Network for Good and TrueSense Marketing have released a new study about online giving trends. The Online Giving Study makes a point to note that this isn’t another study about the rapid growth of online giving, but instead it’s a call to reinvent donor relationships.
I have a lot of respect for Network for Good and the things they’ve done in the nonprofit sector. I spend a lot of time looking at data and trends and thought it might be helpful to pick out some findings that were particularly interesting.
The study covers $381 million in online giving through Network for Good’s platform, including 3.6 million gifts to 66,470 different nonprofits from 2003 through 2009. Network for Good processes donations for charities of all sizes, but because their focus is on small- to medium-sized nonprofits and there is a strong representation of these nonprofits in the data.
The data set is limited to donations powered by the Network for Good platform and any giving that took place on other sites or that were made offline are not included. The online giving data comes from charity websites using a Network for Good donation form, either branded or generic, portal websites like GuideStar.org and CharityNavigator.org, and social giving through Causes, Change.org, and YourCause.com.
What Caught My Eye
The study notes that most donations were made via nonprofit websites (64.1%), followed by giving portals (25.5%), and social giving sites (10.4%). There is some data sampling bias in this breakdown and it probably overstates the actual percentage of giving from social channels. The growth of social giving over past two years is encouraging, but it represents less than 1% of total online giving.
Analysis of cumulative online giving shows that donors who gave via charity websites started at the highest level and gave the most over time, giving portal donors started lower and gave less over time, and those who used social giving opportunities gave the least initially and added little afterward. This really reinforces both the importance of optimizing the giving experience on your website but also how important it is to steward donors that come through external sources.
December accounts for 33% of online giving and 22% of those gifts happen in the last two days of the month. This is very similar to the trend data that Blackbaud has seen with year end giving. But I am beginning to worry that this is going to cause problems in the future across the nonprofit sector. The potential for donor fatigue, over-messaging, and competing for attention has considerable risks. I recommend that nonprofits adopt a strategy that spans the entire calendar.
Disaster donors in 2005 started lower and gave less in subsequent years compared to non-disaster donors. This mirrors patterns Blackbaud has seen with episodic donors that give both online and offline. Nonprofits need to show episodic donors more outcomes and have a much more tailored stewardship program. Online giving related to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti is not covered in this report.
The study notes that over time, the average and median gift through pages powered by Network for Good has dropped significantly. They believe this signals that online giving is no longer the exclusive territory of early adopters and it also shows the impact of the large influx of smaller gifts motivated by social networking sites in the last two years. I think this highlights the importance of not using a one size fits all approach to online giving. As online giving continues to mature it will start to look a lot like traditional fundraising where multiple giving options are used that have different results.
You can get the complete report at www.onlinegivingstudy.org