Anything to Be Learned from America’s Most Generous Cities Online? | npENGAGE

Anything to Be Learned from America’s Most Generous Cities Online?

By on Sep 21, 2009


Lists almost always get people’s attention. They also point to trends and issues that are often of interest to people. So to with our first ever ranking of the nation’s most generous cities when it comes to online giving. As we sift through the data, we’re learning some interesting things and finding correlations with other data that can help nonprofits make better decisions. But, arguably the most important take away from the list of most generous cities is: If you are a nonprofit in one of these cities you need to make sure that you are providing a quality online experience for donors and prospects to make sure that you are engaging people in online giving

Probably the most vivid case in point is our hometown of Austin, TX. I chatted with a nonprofit executive last week as we let her know that Austin ranked 7th on the list when it comes to per capita online giving. As little as a year ago Austin ranked 48th out of the 50 largest US cities in total per capita giving based on the reporting of local charities. That begged the question, are the good people of Austin giving more outside of Austin because of their propensity for living a wired lifestyle? Her answer, “I don’t know, but I am upgrading my web site.” The community of Austin has created a campaign called, “I live here, I give here” to help change the culture of philanthropy based on research that “tells us that most of us (Austinites) would give more if we knew more about the needs here at home.” This campaign and the online generosity of Austinites comes together as a great opportunity for the region’s nonprofits to engage the community online as well as through the other programs and channels available – maybe this is proof the campaing is working.

It was great fun preparing this list and talking with your nonprofit peers in cities such as Alexandria, VA, Cambridge, MA and Minneapolis, MN who are the top three most generous cities. The nonprofits we are working with understand the value of online engagement and are proud of the communities they support and in turn the support they get. The mayors and council members we reached out to were equally proud and excited (and in one case even asked if “Convio sold their software to politicians?”).
I also did a little, non-scientific analysis of some of the cities that had jumps of 20-30 places in their 2008 to 2009 ranking. It was interesting to me, though, again not scientific that many of these cities had fundraising events where participants asked friend and family to support their cause such as a run, walk or ride and/or some form of crisis that touched the passion of the people in the community, such as a fire, tornado, or well-known individual that passed away and people reached out to support their cause in memorial.
I mention that as it supports my bias about how the online channel is the best. Most efficient way to reach people at the moment they feel most passionate about giving their support to an organization or cause. Without getting political, rather to prove a point, look at the dollars raised both for and against the congressman who shouted during the President’s joint speech to congress. If we had to rely on the traditional, direct mail model, by the time one created, printed, built a mailing list and mailed the direct mail piece to solicit gifts the passion would have been gone. Not to mention the people who cared that might not have been on our list to begin with who were able to donate to the cause when they wanted – online. Personally, I wish we could get that passion directed at the nonprofits that are making a difference, but that is a post for another day…

Check out the list and let us know what you think. (Not about politicians and political outburst but online generosity.)

The 2008 rankings are based on the more than $777 million in online donations processed by Convio on behalf of thousands of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations during the calendar year. The 2009 rankings are based on the more than $420 million processed in the first half of 2009. While most lists offer a top 25 or a top 100, we are able to mine the data for the top 273 cities of more than 100,000 people and can rank the top 1,700+ for cities of less than 100,000 people. You can visit to search the files to see where your hometown or favorite city ranks. You can also compare the data to  the Forbes List of America’s Most Wired Cities to see how the rankings stack-up.  And, unlike State Farm’s List of the Most Dangerous Intersections you don’t have to change a driving habit, except maybe on the information super-highway.


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