Are organisational silos blocking your online fundraising growth?

Charity Departmental Silos

Research from eMarketer reveals that the UK’s love of online shopping is well ahead that of the rest of the world, with an estimated 87% of Internet users here shopping online – compared to 73% for the US and 72% for Western Europe overall. According to the latest IMRG E-Retail Sales Index this results in online now making-up an estimated 21% of all UK retail sales.

On this basis, and given all of the talk over recent years about the new fundraising opportunities that online offers, you’d be forgiven for expecting that online donations should make-up a pretty substantial percentage of individual giving here too.

But the truth is that for most charities the proportion of individual donor income received online remains irritatingly small. Indeed, Blackbaud’s 2013 SONI research says online giving represents just 15% of individual donations in the UK.

So, what’s causing the gap between our high expectations and the low proportion of income most fundraisers currently receive online?

Some say “online shoppers are just not the same people as our donors”. However, Blackbaud’s Next Generation of American Giving research found that valuable ‘Baby Boomer’ donors (born 1946-1964) said they were as likely to give online as via direct mail. While a recent report by online affiliate giving platform Give as You Live found that 22% of people aged over 75 named email as the form of communication most likely to prompt them to donate.

It seems to me that the challenge we face is less about donor audiences not evolving to embrace giving online and more about our charities not really evolving to fully embrace fundraising online.

Often at the heart of this is the fact that most charities have yet to evolve beyond the discrete silos they’ve always worked-in. But online engagement is now so all-embracing that no organisation can plan and deliver it in an effective manner whilst still working within traditional silos.

If this rings a bell, and you’re a fundraiser whose online income is suffering because of traditional silo-itis, then here are three quick tips to help you on the road to recovery:

1. Don’t treat Fundraising and Online Fundraising as different disciplines. Fundraising is all about inspiring people to help change the world for the better by funding your organisation’s work. Online Fundraising simply adds digital to the donor engagement mix. So, don’t start by thinking about doing new things online. First look at what fundraising is working for you already and consider how online activity might make it work even better.

2. Focus first on the basics that will help you deliver more income before investing in innovation. User experience specialists Nomensa report that 47% of would-be online donors give-up before donating because of badly designed websites. So, ensuring your donation pages are really effective is likely to deliver you far more income than trialing innovative new ways to fundraise online or tinkering with your Twitter feed. The clarity that you’ll gain from such focus will also mean you’re far better prepared to brief your organisation’s digital folks (who are often in a different silo) on the key things you need them to do to help you raise more money.

3. Adopt a consistent approach to planning online activities across all teams. Those organisations who are seeing their online income really grow typically use a clearly defined approach to planning, implementing, and evaluating online activities across all teams needing to use them – from Fundraising to Communications and Campaigning. That way, conflicting requirements can be addressed as early as possible; consistent and coherent messaging delivered; and effort and investment focused where it delivers best value.

If you have any tips of your own to offer in support of fundraisers suffering from silo-working – do share them by leaving a comment below…

A version of this post was first published as a guest post on the UK Institute of Fundraising Blog

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