"Millions, if not billions of dollars are being left on the table" by charities because of poor online donation systems, according to fundraising guru Rick Dunham.
He heads up the fundraising consultancy Dunham and Company, which
yesterday released its first "Online Funding Scorecard" study in
conjunction with Next After, an advertising agency specialising in
The study examined practices at 151 organisations that use online
giving and gave them an overall percentage score for how well they were
doing in attracting online donations.
The process to determine the score involved signing up for each
organisation's mailing list and monitoring the contents of the emails
that came back in reply. The research team also donated $20 to each
charity via links in the promotional emails or the website directly, and
analysed the "thank you" responses.
The study found that 127 of the organisations studied scored 75% or below.
The top three scores went to organisations related to:
1. Animal Welfare – 81% score (A)
2. Political Candidates – 78% score (B)
3. Wildlife & Environmental – 77% score (B)
Jewish organisations (68%) and Christian ministries (67%) received
some of the lowest scores, together with hospitals (63%) and performing
arts organisations and libraries (67%).
The study pointed to a strong correlation between the budget given to
a fundraising department and the overall online fundraising score of
Organisations that put 15% to 35% of their income into fundraising
were seeing overall scores of between 69% and 83%. Those putting in 2%
or less were scoring between 56% and 78%.
Practical solutions include making certain donation offers
exclusively for mailing list subscribers. This practice was only
employed by 16% of the organisations examined, or personalising the "to
line", something lacking in 79% of emails sent by the organisations
The report recommended keeping in regular contact with supporters and limiting the gaps between requests for donations.
However, there were other points raised by the study.
Over a third of
organisations did not send a single email within 30 days of someone
subscribing to the mailing list and 56% of organisations surveyed did
not make any donation requests within 90 days.
While 85% of the emails sent out were formatted in a way that matched
the organisation's home page, only 16% of the home pages were optimised
for mobile viewing.
And while 99% of organisations understood the vital importance of
thanking a donor, 63% did not offer donors a link to a "next steps" page
to see the ongoing story of the organisation's work, or to put their
donation in context.
"Research has shown that online giving represents only about 6% of
total charitable gifts, but this study uncovers the fact that charities
put up unnecessary roadblocks to donors giving online," said Dunham.
"This new data, combined with research already showing that more than two-thirds of online transactions are being abandoned.
"Virtually every charity could improve the online giving experience for its donors."