Giving Online and Offline

The internet revolution of the late nineties and early 2000s has affected our lives in massive and often unpredictable ways, touching all sectors of human existence in usually positive ways. The same can be said about the non profit industries segment, which includes charities, philanthropic foundations for aid, and social enterprises. Technology has been adaptable and flexible in allowing these individuals and organizations to make public appeals for donations, solicit donors in the cyberspace, as well as accept gifts online through secure payment gateways.

While relationship building with donors has migrated in large part to the cyber sphere, organizations continue to engage with prospective givers offline as well, through direct mail. Many of these donors make gifts in cheques sent. Donors who have made a first gift online also tend to go offline for making future donations to the same charity, and have been observed to make smaller contributions than the first one made online.

Holistically speaking, most donations made to charitable causes tend to be given offline, because this is a traditionally tried and tested method. To this day, people trust more in the credibility of causes represented by “in the flesh” nonprofits rather than those who solicit and accept donations only on the internet. However, research shows that the young, tech-savvy donor is more generous than their older counterparts, and often donates on impulse, moved by a fundraiser story or the popularity of a crowdfunding campaign hosted by a platform that has stringent vetting policies.

Giving online and offline seem to be associated with two different kinds of responses donors have to people who need their help with funds. Online givers answer with emotion, empathy and compassion to the beneficiary’s story, make gifts quickly and easily through secure payment gateways that do not require them to click more than three times on a smart device for the contribution to go through. Offline givers apparently prefer to think things through for longer periods before deciding on whether they will make a donation. Offline givers are slower to make up their minds and zero in on a cause before they give. Yet, those who give offline tend to become recurrent donors in much greater numbers than online donors.

The time has come to ask for donations online, because this is more engaging than direct mail pleas for help. But nonprofits and social workers have nothing to lose by designing offline giving programs to retain the most generous donors. A mix of online and offline fundraising tactics can ensure the best help is brought to those in need.