Secrets of online fundraising success

This blog is written by my colleague Dr Eddy Hogg:

Next month my wonderful Mum turns 70. To celebrate she is asking her family and friends to donate to the British Red Cross as she has volunteered for the British Red Cross Refugee Project since her retirement. To do so, she has made a page on JustGiving and sent details to all 107 people invited to her birthday barn dance. I was interested, then, to read a new working paper from the University of Warwick which looks at data from over 400,000 fundraisers who used JustGiving.

The type of fundraising that my Mum is doing – on her own and not part of a mass participation event – is in the minority. Only 17% of fundraisers who use JustGiving are not taking part in mass events such as Cancer Research UK’s ‘Race for Life‘ or the London Marathon. However, fundraisers who go it alone are the most successful on the site – they have a higher average number of donations and raise on average significantly a higher sums. So far, so good, but what else can my Mum (and other fundraisers, of course) do to raise as much for her chosen charity as possible?

Firstly, the paper (called ‘Online fundraising: the perfect ask?’) shows the value of setting targets. Campaigns with a target raise on average £122 more than those without, with donation size peaking as the target approaches, as donors try to be the one who pushes the campaign to its goal. The paper also shows the importance of the size of the first few donations – after one large donation, on average all subsequent donations are higher than those before the larger donation. One small donation has the opposite effect, with all subsequent donations being on average smaller than those that preceded the small donation.

The research by Abigail Payne (of McMaster University), Kimberley Scharf (of Warwick University) and Sarah Smith (of the University of Bristol) also contains a fascinating insight into the importance of who asks for online donations. Nearly three quarters of us always give when a family members asks us to, and almost two-thirds respond positively when a friend asks. In contrast, fewer than a quarter of us always give when a neighbour asks, just 10% of us give when a friend of a friend asks and fewer than 6% of us give when asked by a charity representative.

It seems, then, that my Mum’s Red Cross fundraising has done all the right things so far. Fingers crossed she reaches her £1,000 target!

The Warwick University report ‘Online Fundraising – the perfect ask?’ is available for free here and my Mum’s JustGiving page is here.

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