Fundraising Blog

Mail vs. online giving

Start off the new year with some new ways of thinking; this year take a fresh look at your assumptions about potential donors. Despite the marketing push to move our fundraising online, highest value-donors still prefer to give through the mail and younger donors are using both. Once we see the figures for 2012, the trends may move, but odds are the ratios will not change that much. So don’t be too quick to move all of your fundraising resources into appealing to the younger set.

Heart of the Donor, a 2011 study commissioned by Russ Reid Company (Pasadena, CA) and conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting (Phoenix AZ), shines a light on who gives to what.  You can find the executive summary at

The majority of donors still do their giving through direct mail (64%); one-third of donors have given online in some form.  Most people give through more than one channel (through work, through places of worship, phone call, gift catalog, television/radio ad). In the study the average donor used about 3 different channels in a 12-month period. This confirms that the fundraiser needs to be active in multiple channels.

Age is a major predictor of channel preference.  In the 18-24 age group, 41% gave through mail; 61% online. In the 25-39 age group, the numbers are 44% mail, 54% online. In the 40-54 age group, 57% mail, 38%online. For the 55s-69, 77% mail, 25% online.  Over 70, 71% mail; 11% online.

Conclusions:  Mail is still the preferred channel used by among older donors, and is still well-used by younger donors.  Older donors still give the largest amounts of money. (The average 55-69 donor gift in the study was $1,186.) The 25-39 age group (whose average gift is in the $400 range) appears to be equally comfortable with either channel.

The challenge these days is not to pursue a one-channel solution to reaching donors, but to synchronize multichannels, while respecting each donor’s preferred method of giving.  Does this information change your strategy in any way?

photo credit: Ed Siasoco (aka SC Fiasco) via photopin cc

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