More Giving Online. So What?

“Online Giving Up Over Previous Years” the headline read.  As if that means anything.  Thirty years ago, when I started my fundraising career, headlines could have read “Credit Card Giving Up Over Previous Years” and it would have had the same implication.  Not, mind you, that fundraising is up—it is still around 2% of the GDP.  Just that the way people give is changing, mainly because the way organizations are asking donors to give is changing. Think about it.  A scant three years ago, less than a quarter of my clients had online giving capabilities.  Now, they all do. And yes, it does make giving easier.  But only giving at the lower ends.

Major donors—those who give at the higher end—typically will make them in more traditional way:  Stocks.  Checks.  Bank transfers.  From their own accounts, their donor-advised funds, their family foundations or businesses.

This is not to say that online giving is unimportant.  You should provide your donors with opportunities to give online.  And your landing page—the place they end up to make that gift—is critical.

For years, those who raise annual gifts have obsessed over the annual letter.  I have had development directors tell me that they go through so many edits, so much time is spent on telling the right story.  But truth to tell, the letter is less important than the reply device.  That’s where you can move a donor who has decided to give to give more.

OK, you could argue that it is the letter than pushed the reader to become a donor.  And I would dearly like to believe that.  But I think that is true in only a few cases.  Most of the time, the people who give to mail appeals are those who are committed, and those who have previously decided they would like to be committed.  That’s why even very successful direct mail have effective rates of less than 8%, often far, far less.

Since online giving is growing and is the way most annual gifts will be made, do invest in creating a great experience for your donors.  Tempting as it is, don’t ask for too much information.  I have to really want something to supply my address, , phone number, other phone number, email address, employment, job title.  I’m waiting for someone to ask for the name of my first-born child.  Often when that much is asked me of, I simply click off.  I am not unique.

So make it simple, and easy for me to make a one-time OR a monthly commitment.  Suggest amounts—but make them important.  That means asking me for a bit more than your average annual gift and then options for even more.  If there is a place where I scroll to find my amount, don’t have it default to zero or $1.  I’m repeating myself, but a few years ago, I was going to make decent sized gift in honor of a friend.  I had to scroll from zero and, frankly, by the time I got to 25, I felt like my intended amount was excessive.

Beyond easy giving, d do make sure that you can measure what pushed your donor to the website.  You really do want to know what works, what didn’t.

And then, if raising money really is what you want to do, you want to focus on building relationships with your donors.  Relationships where you learn about them—who they are, what they care about, what they want their philanthropy to impact so you can offer them opportunities to support something that will make a difference for you, for them, and for the clients and/or cause you serve.

Janet Levine Consulting works with nonprofits, moving them from mired to inspired.  Learn how we can help increase your fundraising capacity and help to create more committed board members at  While there, sign up for our newsletter and do contact us for a free, 30-minute consultation.