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What Wealthy Wired Donors Want From Nonprofits

Who knew that high dollar donors were so wired?

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What Wealthy Wired Donors Want From Nonprofits

Photo by Andersen Ross/Getty Images

That wealthy donors are quite active online is the conclusion of an excellent study by Convio and others that explores the "wired" lives of high-dollar donors, and how nonprofits are either capitalizing on the wired behaviors of their donors, or are missing the boat.

About the Study

Convio, Sea Change Strategies and Edge Research studied wired donors who make four-figure or higher annual gifts to one or more causes. In addition, the study surveyed the 23 nonprofit organizations that participated in the study about their online practices vis a vis large donors. The nonprofits that participated represented a range of sectors, missions and strategies.

An online survey was done of donors who had given a cumulative total of $1000 or more to at least one of the participating nonprofits over the 18-month period ending in August, 2007 through any channel, online or offline, and who had a valid email address on file with that organization.

A total of 3,443 donors, from 23 nonprofit organizations, completed the online survey. A cluster or segmentation analysis was performed to identify sub-groups of the "wired wealthy donor universe."

Characteristics of the Wired Wealthy

The study found that the donors surveyed gave an average of nearly $11,000 to various causes annually. They are also quite well-to-do--25% had household incomes over $200,000 per year; and more than half had incomes more than $100,000.

These donors make up about one percent of the participating nonprofits' records, but they are responsible for an average of 32% of the funds raised.

Demographically, the wired wealthy are baby boomers, with the mean age right in the middle of the baby boom cohort (51 years of age). The group is well educated with 51% having graduate degrees, and 87% with 4-year degrees or more.

This group comprises seasoned online users with an average of 12 years experience using the Internet. They typically bank, pay bills, and buy online. Most make charitable gifts online.

These donors, however, only dabble in social networks (Web 2.0). However, most have watched at least one video online. A quarter read blogs on occasion, but they are not interested in Facebook and MySpace.

The Wealthy Wired Fall into Three Groups

When the data was analyzed, some interesting differentiation appeared. As the study says:

Applying cluster analysis to the wired wealthy sample, we found that three distinct groups of donors emerged. The key differentiator dividing these groups is the extent to which donors see the Internet channel as a source of connection between themselves and the causes they support, as opposed to merely a transaction device....

The "wealthy wired" fall into these groups:

Relationship Seekers

This group is the most likely to respond to opportunities to connect emotionally with your nonprofit online. They are younger than the other groups (42% are between 25 and 44), and they spend more time online.

Over 60% of this group like web sites. They are the most likely to visit your site after donating. They are more likely to view videos online; are multi-channel in that they give in a variety of ways; and say their online contributions will likely grow in the future.

Attributes of this group include:

  • represent 29% of the wealthy wired group with an average age of 48.
  • 86% have given online.
  • more than half say they prefer online giving.
  • 16% visit a charity website once per month or more.
  • 42% read most charity emails.
  • 13% read blogs; 35% take political action online; 42% engage in social networks online.

All Business

These donors visit charity web sites to donate and that is all. They are not looking for a deeper relationship or emotional connection. This group is older with 57% between 45 and 64 years of age, and are really more comfortable with offline giving than online. All Business donors want a smooth and simple donation process, a tax receipt at the end of the year, and to be otherwise left alone.

A telling comment from one of the All Business group is:

I personally want to be left alone. That’s my biggest problem with the charities. You send in a check one time and you get inundated with unwanted stuff. Actually, doing online giving seems to help that because you can check all the boxes that you don’t want to be contacted.

Attributes of the All Business group include:

  • average age is 53.
  • 75% have given online.
  • 46% prefer to give online; 35% prefer to give by mail.
  • only one percent visit a charity web site regularly.
  • only nine percent read most charity emails.
  • few read blogs, take online political action or engage in social networks online.
  • speak of themselves as disciplined philanthropic planners who decide yearly giving in advance.

Casual Connectors

Casual Connectors represent 41% of the survey respondents. They lie somewhere between the "All Business" and the "Relationship Seeker" groups. They are somewhat interested in an online connection with nonprofits.

A Casual Connector in his/her own words:

As a younger person, I want [charities] to know that I’m different, and they don’t have to resort to the typical styles [of solicitation]. And, to [keep me as] a lifelong donor, I would want them to evolve in their approaches – to show me that they are constantly innovating, constantly thinking creatively about what’s next, and not just dealing with what’s here and now....

Attributes of the Casual Connector group include:

  • average age is 50.
  • 80% have given online; 50% prefer online giving.
  • only six percent visit charity web sites.
  • 27% read most charity emails.
  • few read blogs, take political action online, or engage in social networks online.

What seems clear is that even though these "Wired Wealthy" give online and use charity websites, they are not terribly impressed by those sites. Only 46% of Relationship Seekers thought that charity websites inspired them to give; 36% of Casual Connectors thought so; and 22% of the All Business group.

The study concludes that the "Wiired Wealthy" are ahead of charities in their expectations for online communications. How can charities catch up? The study provides a number of recommendations.

See What 'Wealthy Wired Donors' Want From Nonprofits - Part 2

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