Survey Reveals Lack of Communication Greatest Barrier To Donor Engagement and Giving

By Patrick Coleman

2015 Predictions for Nonprofit Giving reveals the increasing gap between nonprofits that are quickly adopting technology and others that are falling behind. While many nonprofits still need to implement technology-savvy strategies, the survey findings show that nonprofits do not fear technology change and are ready to digitally evolve.

The report highlights how effective communication is one area in particular that many nonprofits consistently overlook in their efforts to engage donors in technologically-savvy ways. Despite 84 percent reporting their organizations embrace technology change, more than 27 percent do not have a formal e-mail communication schedule in place, and only 10 percent send weekly donor emails. An additional 26 percent still send weekly printed newsletters. As a result, nonprofit senior executives are leaving many opportunities on the table to communicate and engage with donors to build stronger relationships and increase giving.

The pace of technological change will escalate for the nonprofit industry in 2015. With the declining use of checks, increasing use of mobile giving, and overall competition for donors’ dollars, the need to make it easy for donors to work with a nonprofit is more important than ever before. While nonprofits are certainly embracing technological change, the pace needs to quicken if they want to build a loyal donor base and bring in more dollars this year.

2015 Predictions for Nonprofit Giving underscores that improved technology and communication are what’s needed most to increase donor engagement. The most important actions nonprofits must take in 2015 are to communicate with their audience on a regular basis, make it as easy as possible for them to donate and make these new behaviors a permanent part of the organization’s strategy.”

Other highlights from the survey include:

Lack of Communication

  • 27% of nonprofits have no structured email schedule, 54% lack a timetable for phone calls, and 89% have no organized text messaging communication program, missing a significant opportunity to facilitate regular donor engagement;
  • 22% send emails monthly, and only 10% send emails weekly;
  • Only 3% send monthly text messages.

Education Is Needed

  • Nearly half (49%) the respondents said their donors don’t understand online giving;
  • Only 12% of respondents say online giving technology is too complex for their organization to use.

Traditional and Electronic Giving Together is Critical

  • Just under half (48%) currently receive online donations;
  • Only 6% receive donations via mobile device;
  • Paper checks (58%) are still the most commonly used form of receiving donations.

Nonprofits Aren’t Measuring Donor Activity

  • 39% do not measure donor processing costs and, therefore, do not know if they are operating effectively;
  • Less than 31% measure administrative costs;
  • 23% measure related marketing costs.

Donor Fear of Technology Diminishing

  • Although a slight majority of nonprofit senior executives (52%) believe their donors still have concerns about electronic giving, they also report that more and more donors are becoming comfortable with digital channels;
  • Only one-in-ten nonprofits retain fully manual donation processing.

Biggest Challenges in Managing Donor Giving

  • Lack of trained personnel to manage donations;
  • Concern about the robustness of existing processes for electronic donation administration;
  • Worry that donors don’t trust the security of technology to give online or via mobile.

Through effective communication programs, nonprofits can speed up the process by which their donor audience is reassured digital donating is secure, easy to understand, convenient, and provides an engaging giving experience

About the Survey

The GiveCentral survey, 2015 Predictions for Nonprofit Giving, was conducted between September 26 and December 30, 2014. A range of nonprofit senior industry leaders participated in the survey, with 24% occupying a religious leadership role, and 36% holding the Chief Executive or Chief Financial Officer position in their organization. The size of the North American nonprofits surveyed range from less than $100,000 to more than $5M in total annual donations. To access a full copy of the results of the survey, please click here.

Patrick Coleman is CEO of GiveCentral, a web-based donation platform. He can be reached through his website at