Choosing Digital Channels for Your Nonprofit

Digital, digital, digital…. For the past 5 to 10 years, it seems like every conversation about donor engagement and giving has been based on “going digital.” More and more nonprofits are moving towards digital marketing to attract donors, many of whom are spending more and more of their time in their email inboxes, scrolling social media feeds, and using their mobile phones.

But after all of this time, what do we have to show for the push toward digital marketing in the nonprofit sector? The short answer is: not much.

The state of digital giving

Direct mail is still the leader of the pack when it comes to donor giving, but the signs are clear that donors preferences are changing as those numbers steadily decrease. When it comes to digital marketing, nonprofits have access to virtually limitless digital channels, many of which are free or very affordable.

Why, then, do we see a steady drop in direct mail giving, but not an increase in digital revenue? This is even more confusing when we consider mainstream consumer behavior, with online sales surpassing brick and mortar sales this last holiday season, according to Blackbaud’s Next Generation of Giving report.

As noted in the Next Generation of Giving report, nonprofits have a growing list of digital channels that allow them to communicate with their constituents. However, the sheer number of channels and the inconsistent manner in which they are being used may be the problem. Instead of focusing on committed channels, nonprofits are “all over the place,” confusing donors and stunting giving. While nonprofits are simply trying to attract new donors, their scattered approach to digital channels could ultimately reduce giving overall.


When digital channels don’t convert

This downturn in giving could be the result of a couple of factors. The first is likely donor overwhelm. 20 years ago, a donor could expect to receive a monthly appeal in the mail and they could make their monthly, quarterly, or annual gift accordingly. That’s no longer the case. Today, they may get a monthly mailer, a couple of emails that may or may not align with direct mail, as well as social ads on their Facebook timeline. All of this can be confusing and lead to paralysis among donors who are considering making a gift.

Secondly, with all of these great new engagement channels comes greater responsibility: nonprofits use multiple channels without understanding which ones their donors prefer. Your nonprofit needs to understand which channel(s) your donors prefer and focus on making that campaign a success. This is where most nonprofits struggle.


How to find the right digital channels

When choosing the digital channels that are going to make the most impact for your organization, you need to start with a baseline understanding of your donors and their preferences.

These are just a few important data points that will help your organization determine how useful a digital channel is for your donors. Once you understand these important digital marketing “profiles,” you should create consistent communication outreach for your donors, bucketing them into tracks based on their preferences to give and engage.

Don’t worry: this will not limit your ability to take advantage of all the digital channels available. Instead, it will allow you to know which ones to use to communicate with specific donor segments. For example, you may find that younger donors give via Facebook, while older donors give more via email. You can create targeted campaigns that focus on both demographics, while optimizing the returns on your investment and lowering cost per acquisition.


Choosing your digital channels wisely

As a nonprofit, you’re probably overwhelmed by all of your digital channel options. You might have an “iron in every fire” yet feel like you’re not really making progress. At Causemo, we are aware of all the options you have to engage with your donors, and we also understand the confusion and frustration associated with using digital channels.

In an effort to help nonprofits better understand their donors, and to make it easier for donors to give, our Insights platform clearly highlights:

  • What your donors look like
  • What they’re interested in
  • How they give

Insights can even tell you which channel they prefer to engage and give through.



With Insights, your nonprofit can quickly visualize what’s working, which channels are connecting best with donors, and which areas hold opportunities for growth.

If you’re interested in taking control of your digital channel engagement, understanding the channel preferences of your donors, and increasing overall digital giving, sign up for a Causemo Insights account or reach out to one of our digital specialists at for a consultation.


Authored by Causemo's Ryan Carpenter:

Ryan Carpenter is the Director of Customer Data Analytics for Causemo, providing strategic guidance and support for our nonprofit partners. He has been in the nonprofit world for many years, previously leading the Engagement & Stewardship team for Year Up, as well as managing Donor Advancement Programs for three of the nation’s leading nonprofits (Feeding America, Wounded Warrior Project and CARE).

Get in touch with Ryan: