How online and offline fundraising work together

Back when we first started seeing the potential of the Net as a fundraising medium, I doubt anyone would have guessed that the biggest impact of online fundraising would be the way it interacts with offline fundraising.

Turns out the media are increasingly intertwined by donors who use them in tandem. We’re all scrambling to figure out how to measure this odd behavior and market appropriately, given the way donors behave.

Here’s lots of useful information for tackling that challenge: 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report (download, PDF), part of the Target Analytics Internet Giving Benchmarking study.

Here are some of the many useful findings:


  • The majority of multichannel donors are those who are acquired online and then subsequently start giving direct mail gifts.
  • Every year, large proportions of online-acquired donors switch from online giving to offline sources — primarily to direct mail.
  • When online-acquired donors move offline, they tend to do so soon, in their first renewal year.
  • Robust direct mail programs drive up the retention and long-term value of new donors acquired online.

One thing this tells us is that we can’t see online fundraising as a different thing from offline media, especially direct mail. They are different parts of the same tool. That’s the way donors are using them.

I see two major warnings here:


  1. If you are not taking online fundraising seriously because it seems insignificant compared to your large and well-oiled direct mail program, you are losing donations. And it’s going to keep getting worse. You are failing to respond to the ways donors interact with their causes.
  2. If you are one of those hip online-only fundraisers and you never use direct mail, you are missing out on huge opportunities to deepen your relationships with donors. It’s probably costing you deeply.

This is research we all should pay attention to. Unlike over-hyped surveys that gather the stated opinions of self-selected respondents, this is the observed behavior of huge numbers of donors. It’s real.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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