Direct Mail Motivating More Online Donations

Donors are more than three times likely to give an online gift in response to a direct mail appeal than an e-appeal, according to a new national study.

The study, conducted on behalf of non-profit advising firm Dunham+Company by research firm Campbell Rinker, found that 17% of donors who gave via a charity website in 2011 said that a direct mail letter prompted their online gift, versus 5% who said they gave online because of an email. The ratio was slightly more than 2-to-1 in a study conducted for Dunham+Company in October 2010.

Additional findings:

Donors receptive to direct mail appeals

50% of donors surveyed in 2012 said they prefer to give online when they receive a letter in the mail from a charity. In 2010, just more than one-third of donors (38%) said they preferred to give online after getting a letter in the mail.

Key donor age groups giving more online thanks to direct mail

The proportion of donors ages 40-59, a key donor group, who reported giving a gift online in response to a direct mail appeal rose 38% (from 34% in 2010 to 47% in 2012).  Among donors age 60 or older, online giving prompted by a direct mail appeal rose 30% (from 18% in 2010 to 24% in 2012).

Women, wealthier donors respond to direct mail via online gifts

53% of donors in households earning $75,000 or more preferred to respond with an online gift when they receive a direct-mail appeal. This is up from 42% in 2010, a 26% increase. The same is true for 52% of women, up from 39% in 2010.

Digital appeals a lesser driver of online giving

The study found that websites lost ground in driving online giving: Only 11% of donors said what they saw on a charity’s website motivated a gift (down from 15% in 2010).  In addition, e-mail may be driving fewer donors to give online: Only 5% of respondents now say they gave an online gift as the result of an e-mail, compared to 6% in 2010.

Social media motivating more younger donors

Social media giving continues to grow among donors under age 40 with 30% of respondents saying they have given online because of social media compared to 24% in 2010.  Social media as a motivator among donors 40 years and older shows a little improvement — 10% in this survey versus 8% in 2010.

What the findings mean for nonprofits

“We conducted this survey because we wanted to see if direct mail was diminishing as a source for online donations, and if so, what was driving the increase in online giving that we were seeing,” stated Rick Dunham, President/CEO of Dunham+Company. “Finding that direct mail has actually grown as a driver to online donations and that online efforts were not really moving the needle was a bit of a shock.”

“Charities need to be very circumspect about where they put their fundraising dollars,” Dunham continued. “It’s clear that it’s a mistake to reduce offline communications thinking the online activity is what is driving online giving. This is especially important considering the way the core donor demographic of 40 and older donors is responding online when receiving offline communications.”

About: The most recent study was part of a Campbell Rinker Donor Confidence Survey conducted April 22-28, 2012 online among 494 adult donors who gave at least $20 in 2011. The 2010 and 2012 results were weighted by age to reflect the general U.S. population. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4% at the 95% confidence level.

Source: Dunham+Company,  Direct Mail Growing as a Source for Online Donations, May 27, 2012.

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