Research shows online consumer in the giving spirit | npENGAGE

Research shows online consumer in the giving spirit

By on Dec 1, 2009


Despite the difficult economy, American consumers will be going online in record numbers to support charitable causes in the final four weeks of the year – giving an estimated $4B online. This according to The North American Technographics® Omnibus Online Survey, Q4 2009 (US), a commissioned omnibus survey conducted by Forrester’s Technographics® on behalf of Convio. More than 63% of online consumers plan to use the Internet to donate to charities of their choice during the upcoming holiday season, up from 51% in 2008 – when you look at the amount they plan to give it looks like organizations ready to engage online could see a more prosperous holiday season than those late to the online game.


In the tough economy that might not make up for the revenue that some organizations have lost, but it is a significant shift in the giving habits of the US consumer. There is a bunch of data, but here are a few things that jumped out at me:



  1. The influence of the website on gift giving regardless of how the final gift is given – 44% of the consumers said the website was most influential in their decision to give – last year only 27% rated the website as the most influential. The website is like the front porch of your house – it might not be the most important part of the house, but it is what everyone sees – is it compelling and inviting them in?
  2. Multichannel is alive and well – while these people prefer online, 61% wrote a check and mailed it, 38% gave at an event, 17% responded online to an appeal from a family member or friend in support of a run/walk/ride event, and 16% gave over the phone. If you are not investing in making all the channels work together you’re missing an opportunity or worse sending people elsewhere.
  3. 60% of seniors – those over 65 years young – said they plan to donate online. Just last week I was told by an ED at a hospital foundation that my older donors are not online…really?  See point one above – they gift might not come in online, but they are online checking you out. Validation for the Wired Wealthy Study as well.
  4. 40% of people said word-of-mouth influenced their decision and nearly 1 out of 4 said what family and friends said on their social media sites influenced their decision.  I’m not sure what to make of this completely, but one observation is that many NPO leaders trust word-of-mouth more than they trust social media – yet we don’t know what people are saying. While social media was honestly lower than I expected, it does show that if we provide content and ideas it will help influence giving. The key point here for me is that organizations need to provide their most passionate supporters with the tools (online and off) to help tell the story and engage people in giving.


Two other salient points that I took from the data show good news and bad news, depending on one’s perspective:



  • 56% said most charity websites make it easy to donate.  That’s better than last year, but it also means almost half are not doing as good a job as possible.
  • 54% said nonprofit websites do NOT make it easy to get the info needed to decide whether or not to donate.   Organizations still need to focus on the user experience, making sure all the right information is in the right places, easy to access, navigate, etc.  Is your site designed for them or for you and your leadership? That’s an important question to ask – hopefully you can answer it is designed for the prospect/donor, not the internal audience.


Hopefully you are executing a well thought-out and designed year-end campaign and are ready to engage these consumers as donors. If you are great. But if not, our experts in our services and support functions took the key findings from the survey and created a last minute guide to help organizations be more successful in the last four weeks of the year.  You can download the entire guide, but here is my summary of the information – really download the guide.


Four tips to help succeed in the last four weeks of the year:



  1. The website matters!  Optimize your website for giving – make it easy and make sure the information the consumer needs is easy to find – offer eCommerce options so consumers torn between buying a gift and giving a donation – let them  give a gift that does both. Regardless of the size of the gift or the final method of payment consumers are going to charity website and using technology to learn about and engage with charities.
  2. Make every email count – make sure content is compelling and provides easy to see links to giving options – make sure it is consistent and integrated with other channels.
  3. Empower your most passionate supporters to help tell your story through tell-a-friend emails, eCards, content for their social media sites and/or offer the ability for them to build their own personal fundraising page.
  4. In the last week of the year, promote tax benefits – the last day of the year is historically the busiest day for online giving.


With consumer dollars being tight and the competition for donations growing, online marketing and fundraising continues to grow in importance for donors and organizations alike. It is clear that online giving has joined traditional channels as mission-critical part of the giving mix and successful organizations are investing accordingly in their online relationships. Don’t get tied around the $4B estimate, rather look at the millions of people that are available to engage and build relationships with this holiday season. Use this season as an opportunity to engage with them’ to cultivate a relationship; and create a sustained relationship that yields returns for many years.


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