As I started discussing yesterday, M+R and NTEN released the2008 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study and there is quite a bit of data to get through.  Today, I want to share some of my thoughts about the fundraising benchmarks highlighted in the report and one of the case studies discussed in the report’s launch presentation.

Fundraising Response Rates
It was mentioned in the previous post as well that messaging response rates, including those of fundraising messages, were down last year compared to 2006.  There is a bit of trickiness to that data though:  even though the response rates declined, the overall amount raised online continues to go up partly because of the fact that the average email list has grown by a factor that is larger than the decline in response rates.

The declining open rates still convince me to look for ways to integrate calls into one message so that you have actions/advocacy, fundraising opportunities, and news/information in every email so it isn’t a one shot or nothing deal.

Online Giving
On average, organizations raised 40% of the online giving in Q4 (October-December).  This trend is true as well for gift size.  The study found that gift size dramatically increased at the end of the year (same was true in 2006).  So, the obvious lesson here is to cultivate as many donations as possible at the end of the year.

It seems to me, though, that just as much as you should cultivate donors/donations at year-end, you should find new ways of engaging them in your fundraising needs in other times of the year.  Remember that tying fundraising appeals to current events and other communication campaigns as another option for support (it’s really just another call to action) can bring in new donors and help you identify what issues the supporters care most about.

Case Studies
#1.  Humane Society of the United States

One of the profiles included in the study focuses on the HSUS’ fundraising success.  There are a few things they did to improve their fundraising response rates, one of them was that:

They recruited new advocates on high profile advocacy campaigns, and then converted the new advocates to donors by sending fundraising appeals on the same issue.  This strategy has proved so successful for HSUS that the organization has decided to customize its rolling welcome appeal for new advocates so that new advocates hear from HSUS on the same issue they joined the email list on.  HSUS has extended this segmentation strategy to other appeals, too, by targeting list members with appeals based on those advocates’ and donors’ past online actions.

I think it is incredibly important to note that they didn’t take frequent or high impact DONORS to target in a more direct way with fundraising, but frequent and high impact ACTION-TAKERS.  Fundraising is often not very low on the ladder of engagement with new members.  It makes sense to cultivate other involvement with the organization and then approach with donation opportunities.

#2.  Amnesty International USA

During the report release conference call/webinar/live event, a representative from AI explained some interesting learning they went through with their website and online giving.  Here are some of the areas they made changes and saw results:

  • Changing the web confirmation to donation form raised $46,000+ since December and indicates which issue inspires the donor (this is a confirmation when taking action, filling out a form, etc.)
  • Changing the standard gray “submit” (or “donate” and so on) button on the donation form to a large red “submit” button, they saw a 29% lift in conversion rate.
  • Adding some right-pointing arrows to a “donate” graphic on the home page provided a 5% lift in overall traffic to the donation form and a 55% lift in total dollars raised

It is incredible to think what tiny changes can be made on your website, especially ones like these that take very little time to implement, that can drastically improve your online fundraising success.

There is one more section to the benchmarks study that I’m going to cover tomorrow (the section on Advocacy).  The fundraising section really creates just as many questions as the email data from yesterday.

Where do you find out the most information about a donor right now and how is that reflected on your website?  How are you currently designing ways to cultivate donors outside of the October-December high season?

Online fundraising’s little tricks
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  • The smallest tweaks of a website can produce profound differences in the way readers behave. Google offers a means to create two different landing pages – donation pages or whatever you want to create, and you can test them side by side… meaning – you can run both of them at the same time – they’ll get equal showing – and you can then compare sales or donation results at the end of a time period. Real time testing for free. Ask your SEO or webmaster to set it up for you! 🙂 Good luck with all your efforts! Best of life!