Roy C. Jones

Internet Guru Challenge – Fundraising “Part Deux”

Roy C. Jones, CFRE
Roy C. Jones, CFRE

Alright, I have heard from a few “internet gurus”… so I have shortened this post in hopes of engaging a few more of you. 

Internet giving continues to climb, but I contend it is because the other channels are driving traffic to web giving pages, and not because the other channels are lying in a ditch on the information highway.

Internet giving is going up, up and up. The real question is why, why, why?

The median online revenue growth rate in 2012 is over 13 percent; in 2011 it was 15.8 percent, compared to 20 percent growth in 2010 over 2009. The gurus that work in the Internet and social media are almost giddy when they talk about it. I have heard some of the most ridiculous and unfounded conclusions in recent weeks. “Events in the real world are a waste of time”; “Telephone calls should never happen”; “No one reads hand written notes anymore”; “Fundraising mail is a complete waste of money”; “Direct mail is dead”…

The facts are that nothing could be further from the truth.

So many Internet gurus mistakenly lead people to believe that on line donations happen because people wake up in the morning and magically say, “I am going to send charity X a donation on my computer”. They convince their clients to curtail other forms of fundraising to retool their internet marketing and website every 24 to 36 months. The gurus of the web tell their clients “if you build it they will come.” Make no mistake about it, web sites are important and one day within this century, we will see all other forms of communication die. However, the tombstone epitaph for that day will not be in 2013, and will likely not be written for another decade or more.

What is really happening today? Most donors are simply using the website as the “transaction form” for their giving.

If you do an event today, many participants will go on line to complete the pledge they made. Would the donation have happened without the event? Of course not… If you call a donor to talk about a project, most do not give on the telephone. After you hang up, they go on line to your website and make a gift? Would the donor have just magically gone to the website to donate without the call? Nope. If you send them a fundraising letter about 25 to 30 percent of all mail donors go on line today to process their donation today. Without the mailing, would those 3 out of 10 donors have given on line? Probably not.

Make no mistake about it. Web based donations do happen. Emails are used successfully to drive people to your website to donate. Nationally the response rate for house email files (people who have given to you before) is around 1%. One out of every 100 to 150 people will respond to your email appeal. If you are prospecting for new donor that number is a fraction of one percent. 1 out of 1,000 -1,500 will respond.

What the pundits and gurus fail to understand is that it is not an “either/or” scenario. It is not direct mail versus other marketing channels. It is direct mail AND the other channels. The word you should be talking about today is INTEGRATION.

Integration is the key to increasing the number of donations your charity receives. You must not get hung up on year over year giving from the individual communication channels. You have to track total revenue from all combined channels. There is just too much shifting back and forth between direct mail, white mail, telephone, internet and events. These silos work together in 2013. Donors go back in forth between silos based upon convenience and the time of year.

The way people give is changing. There is no doubt that the direct response fundraising metrics are different today than even one year ago. Gone are the days when direct mail was the ONLY tool for identifying, cultivating and renewing donor giving. Today, direct mail continues to produce checks in the pre printed reply envelopes. However, direct mail is playing a far greater role in driving transactions to the charity’s website.

If you track the daily giving to your charity’s website you are going to see that online giving mirrors the dates when your direct mail pieces arrive in-home. The spikes in giving online always follow, within hours, a mailing being placed into your donor’s mailbox.

So many “Internet Gurus” are churning out blatantly false information about what is occurring in digital fundraising. Fundraising “experts” are saying that all fundraising is shifting to the internet because it’s the new technology and they are absolutely wrong. When people give on line it is no more about the technology as saying when people give in the mail it is because of the paper.

Remember…. acknowledgement giving, major donor gifts, planned gifts and internet giving do not happen in a silo by themselves. You have to look at the totality of each fundraising program. These marketing channels must continue to be fueled by direct mail packages.

Do I believe that fundraising is changing? You bet I do…. But for now, the thing to remember is that your reply device is what is changing.    Your mail, events, projects and programs need to be retooled to drive donors to the on line giving page.



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