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Five Things Your Nonprofit Needs to Know About Web 2.0 Donors

September 17, 2009

Over the last few years we’ve heard a lot of discussion about nonprofits and their use “Web 2.0” and social media. Much of the focus has been on the fundraising tools themselves [namely “Apps” and “widgets”]… What are they? How do they work? Do they work? But very little analysis has been made about how Web 2.0 donors are different.

I am on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace,, etc. a minimum of 40 hours a week and I have been noticing and pondering some distinct characteristics of Web 2.0 donors:

1) The vast majority are in their 20’s and 30’s and are very comfortable with Web 2.0 technology. Once they start giving on social networking sites, they don’t go back to Web 1.0 giving (your website).

2) Most Web 2.0 donors also don’t want to receive your print materials. They want you to save the resources used to print the materials and the postage necessary to mail them. And they definitely don’t want a print thank you letter for the $10 donation they gave you on a social networking site! They have come of age in an era where environmental sustainability and frugality is much discussed and increasingly prioritized in their personal lives. This worldview directly affects they way they give and the way they want to be approached by the nonprofits that they support.

3) They want “Thank You” wall comments and compliments! They donate in a public commons like or Facebook Causes therefore the vast majority also appreciate being thanked in the public commons.

4) On average, when they donate they will only provide you their e-mail address and opt out of providing your organization their mailing address. I believe, despite much talk lately of e-mail “dying”, that in fact the opposite is true. Your nonprofit needs to focus more on your e-mail newsletter than ever before because e-mail may be the only way you can contact and nurture your Web 2.0 donors outside of social networking sites.

5) They give in smaller amounts, more often, and to many nonprofits that they have never heard of before until they saw them on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace,, etc. In short, if your organization isn’t on these sites, then your organization is not on their radar screen. In most cases, they will only become repeat donors if you nurture and interact with them where they live online.

I am a classic Web 2.0 donor. In 2008, I gave almost $1,200  to 90 nonprofits on In the backend of my individual account, I can see a running list and total of all the donations I have made since joining in February of 2007… and print out a tax-receipts for 2007, 2008, 2009, etc. I never would have give made 90 separate donations on 90 different websites… not only because it takes time, but think of all the paper and postage that would have been wasted! My contact info would have been bought, sold, and traded many times over… this is why I won’t donate on an organization’s website. On and other Web 2.0 giving sites, I have the control over my giving and contact information.

Web 2.0 giving is addictive. I only gave $300 in 2007. Giving on sites like is fun… and I earn frequent flyer miles (to which I am addicted) by using my credit card.

And finally, understand that your organization will continue to have your check writers and your Web 1.0 Donors, but there is third group of donors out there now that is entirely different. Your approach to them, how you thank them, and engage and inspire them to give again needs to be entirely different as well.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2009 12:32 pm

    Hi Heather-
    I totally agree with your point #4 – online donors want to give email addresses. That has been my experience as well. The lesson that I take from that is to ALWAYS incorporate opportunities to ask for email addresses: an application on Facebook, on the website, on donor portal, etc. Email addresses give nonprofits the direct access to donors and supports the social media work of the organization.

    As to your last point about being a “classing web 2.0 donor” – I wonder if you have any information about the growth of donation portals like, JGooders, and others? Are the new online donors, in general, more comfortable donating though portals or a nonprofit’s website? I’m very curious about this issue and it is something that I think nonprofit organizations would benefit from knowing.

    Thanks for the insightful blog post!

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      September 27, 2009 4:09 am

      Thanks Debra. I don’t know any stats or studies about giving portals, but when I was at that was a constant comment/feedback… “So great that I can donate to all these nonprofits in one place. Easy. Yeah! I don’t have to provide my mailing address.” Still, despite how many giving portals there are out there, for some reason many donors still don’t utilize them. I don’t know if it is a trust issue or lack of knowledge about how they work and the tool set. I don’t think many nonprofits promote these giving portals either. Nonprofits may have the same trust/knowledge issue, or just may not want to promote a site where their donors could decide to donate other organizations. Not sure, but I am definitely a user… and I am waiting for the iPhone donor portal App! Thanks.

  2. September 28, 2009 8:13 am

    Hi Heather,

    Great post. If I had to pick a single bullet point, it would be #3. We need to develop a 1-on-1 relationship with our donors and supporters.

    I know of some organizations with dozens of staff for the social media efforts. While I know that is not the practical approach, I would encourage all organizations to have an individual who is very tapped into their online community on Facebook and Twitter. Actively speaking with them on a personal level, and making sure they are happy that they spent time/money.

  3. November 13, 2009 9:01 am

    All are great points! We send out e-newsletters monthly to our supporters. Previously we realized that direct mail was not the way to go so we switched to this method. This post was very insightful. Thank you!

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