Nonprofits Leveraging Research to Engage Major Donors Online and Better Meet Expectations of Wired Wealthy

Interest and Ideas from Groundbreaking Research Into Online Habits and Expectations of “Wired Wealthy” is Changing Plans and Strategic Investment of Development Officers according to Convio, Sea Change Strategies and Edge Research

After releasing the results of a first-of-its-kind national research study into the online behaviors and attitudes of the “Wired Wealthy” in March, researchers from Convio, Sea Change Strategies and Edge Research have been busy coaching and consulting nonprofit leaders on key steps to better engage this important constituency. Researchers shared industry reaction, lessons learned and insights into what major gifts officers, executive directors and other nonprofit professionals are doing to better engage wealthy donors based on the research, during a session at the Public Radio Direct Marketing Conference this past weekend in Orlando.

“The results of the Wired Wealthy research have been an eye-opener for many nonprofit professionals, particularly in the world of major gifts,” said Mark Rovner, Principal of Sea Change Strategies. “While we are seeing many nonprofits emphasizing online improvements for the remainder of the year that take advantage of this tremendous opportunity, virtually every client we work with is integrating the recommendations from the research into their 2009 planning to improve the online experience of the wired wealthy.”

The study surveyed more than 3,000 donors from 23 major nonprofit organizations to determine the online behaviors and preferences of one of the nonprofit sectors most important constituents. The Wired Wealthy are identified as individuals who donate a minimum of $1,000 dollars annually to a single cause and give an average of $10,896 to various charities each year, with a median gift of $4,500.

The research study began in the fall of 2007. A variety of nonprofit sectors were represented, including: Advocacy/Public Affairs, Animal Welfare, Christian Ministries, Environment, Health, International relief and development, and Public Television. The constituency surveyed represented approximately one percent of the participating charities’ email files, but accounted for nearly 32 percent of their annual gifts.

One of the most significant findings of the research was that three distinct groups of donors emerged based on the extent to which the donor sees the Internet as a source of connection between themselves and the causes:

  • Relationship seekers (29%) – the group most likely to connect emotionally with organizations online
  • All business (30%) – not looking for a relationship or emotional connection, but a smooth and simple donation process
  • Casual connectors (41%) – occupy the middle ground, showing some interest in sustaining an online relationship, but also wanting a smooth and simple process
  • Nonprofits should create and provide options that let the wired wealthy customize their online experience with the cause

“It is no longer about demographics it is about behaviors,” said Colleen McCulloch-Learch, Senior Analyst for Edge Research who donated their services to conduct the research. “Organizations are communicating in a very noisy marketplace during a tough economy and competing for attention and limited dollars. Understanding the expectations and behaviors of the three distinct donor groups and what the donors and prospects pick up on is critically important to success. Often what the donor or prospect notices is different from what the organization might think is important and of interest. By understanding those differences and needs, organizations are upping the ante in making their Web site and email communication more inspiring so people have a reason to become more engaged.”

Added Trent Ricker, Vice President of Account Services for Convio, “It is apparent that this research has fundamentally shifted the way some nonprofit organizations approach their relationships with major donors online. Because these constituents have high expectations for their online engagement, the research provides important insight into the ways nonprofits can better connect, motivate and retain these donors.”

Some of the key recommendations from the research include:

1. Don't panic ... but don't assume doing nothing is an option. Most wired wealthy donors are not fundamentally unhappy with online communications. But they aren't delighted either. Using the online channel better should be a development priority.
2. Segment lists. The best donors want different things from the organization.

  a. The All Business group - and probably the others - want the smoothest possible online donation process, and the best possible case for giving on the nonprofit site
  b. Emails for All Business should be scarce, but should include an annual tax summary and periodic donor reports on where the money is going and what has been accomplished.
  c. Casual Connectors and Relationship Seekers are open to cultivation. Look at emails and the home page as opportunities to inspire.
  d. Finally, that all-important group of Relationship Seekers is looking for engagement. Make sure your leveraging multiple channels to engage this important group.

3. Power to the people - make donor control a mantra. If at all possible, provide donors with some control over the content and frequency of emails.
4. Let the message drive the technology and not the reverse. For the Wired Wealthy, don't get stampeded into whatever the latest thing is online. Don't replace quality with quantity. Don't communicate when you have nothing to say, just because there is a scheduled email.
5. Pay special attention to video. Maybe this is the single exception to recommendation four. Relationship Seekers are heavy users of online video and express significant interest in seeing more.
6. Make listening an every day tactic. Participants in this study are not at all shy about expressing their likes and dislikes. With online communications and philanthropy in general in a state of flux, keeping close tabs on the evolving preferences of this constituency will be critically important.

“This seminal research provides a variety of different nonprofit organizations – both large and small – the tools to assess their online strategy and make adjustments where necessary to better capture big opportunities,” added Rovner. “By working this information into their 2009 planning, nonprofits will be better positioned to cut through the clutter and may be in a better position to weather the economic downturn.”

To download the complete report, visit http://www.convio.com/resources/nonprofit-sector-research.html.

The research team will also be presenting the results and recommendations at the annual Bridge Conference in Washington, D.C. on July 25, 2008. http://www.bridgeconf.org/2008/

About Convio

Convio is a leading provider of on-demand constituent relationship management software and services to nonprofit organizations to enable nonprofit organizations to more effectively raise funds, influence public policy and support their missions by leveraging the Internet to build strong relationships with constituents. The Company’s online constituent relationship management, or eCRM, solution includes a suite of on demand software modules for fundraising, advocacy, email marketing and Web content management complemented by a portfolio of best-in-class consulting services.

Convio's clients include American Red Cross, American Diabetes Association, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Sierra Club, Susan G. Komen Foundation, and National Public Radio. For more information, please visit www.convio.com.

About Sea Change Strategies

Sea Change Strategies is about research and strategy for remarkable causes. Founded in 1999, Sea Change Strategies offers two kinds of integrated marketing and fundraising services for their clients -- long-term retainers for “soup to nuts” fundraising and marketing, and short term strategic reviews for organizations in transition, with big ambitions or who just need an infusion of energy and ideas. To learn more, visit: www.seachangestrategies.com.

About Edge Research

Edge Research is a full-service custom research firm that helps nonprofits and corporations meet their strategic objectives. They forge strong partnerships with a select number of clients, learn their business and continue to provide smart, insightful research and analysis over time. Edge Research’s adaptive approach, full range of services, strategic analysis and personal attention have earned them long term relationships with major corporations and nonprofits across the country. For more information, visit www.edgeresearch.com.





Press Contact:
Karoline McLaughlin
Director, Corporate Communications
Convio, Inc.

Nonprofits Leveraging Research to Engage Major Donors Online and Better Meet Expectations of Wired Wealthy | Convio