprofits to take stock of how the nonprofit sector is performing online, and what recent trends tell us about donor and giving behavior.

As the percentage of overall philanthropic giving online slowly increases, it’s critical to look at the sourcing of that revenue. Many years ago, when online giving was new, there was a fear that this new channel for giving would cannibalize the direct mail, offline giving pool.

Time has shown this not to be the case, even as the overall slice of online giving has inched up. Donors will choose to give how and where and when is best for them, but there are some interesting trends in giving preferences among online donors very much worth paying attention to.

Repeat transactions made up 61.42% of all online revenue; first-time transactions comprised 38.61%. The trends show that repeat transactions as a percentage of online giving grew 4.24%, while first-time transactions as a share of online revenue decreased 6.21%.

Certainly, a big portion of this is driven by sustaining donors.  While sustaining donors make up only 9.54% of all online fundraising, that figure increased by 7.76%.

So what are the strategic implications of knowing that almost two-third of all online gifts are coming from those who have given online before?

1. It means once someone gives online, they are more than comfortable in doing so again.

This means for new, first-time online donors, it’s important to send the proper stewardship and appeals to solicit a repeat gift. And it may make sense for that second gift to be part of a sustaining giving program.

2. It means you will have a large data set to understand what is driving your online giving.

By using source codes and campaign-specific donation forms, you should know which donors are giving to which campaigns, what is driving those gifts (e-mail or other promotions), and also understand the trends for each donor in terms of whether they are upgrading their gift or not.

3. It impacts your segmentation strategy.

The benchmark report indicates that donors comprise about 13% of the average house-file. That’s a pretty significant chunk of your list. If you aren’t already versioning your e-mails between donors and non-donors, you should. Even more, you may want to target multiple online givers and send them their own version of various appeals.

And this raises a few questions.

  • Should sustaining donors receive appeals from other campaigns?
  • How soon after making an online gift should a donor receive another appeal?
  • Are you asking existing online donors for the right amount of money?

Appeals and donation forms in Luminate can be customized for each donor; the ask amount can be either a set figure or a percentage higher than their most recent gift. It might be time for you to start using this functionality.

We can expect the percentage of repeat online donors to increase as a share of overall online giving. This forces us to consider how we are asking these donors for further repeat gifts, both in our appeals and on donation forms.


Scott Gilman is a Senior Interactive Consultant at Blackbaud, where he was worked since January 2008 assisting non-profits with their online fundraising and marketing. He has worked on strategy development and online campaign management with organizations such as UNCF-United Negro College Fund, the Cleveland Clinic, the Carter Center, Duke Cancer Institute, Nature Canada and many more.

He relocated to Austin from New York, where he served as the Director of Online Communications for the National Center for Learning Disabilities. At NCLD Scott directed Web-related activities including content development, technology maintenance, online marketing, partnership-building and Web usage analysis. Prior to NCLD, Scott was Assistant Director of Internet Initiatives at the Jewish Federations of North America and Associate Producer at

Scott is originally from Louisville, Ky., and holds a B.A in Literature/Writing from Columbia University, a B.A. in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary and a M.A. in Media Studies from The New School.

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