Nonprofits Receive Poor Grades In Study of Online Fundraising

Charities are likely losing financial support because of missteps

Jan 21, 2014, 14:00 ET from Dunham+Company

PLANO, Texas, Jan. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Charities are creating significant barriers to potential donors making online contributions, according to the first Online Fundraising Scorecard, an exhaustive study by Dunham+Company and Next After.

The study, the most comprehensive focusing on the online donor experience, gives most nonprofits a failing or mediocre grade when scored against the tested and proven online best practices.

The study comes at a time when many charities are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession of 2007-09. Giving USA's 2013 report estimated that giving increased only by 1.5 percent when adjusted for inflation in 2012, the most recent year when data is available.

Of the 151 organizations that were part of the study, 127 scored 75 percent or below.

"Research has shown that online giving represents only about 6 percent of total charitable gifts, but this study uncovers the fact that charities put up unnecessary roadblocks to donors giving online," said Rick Dunham, President and CEO of Dunham+Company and also a member of the boards of The Giving Institute and Giving USA.

"This new data, combined with research already showing that more than two-thirds of online transactions are being abandoned, makes us believe there are millions – if not billions – of dollars being left on the table. Virtually every charity could improve the online giving experience for its donors."

Dunham+Company, a global consulting firm specializing in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, and Next After, a fundraising think tank, conducted the study over the course of nine months in 2013. Their researchers reviewed the websites of 151 organizations, including 100 in the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Philanthropy 400 of the largest nonprofits, and signed up to receive emails as well as giving an initial $20 gift.

The study examined 46 key indicators in four critical parts of online fundraising: email registration, email communication, the donation experience and the gift acknowledgement process.

The researchers discovered:

  • 37 percent of organizations did not send a single email within 30 days after subscribers signed up to receive them;
  • 79 percent did not personalize emails with a person's first or last name;
  • 36 percent sent emails with multiple, conflicting calls to action; 
  • 65 percent required three or more pages to give a gift online;
  • 84 percent did not have a online donation experience that was optimized for mobile devices; and 
  • 63 percent did not provide a next step for donors to take once they thanked them for their donations. 

Dunham+Company and Next After developed the scoring criteria for the study based on formulas and "heuristics" that attempt to measure the important elements in online communications developed by MECLABS, the largest marketing optimization research institution in the world.

Steve MacLaughlin, the Director of Blackbaud's Idea Lab, a think tank for the nonprofit sector, praised the study.

"Dunham+Company and Next After have put together a breakthrough report that anyone serious about online fundraising must read," he said.

Interestingly, animal welfare organizations (81 percent), political candidates (78) and environmental and wildlife organizations (77) received the highest average scores. Jewish organizations (68 percent) and Christian ministries (67) received some of the lowest.

For more information on the study, please visit

Note to Editors: To arrange an interview with Rick Dunham, please contact Steve Yount of A. Larry Ross Communications at 972.267.1111 or


A. Larry Ross Communications

Steve Yount

972.267.1111, x205

Katie Martin

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SOURCE Dunham+Company