Jan/Feb 2008

An Untapped Opportunity: Engaging Your High Value Donors Online

by Vinay Bhagat, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Convio

Major gifts are an important revenue source for many organizations. The best prospects for major gifts not only have disposable wealth, but also are familiar with and passionate about your cause. Major donors are also becoming increasingly wired. Defenders of Wildlife, for example, has found that one-third of all new major donors are sourced through their online marketing efforts. Since limited research has been conducted in this area, Convio partnered with the Internet consulting firm SeaChange Strategies and the market research firm Edge Research to study how nonprofits engage their major donors.

Online communications can help augment and enhance less frequent personal contact. Yet we found that very few organizations have implemented systematic processes for engaging high value donors online. Our full report on "The Untapped Potential for Major Giving: Online Marketing Tools for Cultivation and Stewardship" will be published in early April and presented at the International Conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals on April 1, 2008.

For this research, we surveyed high value donors to 23 nonprofit organizations across a diverse range of sectors, obtaining over 3,000 responses. The targeted donors gave at least $1,000 over 18 months and had an email address with the organization but had not necessarily donated online. The 3,000 respondents gave on average over $10,000 per year. We also conducted a survey of nonprofits to understand their online engagement practices for high value donors.

The data clearly demonstrates that the Web is an important channel to engage high value donors. For example, when asked, "What is your preferred giving channel?" fully half (50%) of respondents answered, "the Internet." Other questions included "Before thinking about donating to a charity for the first time, do you visit their Web site?" and  "What effect, if any, do the following have on your inclination to make an additional gift in the future? The charity sends me email with news of recent victories and accomplishments. The charity tells me by email how my donation was spent, and what happened as a result", which led to our concluding that if organizations are not using their Web site to engage and communicate and if they are not using email to share success with their major donors, these organizations are missing opportunities — not just with a few major donors or potential major donors, but with the vast majority of those surveyed.

Look for our new research reviewed in the upcoming March/April issue of Convio Connection, which will highlight why online marketing will emerge as a strong source for new major donor prospects.

An Untapped Opportunity: Engaging Your High Value Donors Online | Convio