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Many nonprofit professionals think that because few major gifts are made online, that major donors are not active online?

That thinking might be costing nonprofits billions in donations.

 
When it comes to online engagement, the wired wealthy are coming to nonprofit Web sites and what they see will influence their giving decisions. A first of its kind national survey conducted by Convio, Sea Change Strategies and Edge Research showed that the wired wealthy are very generous givers, giving an average of $11,0001 each year to various causes, that they are online an average of 18 hours a week, and that eight-in-ten have made donations online. While the wired wealthy are active in their online philanthropic efforts, their modest expectations and demands for nonprofit Web sites are often met, but rarely exceeded and most often the communication from the nonprofit is uninspiring. The study does indeed suggest an “Internet communication gap” between high dollar donors and charities.
 
The nonprofit sector makes up about 9 percent of the United States GDP and giving to charity topped $291 billion last year, but until now no one knew or understood the online behaviors and preferences of major donors - the results of a first-of-a-kind research project into the habits and preferences of the "wired wealthy" show that nonprofits might be missing out on nearly $100 billion dollars in gifts because they are not fully meeting the online needs and expectations of this key constituency, the major donor.

 
1) MAJOR AND MODERATE DONORS ARE GENEROUS AND ONLINE
The average wired wealthy donor gave giftsof $11,000 each year to various causes and has been online for an average of 12 years. For the average donor, online transactions are a way of life. Benefits cited include speed and efficiency, credit card miles and the ability to better track donations. While more than half of respondents say that online giving is their preferred giving channel, they are multi-channel donors, with plans for more online giving.
 
· Financial and time benefits
o 78% bank and pay bills online.
o 46% said that five years from now they will be making a greater portion of their charitable gifts online.
o 72% say donating online is more efficient and helps charities reduce administrative costs.
o 68% said online giving lets charities respond more quickly in the event of an emergency or crisis.
o 53% said credit card based frequent flyer miles or other reward was a benefit to giving online.
o 48% said online giving makes it easier to track donations over time.
 
· Internet Lifestyle
o 80% say they have donated online,and 83% of participants say they have donated via postal mail
o 90% buy products online
o 52% use YouTube
o 43% download or listen to music
o Less than 2-in-10 (17%) are concerned about security issues.
 
 
2) MOST CHARITY WEB SITES ARE MISSING OPPORTUNITIES TO FULLY ENGAGE WEALTHY WIRED WITH THEIR ORGANIZATION
When it comes to the demands and expectations regarding nonprofit Web sites, donors expect a simple and secure giving process, access to financials and other data in support of giving decisions. Yet those looking for inspiration, connection, and deeper engagement opportunities are apt to be under whelmed.
 
· Personal connection
o Only 40% said that most charity Web sites made them feel personally connected to their cause or mission.
o Only 40% said that most charity Web sites are inspiring, and less than half (48%) felt most charity Web sites are well-designed.
 
· Information
o Only 62% said most charities make it easy to find contact information like mailing address and phone number.
o Only 34% said that the information found on the website was “very useful,” while 46 % said the information was “somewhat useful” in their decision making process.
o Just a little more than half (53%) said that most charity Web sites make it easy to get the information needed to decide whether to give.

 
3) THE SURVEY REVEALED THREE DISTINCT PSYCHO-GRAPHIC GROUPS OF THE WIRED WEALTHY
The key differentiator between these groups is the extent to which donors see the Internet channel as a source of connection between themselves and the causes they support, as opposed to merely a transaction device.
 
RELATIONSHIP SEEKERS – 29%
CASUAL CONNECTORS – 41%
ALL BUSINESS – 30%
Average annual giving: $11,401
Average annual giving: $9,212
Average Annual Giving: $12,698
Relationship seekers are the group most likely to respond to opportunities to connect emotionally with your organization online. They are slightly younger than average (42% are between 25 and 44 years old), spend more time online, and are more likely to engage in social networks and other “Web 2.0” kinds of activities.
 
Two-thirds of relationship seekers say a visit to an organization’s website played a role in past giving decisions. Just over 60% say that websites make them feel personally connected to a cause. This group is most likely to visit a charity website after donating, and are most likely to be interested in online political action. This group is notably more likely to view videos online.
Casual connectors show some interest in sustaining an online connection, though less so than the relationship seekers. They give more weight to such objective information as fundraising efficiency and recent accomplishments, and slightly fewer (58%) say a visit to an organization’s website played a key role in making a giving decision.

Still, a substantial 45% say an organization’s website makes them feel more personally connected to the cause or charity.
These donors predominantly use charity websites to donate -- period. They are not looking for a relationship or an emotional connection when visiting your website.
 
In marked contrast to the other two clusters, only 15% of the All Business group say that websites make them feel more personally connected to a cause.

This group is also older (58% are between 45 and 64), much less open to receiving email than the other clusters, and for the most part more comfortable with offline giving channels.
 
The two keys to making the All Business group happy are a smooth and simple donation process, and a tax receipt at the end of the year. After that, they pretty much want to be left alone.

 
4) EMAIL SHOWS SIGNS OF LOST OPPORTUNITIES TO CONNECT WITH VARIOUS CLUSTERS
The clusters offer important clues about what kinds of communications wired wealthy donors might value. As email communication can impact donor inclinations to make additional gifts both the content of the email and the donors’ ability to manage the frequency and personal relevance of those emails improves the likelihood of the charity getting additional gifts from the donor.
 
· Email increases online donation
o 74% said it was appropriate for the charity to send an email reminding them to renew an annual gift.
o 74% said that an email from the charity about how their donation was spent, and what happened as a result would make them more likely to give again
o 73% said that they would be more likely to give another donation if the charity permits them to tell them (the charity) how often to email them (the donor).
o 60% said that emails with news of recent victories and accomplishments are more likely to make them give again.
o 65% said they always open and glance at emails from causes they support.
o 67% said that Action Alerts that let them send a fax or email to elected officials were valuable.
 
· Financial benefits
o 92% said an email tax receipt at year-end showing how much the donor gave was valuable.
o 83% said that financial updates that show how the charity has been spending donating funds was valuable.
o 56% said it was appropriate for the charity to send an urgent fundraising email asking for a donation.
 
· Personal connection
o 64% said that personal stories by people whose lives had been transformed by the charity were valuable.
o 62% said volunteer information was valuable.
o 69% said that reviews and summaries of recent news coverage of the cause or charity was valuable.
o Only 46% said charity emails do a good job of making the donor feel connected.
o Only 43% of respondents said that emails they receive from charities are generally well written and inspiring.
o 69% said that reviews and summaries of recent news coverage of the cause or charity was valuable.
 
(1 – Giving figures are based on actual giving histories as reported by participating organizations.)
 
This analysis is a first-of-its-kind look into the online behaviors and preferences of major donors. An important constituency for nonprofits, Institutions of Higher Education and Faith-based organizations, the researchers are available for in-depth interviews or comment. Contact Tad Druart, tdruart@convio.com or Abbey Korthals, Porter Novelli for Convio, abbey.korthals@porternovelli.com, (512) 241-2240.

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