Do you rely on ‘the rising tide’?

Earlier this month, Convio released the sixth annual edition of The Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark™ Study.

With data from more than 700 North American organizations that have used the Convio platform for at least two consecutive years, it’s a good barometer of online fundraising trends.

In 2011, these organizations raised more than $1.2 billion through the Convio platform and have close to 219 million email addresses.

(Watch the summary of highlights from Convio Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Vinay Bhagat or download the study and read it for yourself.)

In short, the tide does appear to be rising. In 2011, overall revenue was up 15.8% from the prior year, a combination of more donations (up 12.6%) and higher average gifts (up 2%).

The pipeline of prospects continues to grow, as well; the number of valid, opted-in emails grew 11%. In a new addition, Convio also broke out trends first time gifts, a whopping 37% of all online revenue.

I think this soundly underscores the importance of (1) your web presence to attract new donors and (2) your welcome/engagement strategy to convert those prospects into ongoing supporters. Interestingly enough, we have a little project underway to look more closely at this very area.

Several weeks ago, we identified 12 of the leading veterans organizations and went online to make a donation to each. One of the organization’s sites did not have transaction functionality; on another’s, the donation form was not functioning.

(Which pretty much precludes any benefit from the rising tide for those two!)

We made a $10 donation to each of the remaining 10. Eight acknowledged receipt of the gift immediately. Two did not; in fact we still haven’t heard from them.

Only four of the eight made subsequent contact in the first few weeks after the acknowledgement. For one of these organizations, that meant two direct appeals. (Really?)

Which leaves only three of the original 12 trying to nurture a relationship with this first time donor. A mere 25%.

Look at it another way: three out of four of the organizations did not take advantage of the opportunity to engage a new supporter.

What do you think will happen when the tide goes back out?