Part 1 of this article explored a study of wealthy donors who are also online frequently. The study divided the respondents into three groups: Relationship Seekers, All Business, and Casual Connectors.
These donors generally prefer giving online and find that charity websites and other online communications usually fulfill their expectations but rarely exceed them.
What Are Donor Expectations?
That they be able to donate easily and securely; that they be able to dictate when and how often they will be contacted; and that the nonprofit make it easy to find crucial information about the charity on its web site.
For the most part, wealthy wired donors found that web sites fulfilled these basic requirements. But, very few donors found charity web sites to be 'inspiring,' or made them feel personally connected to the cause.
Of email, the study says that most wired wealthy donors want the following from their charities:
- a tax summary at the end of each year.
- a report on how their donation was put to good use.
- a renewal notice.
- to be able to tell the charity how often it can communicate with them.
- two of the groups, 'Relationship Seekers' and 'Casual Connectors' like action alerts and find success stories to be very valuable.
The most widely-held opinion about what charities should not do was finding a donor's email address by using commercial databases. This was considered very inappropriate. These donors want to opt in, not be forced onto an email list.
The wired wealthy also do not like it when one charity sends them an email on behalf of another charity. As one respondent said when asked what she expects a charity to do with her email address, "It's certainly not that they share it with everybody under the sun."
When the charities that were participating in the study were surveyed about their practices, it was found that often major donor development staff were only marginally involved in most organizationsâ online strategy, and that organizations are pursuing a "disjointed array of strategies for addressing the needs of some of their most important donors."
Only a third of the organizations say they create special versions of their email newsletters and other communications for high dollar donors. The survey of the donors suggests that would be the first thing the wired wealthy would want.
Recommendations for Charities
The study came up with a number of recommendations for charities on how to communicate with their 'wired wealthy.' The study concluded that there was one blatant need:
...what we urge you to do, is create and provide options that let the wired wealthy customize their online relationship with you. As one donor we interviewed asked, 'Why are my only choices either email me or donât email me?' If we offer one overarching recommendation, it is to find a way to get beyond this all or nothing choice.
Other recommendations include:
- Don't panic but don't be passive either. Wired wealthy donors are not greatly unhappy with online communications; but they are not inspired either. Make improving online communications, from the web site to email, a development priority.
- Segment your list. The All Business group (and the others too for that matter) want a smooth online donation process, and a great case for giving. All Business emails should be rare but do include an annual tax summary and occasional reports on where the money is going and what has been accomplished.
Casual Connectors and Relationship Seekers are open to cultivation. Take the opportunity to tell stories, show evocative images, and report back at least once a quarter telling donors how their money is being used to help others. Develop some options such as video, podcasts, a blog, and opportunities to take action.
For Relationship Seekers, provide engagement by inviting these donors to blog about you, join your LinkedIn group, or review you favorably on CharityNavigator's new donor comment area. Solicit their ideas and suggestions.
- Make donor control easy. Provide donors with some control over the content and frequency of emails.
- Let the message drive the technology, not the reverse. Don't just follow the latest online fad. Don't replace quality with quantity.
- Pay special attention to incorporating video on your website. Hire a professional producer and then test the videos with groups of donors to see what they think.
- Listen. The donor participants in this study were quite vocal about their likes and dislikes. Keep up with the evolving nature of online communications and philanthropy by checking on your donors' preferences frequently.
Three easy ways you can do this are: track "over the transom" comments; set up a donor advisory panel and survey them once a month about tactics, campaign ideas, etc.; and encourage feedback about your newsletters. Ask readers to rate each issue and also ask for open-ended feedback.
The study concluded that by fulfilling the online needs and expectations of the wired wealthy, a charity will improve its relationship with all donors of any size.