Despite the difficult economy, American consumers will be going online in record numbers to support charitable causes in the final four weeks of the year – giving an estimated $4B online. This according to The North American Technographics® Omnibus Online Survey, Q4 2009 (US), a commissioned omnibus survey conducted by Forrester’s Technographics® on behalf of Convio. More than 63% of online consumers plan to use the Internet to donate to charities of their choice during the upcoming holiday season, up from 51% in 2008 – when you look at the amount they plan to give it looks like organizations ready to engage online could see a more prosperous holiday season than those late to the online game.
In the tough economy that might not make up for the revenue that some organizations have lost, but it is a significant shift in the giving habits of the US consumer. There is a bunch of data, but here are a few things that jumped out at me:
Two other salient points that I took from the data show good news and bad news, depending on one’s perspective:
Hopefully you are executing a well thought-out and designed year-end campaign and are ready to engage these consumers as donors. If you are great. But if not, our experts in our services and support functions took the key findings from the survey and created a last minute guide to help organizations be more successful in the last four weeks of the year. You can download the entire guide, but here is my summary of the information – really download the guide.
Four tips to help succeed in the last four weeks of the year:
With consumer dollars being tight and the competition for donations growing, online marketing and fundraising continues to grow in importance for donors and organizations alike. It is clear that online giving has joined traditional channels as mission-critical part of the giving mix and successful organizations are investing accordingly in their online relationships. Don’t get tied around the $4B estimate, rather look at the millions of people that are available to engage and build relationships with this holiday season. Use this season as an opportunity to engage with them’ to cultivate a relationship; and create a sustained relationship that yields returns for many years.
Just coming out of the Homepage Design Slam session at the Summit, I wanted to provide a brief recap for those who couldn’t make it. Don Roach, our Art Director, and I led the session and got some great (and brave) volunteers to project their homepages and subject them to constructive critiques from their peers. Each volunteer got a party favor in the form of a large Post-It tablet sheet listing some quick fixes they can consider to optimize their homepages. I’m hoping it will be a great tool for them to use to convince others in their organization to make some iterative changes. Don and I made a list of 10 Commandments for designing effective homepages, which we shared with the group to use as guidelines as we reviewed each page.
The 10 Commandments of Homepage Design
I. Thou shalt clearly state who you are and what do you.
II. Thou shalt be able to point to where your top 3-5 online goals are represented on the homepage.
III. Thou shalt offer clear, concise navigation.
IV. Thou shalt provide scannable, up-to-date content that entices visitors to click for more.
V. Thou shalt dedicate space to each of your audience groups.
VI. Thou shalt convey a visual hierarchy so visitors know where to look and what to do first.
VII. Thou shalt include 3-4 ways for visitors to engage.
VIII. Thou shalt avoid the Flash intro or any other gratuitous animation.
IX. Thou shalt make sure most relevant content is above the fold.
X. Thou shalt balance meaningful content with relevant supporting graphics.
Do you have other ideas on guidelines to consider? If you attended our session – what did you think? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Lists almost always get people’s attention. They also point to trends and issues that are often of interest to people. So to with our first ever ranking of the nation’s most generous cities when it comes to online giving. As we sift through the data, we’re learning some interesting things and finding correlations with other data that can help nonprofits make better decisions. But, arguably the most important take away from the list of most generous cities is: If you are a nonprofit in one of these cities you need to make sure that you are providing a quality online experience for donors and prospects to make sure that you are engaging people in online giving
Probably the most vivid case in point is our hometown of Austin, TX. I chatted with a nonprofit executive last week as we let her know that Austin ranked 7th on the list when it comes to per capita online giving. As little as a year ago Austin ranked 48th out of the 50 largest US cities in total per capita giving based on the reporting of local charities. That begged the question, are the good people of Austin giving more outside of Austin because of their propensity for living a wired lifestyle? Her answer, “I don’t know, but I am upgrading my web site.” The community of Austin has created a campaign called, “I live here, I give here” to help change the culture of philanthropy based on research that “tells us that most of us (Austinites) would give more if we knew more about the needs here at home.” This campaign and the online generosity of Austinites comes together as a great opportunity for the region’s nonprofits to engage the community online as well as through the other programs and channels available - maybe this is proof the campaing is working.
It was great fun preparing this list and talking with your nonprofit peers in cities such as Alexandria, VA, Cambridge, MA and Minneapolis, MN who are the top three most generous cities. The nonprofits we are working with understand the value of online engagement and are proud of the communities they support and in turn the support they get. The mayors and council members we reached out to were equally proud and excited (and in one case even asked if “Convio sold their software to politicians?”).
I also did a little, non-scientific analysis of some of the cities that had jumps of 20-30 places in their 2008 to 2009 ranking. It was interesting to me, though, again not scientific that many of these cities had fundraising events where participants asked friend and family to support their cause such as a run, walk or ride and/or some form of crisis that touched the passion of the people in the community, such as a fire, tornado, or well-known individual that passed away and people reached out to support their cause in memorial.
I mention that as it supports my bias about how the online channel is the best. Most efficient way to reach people at the moment they feel most passionate about giving their support to an organization or cause. Without getting political, rather to prove a point, look at the dollars raised both for and against the congressman who shouted during the President’s joint speech to congress. If we had to rely on the traditional, direct mail model, by the time one created, printed, built a mailing list and mailed the direct mail piece to solicit gifts the passion would have been gone. Not to mention the people who cared that might not have been on our list to begin with who were able to donate to the cause when they wanted - online. Personally, I wish we could get that passion directed at the nonprofits that are making a difference, but that is a post for another day...
Check out the list and let us know what you think. (Not about politicians and political outburst but online generosity.)
The 2008 rankings are based on the more than $777 million in online donations processed by Convio on behalf of thousands of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations during the calendar year. The 2009 rankings are based on the more than $420 million processed in the first half of 2009. While most lists offer a top 25 or a top 100, we are able to mine the data for the top 273 cities of more than 100,000 people and can rank the top 1,700+ for cities of less than 100,000 people. You can visit www.convio.com/onlinecities to search the files to see where your hometown or favorite city ranks. You can also compare the data to the Forbes List of America's Most Wired Cities to see how the rankings stack-up. And, unlike State Farm's List of the Most Dangerous Intersections you don't have to change a driving habit, except maybe on the information super-highway.
First, let me admit that during much of the weekend I neglected to “look” for nonprofit messages and impressions as I entertained my son and his friends or enjoyed dinner with my wife and daughters, but none-the-less, I tracked more than 250 impressions and messages from 189 organizations from Thursday evening at 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday evening. Had I counted the plethora of Catholic Charities promoted in the narthex of my home parish, I think I could have doubled that (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration), but since mass started at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, I decided not to add them to the total – I did not count churches, but did count faith-based organizations, like the Mobile Loaves and Fishes truck feeding the homeless near a downtown park.
What was clear is that the competition for nonprofits to deliver their messages to people is nearly as tough as that of consumer products and services – and is some places they are competing with consumer services or are part of the consumer good message. Such was the case at the Dairy Queen we went to and were able to have a portion of our purchase donated to one of three nonprofits. At one financial services outlet a nonprofit profit financial counseling service was competing for space and attention with both a for-profit provider and the government service.
The current news cycle also provides a plethora of nonprofit organizations that are active in the health care debate adding to the impressions that I saw. Virtually every sports report we watched had something about the death of Eunice Kennedy Shriver which always included mentions of Special Olympics and mention of Michael Vick, which highlighted or showed clips of messages from animal welfare organizations. Even watching highlights of the PGA Championship, I saw mentions of The First Tee and some commercials for products that supported environmental organizations with a purchase, and still others for local children’s organizations that are helping disadvantage kids with their back-to-school needs.Even watching shows on Discovery Channel and History Channel often have representatives from nonprofits sharing their expertise and insight. In fact, I learned it was pretty hard to watch shows on natural disasters (staple for a 9-year old boy) without seeing the Red Cross logo at some point in time during the show. I counted 8 different museums represented in a 45 minute viewing of one show on The History Channel.
One of the impressions was a bit ironic. A friend of mine and his wife asked me about insight into starting a nonprofit. As a successful dentist, he wants his family to give back to the community and use their talents and blessings to help other.
I think the place that I was most surprised to see an opportunity to get engaged with a nonprofit was at Laser Tag. Trying to beat the 105-degree heat and get my son and his sleep-over buddy some exercise we went for a round or two of Laser Tag. There were two nonprofit impressions – one “portions of the proceeds” from the bottled water they provided supported clean water in Africa and the second was the opportunity pay a little more to a charity that provided birthday parties for kids that could not afford them. I think the surprise came as it was one of the times that I had become caught up in my life and forgot about the experiment, so they stuck out when I did notice them.
Here are the final results – unscientific and I am sure it’s not comprehensive. In a 72 hour period, I was exposed to more than 250 “messages” from 189 different nonprofit organizations. This included the biggest brands and some small orgs that I had never heard of. I eliminated the higher education messages and those that are quasi-governmental as I am pretty sure that would have taken me above 250 organizations. I also did not count any of the direct mail we received as some of what I get is because of my role and not representative of a “normal household.”
“So what?” That’s a good question.
One, I think it is important that people realize the impact of nonprofits on the community. I’ve seen estimates that the nonprofit sector makes up from 7-to-10 percent of GDP. That means that nonprofits have a significant impact not just on the social climate, but also economically. It is truly a powerful sector that influences virtually every aspect of our lives.
Second, nonprofit professionals need to understand the “competitive” environment for share of mind and wallet in the communities they serve. I saw some exceptionally strong marketing segmentation which delivered a powerful message and an ideal time. Sometimes there was a strong message with no call to action, other times a call to action, but no information on how and where to engage. Other times it was simply strong branding and awareness for the organization and the cause they champion.
So what’s next? I think I’ll look a little deeper at some of the most compelling impressions and see what I can learn and share. One thing is for sure, I am more aware than I was on Thursday...
(Poster note: I know that I really should provide links in this post and I might come back and add them, but for now I wanted to get the results posted not hunt down links...sorry for the poor form. - Tad)
Working with many non-profits who are looking to redesign their websites, I’ve learned how frightening (read: overwhelming, daunting, discouraging) content planning can be. Even when you have a solid new architecture prepared for your site, there’s still the process of identifying:
I posted a few months ago about creating a content strategy, which can help to guide and focus this process but I think most people are confused about where to even begin.
Here’s a good tip – start early. "Early" as in before you even start the redesign process. The good news is that you probably already have a website, so you’re not starting from scratch. Sure, you may want your new site to look COMPLETELY different, but you still likely have language you can use describing your mission, press releases you can use and other content areas you can leverage. That’s why you should start with a content inventory. By reviewing everything you have on your site, you can get a sense of where you’re starting from and also how much you need to do.
If you don’t have a content inventory that you diligently keep up to date (what? you don’t?), there are some tools out there you can use to “crawl” your site to give you a solid list to use. GSiteCrawler is one that we use frequently.
Once you have your inventory, add in a column and start prioritizing content. Anything you know you don’t want on the new site, go ahead and remove. Then, categorize this way:
Then, move the “2” and “3” items into a separate spreadsheet and only focus on your “1” items to see what needs to be finessed, rewritten or overhauled. Starting this process early and with a focused method such as this one will make your content creation much less painful.
Do you have any techniques for content planning that have worked well or other resources to share? What about other questions about content planning? Share with us in the comments!
Subscribe to receive posts via email:
Get answers to product questions, join "Birds of a Feather" discussions and more. Join the Online Community
Alltop - Nonprofit
A Small Change
Bob Ottenhoff's Blog
Donor Power Blog
Future Leaders in Philanthropy
Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog
Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog
Nonprofit Law Prof
Pamela’s Grant Blog
Sea Change Strategies
Zen and the Art of Nonprofit Technology