Once is enough?

Study Shows First-Time Online Donors Often Do Not Return By Stephanie Storm (New York Times, Wed 18 March 2009)

Whether you’re an NPO or not this is must-read. The article is just a few paragraphs but if you’re extremely pressed for time the best insights come closer to the end:

“Direct mail may not be a Maserati, but it’s very effective because it is very highly evolved,” said Lori Held, membership marketing director at Trout Unlimited. “We know how to ask for money using the mail, but most organizations are still trying to figure out how to do that online.”

Nonprofit groups face a number of challenges in trying to reach donors electronically, Ms. Held and others said.

For one thing, they must have a team dedicated to fine-tuning and improving their Web site and another team for e-mail marketing, both of which are added expenses. Nonprofit solicitation materials often get caught in systems that trap spam and other unwanted e-mail. Other systems eliminate the compelling images that are so effective in direct mail.

Still, the demographics of online donors are enticing for charities. The study found that of the donors who made at least one online gift in 2008, roughly a third had incomes greater than $100,000, while about one-quarter of those giving in other ways fell into that category.

“I think what we’re learning is that we need to be less worried about what channels these donors use and offer them a variety of channels through which they can give,” said Mr. Smith of CARE.”

Four things:

1) Conclusion: Most people are pragmatic in their charitable giving. This study is strictly from the NPO’s perspective. However, the real gems would be to understand the donors’ decision making process.  It might just be that your average Joe / Jane likes to “distribute the wealth”. Like it or not, if these are the rules then NPOs need to learn to play by them.

2) It would be helpful to know what unique identifier(s) were used to track each donor. Obviously there might be a big difference in the results between using individuals (e.g., Mr & Mrs Smith) or the Smith household. Also, did the study include or exclude anonymous donations? That could in turn effect the percentages calculated.

3) Evidently the Obama campaign actually did quite well in inspiring donors to give smaller amounts repeated times. What was their secret? Maybe that is their secret?

4) It’s nice to know that an AU state of mind just got a bit less lonely.

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