Clicks Don’t Equal Engagement

The 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report was released last month.

A lot of interesting info and findings from this research.  Here are two key findings:

  1. More new donors aged 64 and younger give online as opposed to offline;
  2. With only 11% of online donors acquired in 2007 still giving in 2010, retention of online donors continues to lag offline donor retention rates.

So, we are reaching a tipping point of online giving with new donors.  An important finding to say the least.  And, we remain flummoxed about how to keep new online donors.

My sense is that many development leaders confuse the impressive growth of online giving with donor engagement.  In other words, just because a donor clicks to give does not mean she wishes to be engaged with your institution primarily through electronic channels.

Instead, many new online donors may make a first gift online because it is convenient, quick, and easy.   Online giving is primarily a giving method, not an engagement strategy.  For many donors, giving online is simply an easier method of giving than fussing with writing a check and mailing it.  Because a donor chose to make a gift online tells us very little about how she wishes to be cultivated, engaged, and stewarded.

As I work with development professionals I hear many talk about increasing the number of emails addresses they collect in their database.  And I hear many plan to increase traffic to their online giving sites.  And these are fine objectives.

But our goal should be much different and much more important.   Our goal should be about increasing donor engagement, not increasing the number of email addresses or web traffic.

Not too long ago, Seth Godin participated in an online forum for The Chronicle of Philanthropy.   He had the following to say about building engagement with donors:

“You don’t need 1000 shallow relationships, you don’t need a long list of friends. What you need is deep relationships, people willing to mortgage their house to support you, willing to host a party to support you, willing to devote a vacation to support you. That’s not about volume, nor is it about the site. It’s about how you build relationships that matter.”

Assuming a donor’s engagement preference by the mechanics of how they make their gift is a major mistake.  Online engagement, primarily through social media, should be an arrow in your quiver of engagement strategies.  But it can never be the largest arrow.

Instead, the most efficient and effective ways to develop the depth of relationships needed to advance your institution still occur when we go in vivo with our donors and prospects and let them know that we are more interested in them as people than we are in their checkbooks. . . . or their online banking accounts.

1 Comment

One Comment

  1. How do you know its not authentic?

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