Most Nonprofits Still Receive Mediocre or Failing Grades in Online Fundraising

Dunham+Company Finds Little Progress in Past Five Years

PLANO, Texas, May 17, 2018 – The nonprofit sector has shown only limited improvement in its online fundraising practices since a groundbreaking study five years ago. In fact, the Online Fundraising Scorecard 2.0 by Dunham+Company shows that charities have regressed in some areas.

The study gave most nonprofits a failing or mediocre grade when scored against tested and proven online best practices. Of the 151 organizations surveyed for the study, 100 scored 75 percent or below.

 “Online transactions are growing rapidly as more and more consumers are doing business online,” said Rick Dunham, CEO of Dunham+Company. “But the nonprofit sector isn’t keeping up with the pace of change, likely costing it millions of dollars.”

Dunham+Company, a global consulting firm specializing in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, conducted the study using the same nonprofits as the first Online Fundraising Scorecard five years ago.

The researchers went to the organizations’ websites and signed up (or at least tried to sign up) to receive their e-communications. They then monitored the responses they received from each nonprofit. Next, they gave a $20 online donation and monitored each nonprofit for how it responded. Every part of the experience was documented and analyzed, using 46 key indicators in four critical parts of online fundraising: email registration, email communication, the donation experience and the gift acknowledgement process.

A sampling of the findings compared to five years ago:

  • Only 64 percent of email signups could be located in less than 10 seconds,  a drop from 76 percent, meaning it’s even more difficult for potential donors to engage;
  • 61 percent of charities personalized their emails with a first and last name, up from  21 percent;
  • Despite a rise in one-click donation forms, charities received lower overall grades for optimizing their donation pages for maximum conversion rates, 76 percent to 69 percent; and
  • 80 percent of organizations sent an immediate thank-you note after a donation, down from 94 percent.

“When we did the first Online Fundraising Scorecard, we found that charities put up unnecessary roadblocks to donors giving online,” said Jennifer Abohosh, Dunham+Company’s chief digital strategist. “Unfortunately, that remains true today.  Virtually every charity could improve the online giving experience for its donors.”

For the first time, the researchers repeated the process for all 151 organizations using a mobile device. Interestingly, the mobile scores were generally higher than the desktop scores, an average of 77 percent to 68 percent.

The researchers made the scoring criteria for the study as objective as possible. They were based on formulas and “heuristics” that attempt to measure the important elements in online communications developed by MECLABS, the leader in email and online marketing research.

Environmental/animal welfare groups received the highest scores (77 percent), followed by health (73), human services (71), international affairs (67), religious (66), public-society benefit (64) and arts, culture and humanities (60) organizations.

Steve MacLaughlin, the Director of Blackbaud's Idea Lab, a think tank for the nonprofit sector, praised the study: “The latest edition of the Online Fundraising Scorecard is an invaluable resource that clearly shows how online engagement and giving is being improved by nonprofits. The updated findings also show where there is still room for improvement across the nonprofit sector.”

For more information on the study, visit .

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