Majority of Donors Prefer Online to Print

Cygnus Applied Research is releasing its 2011 Donor Survey this week, and the executive summary alone contains some really interesting statistics and trends. This is a major survey by Penelope Burk’s team of over 17,600 American donors (there’s a separate report on Canadians). I’ll report on the full study once I’ve had a chance to digest it, but here are a few important highlights from the executive summary.

Online Giving – Official Tipping Point?

According to the survey, 2011 will be the first year when a majority of donors in every age category will make at least one gift online.

At the same time, 69% of donors of all ages now prefer electronic over print communication. Even among older donors, there is more interest in online communications, in large part because donors believe they are more cost-effective than print.

The survey results also point to a trend we are all talking about: the need for integrated marketing. Donors will take advantage of the various ways they can make a gift regardless of how they are asked. Even if they are asked via direct mail, many go online to make the donation. (Thursday’s webinar is on this exact topic: Integrating Your Online and Offline Marketing Plan into One Plan that Works.)

Donors and Social Media

69% of survey respondents have one or more social media accounts, but the majority do not follow any charities. (I suspect this may be because nonprofits aren’t asking donors to follow them?)  But among those who do follow one or more charities, 65% do so because the charity “is an expert in its field” and 62% do so because the nonprofit posts relevant updates about its work.

How Donors Feel Today

There is considerable optimism among donors: 79% expect to give the same or more charity this year.

86% of respondents said they have continuously supported at least one cause for five years or longer, and that reputation and trustworthiness are primary factors in repeat giving. 53% identified “achieving and communicating measurable results” as prominent in their decisionmaking.

When donors stop giving, “my priorities shifted to other causes” (41%) and “over-solicitation” (32%) were cited as the top reasons.

I’ll write more about the implications for nonprofit communications and marketing in future posts.