Social networks can be so important for communicating with folks who support (or will support) your cause. The high speed and low cost of such outreach can offer huge dividends, but mostly those dividends are paid in good will and spurring interest. Online donations are certainly growing, but as a report from Blackbaud in 2011 demonstrated, long-term support and larger donations still mostly come from responses to direct mail, even if initial support comes online. The effort for any nonprofit, therefore, should be to develop interests and first donations online, yet also to strive to engage those donors with direct-mail appeals to keep the support coming. What are the numbers to back up this strategy?
The term given to reaching out to donors via online communication, traditional mail, and face-to-face engagement is ‘multi-channel giving’. The fundamental motive for multi-channel giving is the fact that one can never be precisely sure precisely which donor will give online, which prefers to mail in a check, and which wants to present a donation at a fundraiser or gala celebration. By offering these various opportunities to a broad audience, a nonprofit expands opportunities to reach donors by their preferred media.
That said, there is no doubt that the most dynamic development in giving − especially first-time giving by anyone of any age for any amount − is the rise in donations via mobile devices. Even older Americans are now much more likely to give via online and mobile devices. Those gifts also tend to be higher than first-time mail-in donations. The final trend that we would like to stress is the fact that donors who first give online generally remain more generous than their counterparts who first give via direct mail. Those online givers will often give subsequent gifts via a mailed-in check, though, which is why it is so important to develop a multi-channel strategy.
What we think is especially exciting about the 2011 report from Blackbaud is that we see the predicted trends over four-plus years as mobile technologies came to market and ever more people in all demographics were growing comfortable with the technologies. In fact, Blackbaud now offers a comprehensive palette of fundraising and marketing solutions for nonprofits – a multichannel approach that did not truly exist when the report was first published. Moreover, those technologies offer opportunities truly to target the most generous donors. One can fairly easily with personal appeals in the mail to keep them engaged over the long term.
True, technology challenges nonprofits of all sizes to keep numerous balls in the air at one time. But that same technology helps facilitate that juggling and the return on investment can be well worth the effort.