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Online Holiday Giving to Exceed $4 Billion; Despite Economy More Consumers Plan to Give Online in ‘09 than ‘08

Convio, Inc. estimates that US online giving to nonprofit organization will be more than $4 billion during the holiday season of 2009 as more than 111 million say they plan to give via the Internet this year. The North American Technographics® Omnibus Online Survey, Q4 2009 (US), a commissioned omnibus survey conducted by Forrester’s Technographics® on behalf of Convio, reveals that in the US 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. More than 175 million adults in the US are using the Internet. Nearly 6 out of 10 people surveyed plan to give the same amount or more, while the current state of the economy will lead 23 percent to give less to charity this holiday season. A full 20 percent are still undecided about the size of their gifts as we enter the final four weeks of the holiday giving season. While 65 percent of the survey respondents have delayed spending on non-essential consumer products this season, their support for charities remains high.

“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,” said Gene Austin, CEO, Convio. “As we enter the critical holiday giving season, charities that have focused on their online fundraising and marketing programs stand to benefit from the changing demographics and behaviors of today’s consumer. The Internet provides a cost-effective and efficient channel to engage consumers and allow a charity’s most ardent supporters to help tell the story. While online giving totals are less than traditional channels, the real growth in online giving and the research continues to show that nonprofits that have invested in technology for online engagement will fare better this holiday season than their counterparts who are late to the online world.”

Other survey highlights show that:

  • Charity websites have the biggest influence on the online consumer’s donation decision (44 percent), followed by “word of mouth” (40 percent);
  • Email and direct mail from the organization have virtually the same amount of influence on the decision to give at 27 percent and 28 percent respectively;
  • For nearly 25 percent of the respondents what family and friends say on social media and in personal emails influences the charities they support;
  • More than half of those surveyed 56 percent think nonprofits have made it easier to donate online, while less than half (46 percent) think that charity websites make it easy to find the information they need to make a giving decision;
  • When it comes to taking action 39 percent of online consumers report making an online donation after visiting a charity site, while more than half shared their email address, registered for an enewsletter or otherwise opened the door to a relationship with the nonprofit, and
  • In addition to their online preference, today’s online consumer gives through a multitude of channels as 61 percent report mailing a check (most, after checking the website), 38 percent gave at an event, 17 percent used the Internet to sponsor a friend or family member in a run, walk or ride, while 16 percent responded to a phone call in addition to their personal online giving.

“Regardless of the size of the gift or the final method of payment consumers are going to charity website and using technology to learn about and engage with charities,” added Austin. “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. If it is difficult for donors or prospects to find information and give to your organization online consumers will find an alternative."

Convio commissioned Forrester’s Technographics® to add questions about online support for nonprofit organizations to their omnibus online consumer research study. The study was fielded from October 2009 to November 2009.

Based on the survey, results from the Convio client community and reported historic results from other industry studies, Convio analysts are able to estimate that those consumers will donate more than $4 billion online during the holiday season (November 1 through December 31, 2009). As a result, nonprofits need to make sure that their efforts to attract supporters via their website and other electronic communication mediums are inspiring, engaging and move people to support their organization.

To help nonprofits engage online consumers in the final four weeks of the year, Convio has produced a free guide to last minute engagement. The guide covers tips for website optimization, email marketing and tapping the influence of family and friends through social media and email. The guide is available at: http://www.convio.com/holiday-giving.

It’s not too late

The post-Thanksgiving period is not just the biggest shopping season it is also traditionally the period where Americans are most generous in their giving. While having a well-thought out plan that an organization is already executing is the best way to achieve year-end success, there are last minute steps nonprofits can take to capture their fair share of the holiday giving pie.

“When you look at what consumers are saying, nonprofits need to make sure that their website is optimized to tell their story, explain why giving is important, make sure the user experience matches consumer needs, then make giving easy and secure,” explained Austin. “By making every email count and incorporating compelling content the nonprofit can also reach and engage people in support of their organization. Finally, empower your supporters. Word of mouth, through both traditional face-to-face engagement and online has a powerful influence on the actions consumers take. Providing eCards, enabling supporters to personally raise funds and share their support through their social media networks can extent the charities reach and the number of consumers willing to support them.”

Holiday giving priorities

For the US consumer, helping other people through human and social services organizations such as food banks and homeless shelters will be the top priority during this holiday season with 37 percent of the people expecting to support that type of organization. Thirty-six (36) percent of consumers will support faith-based organizations and/or disease and health service organizations. One out of four consumers also cited animal welfare organizations as expected recipients, with 26 percent planning to direct charity dollars to those organizations. Forty (40) percent of women planned to give to a human or social service compared to 34 percent of men. Men lean toward Faith-based and Disease and Health Services organizations at 36 percent respectively (36 percent of women also reported they would support these types of organizations.)

Who is giving

Men and women plan to donate at virtually the same level, with 64 percent of men and 63 percent of women saying they plan to donate this season. Of the men and women who plan to donate, 62 percent of men plan to give the same or more, compared to 53 percent of women. Twenty-three (23) percent of the women plan to donate, but have not determined the amount as compared to just 16 percent of the men. Most likely to donate online are Young Boomers (44-53) and Gen Xers (30-43) at 66 and 65 percent respectively. Somewhat surprising to many is that 59 percent of Older Boomers (54-64) and 60 percent of Seniors (65+) also report that they plan to give online. Those with incomes of $100k+ (78 percent) plan to be the most generous online this holiday season.

The most useful online tools for making giving decisions

The charity’s web site is the most useful tool among those who plan to donate online this holiday season with 44 percent saying the website influences their gift regardless whether the gift is made online or offline. This was followed by word-of-mouth (40 percent), postal mail (28 percent), email (27 percent) and email from a family or friend (23 percent). Charity evaluator sites also play a role for 10 percent of online adults in their decision making process.

“Nonprofit organizations make up a significant part of the US economy,” explained Austin, "We believe it is import to provide this kind of insight to the nonprofit community as well as ideas on how the Internet, email marketing, websites and multichannel marketing and promotions can help them engage supporters and raise money. With the current economic situation, helping nonprofits understand the habits and behaviors of online consumers so that they can better engage in relationships is more important than ever."

About Convio

Convio is passionate about helping nonprofit organizations use software and services to fulfill their missions. The company is the leading provider of online marketing, fundraising, advocacy and constituent relationship management software and services to nonprofit organizations. The company’s online marketing suite offers integrated software for fundraising, advocacy, events, email marketing and web content management, and its database system, Convio Common Ground™ CRM, helps organizations efficiently track and manage all interactions with supporters. All products are delivered through the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model and are backed by a portfolio of best-in-class consulting and support services and a network of partners who provide value-added services and applications focused on the unique needs of nonprofit organizations.

Nonprofit organizations used Convio to process $777 million in online donations during 2008 — a 72 percent increase over 2007. Convio clients sent more than 3.1 billion emails to constituents during that period with an industry leading deliverability rate in excess of 95 percent. Charities of all types used Convio to power more than 3,500 web domains as well as complete 44 million advocacy calls to action.

For more information, please visit www.convio.com.

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