4 digital communication & fundraising recommendations for NGOs worldwide

The 2019 Global NGO Technology Report is based on the survey results of 5,721 NGOs, NPOs, and charities worldwide. Now its fourth edition, this year’s report reveals over 100 nonprofit technology benchmarks for charitable organizations by region: Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States and Canada. In addition to English, the report is also available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

The amount of data in the report is extensive, but worth an hour of study. How does your organization compare to other organizations in your region in adopting email marketing, online fundraising tools, social media, and emerging trends? Key findings for each region are presented in the report, but there are four top recommendations that can be gleaned from the data.

1) Send emails more often to your supporters and donors.

Nonprofits in the United States began using mass email in the late 1990s. Constant Contact, which launched in 1995, enabled organizations to reach hundreds, thousands, and then tens of thousands of supporters and donors at a relatively low cost — compared to print, T.V., and radio. It was also at this time that early-adopter nonprofits began launching websites and signing up for online donation processors for the first time, namely PayPal and GroundSpring (acquired by Network for Good in 2005).

Though it is common knowledge today that email is crucial for online fundraising success, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, email fundraising was an unknown, and best practices were being developed through experimentation. Those organizations who first used email to link to “Donate Now” pages learned that it resulted in a slow, but steady growth of online donations over time. The organizations that pioneered email fundraising have spent two decades now perfecting the art and science of digital storytelling that inspires online giving and providing a donation page where it can be done quickly and with ease.

A graphic showing how what percentage of NGOs have a website and elements like a privacy policy and SSL certificate. It is presented alongside pie chart of how often NGOs email supporters.
(Click graphic to enlarge) The report includes data from 5,721 NGOs across 160 countries. Key findings include: 1) The average number of email subscribers is 14,021; 2) 35% of NGOs send monthly emails and 30% send quarterly emails; 3) 71% of websites have a privacy policy; 4) 70% have an SSL certificate.

Outside of the U.S., the story of email marketing and fundraising is quite different. The use of email marketing services like Constant Contact and MailChimp spread more quickly in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia and New Zealand, but most NGOs in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East have only begun to understand the power of email for digital communications and fundraising within the last few years. In the U.S., people first came online through dial-up and Yahoo! Mail, and Hotmail. In most other parts of the world, it was through the smartphone revolution and rise of social media — especially with the launch of the Android operation system and Facebook reaching the 100 million users benchmark – both of which occurred in 2008.

Today, according to the 2019 Global NGO Technology Report, 71% of NGOs worldwide send email updates, and 54% send email fundraising appeals. In the U.S. and Canada, the numbers are the highest — 82% send email updates, and 66% send email fundraising appeals, while in Latin America and the Caribbean, the numbers are the lowest – 58% send email updates and 39% send email fundraising appeals.

However, what is consistent among all regions is that organizations are too overly cautious about sending emails to their donors and supporters. 30% send email updates quarterly, and 35% send email monthly, yet 27% of online donors worldwide (according to the 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report) say that email is the digital communication tool that most inspires them to give.

If your organization prioritizes online fundraising, it would be wise to ramp up your email marketing efforts. If you send email updates quarterly, increase to sending monthly. If you send monthly, try sending email updates every other week. Tell a good story, ask people to give online, and share your organization’s success stories more often via email. A few may unsubscribe because of the increased frequency, but that will likely be counter-balanced with an increase in online donations.

2) Embrace #GivingTuesday!

Giving Tuesday was created when two organizations, the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, came together in 2012 to promote charitable giving during the shopping extravaganzas of #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday which occur in the days after the U.S. holiday known as Thanksgiving. Today, #GivingTuesday has become the biggest giving day in history.

U.S. and Canadian nonprofits have the highest participation rate in #GivingTuesday at 58%. That’s not surprising considering the giving day was born in New York City. The participation rates for NGOs, NPOS, and charities, however, are much lower in the rest of the world:

  • Africa: 22%
  • Asia: 19%
  • Australia & New Zealand: 7%
  • Europe: 25%
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: 20%

    Illustration showing the Giving Tuesday heart logo versioned across six countries with a corresponding hashtag.
    Resource: Giving Tuesday Global

There are two primary reasons why #GivingTuesday is less popular outside of the U.S. and Canada. The first being that it simply takes time for word to spread online worldwide. The organizers of Giving Tuesday have needed years to build partnerships around the world. Also, the online language barrier contributes to English-only bubbles on the World Wide Web. Now that there are more #GivingTuesday resources available in multiple languages — as well as nonprofit websites, the language barrier will begin to crumble rapidly. Now in its seventh year (December 3, 2019), the giving day is picking up momentum worldwide.

Organizations in developing nations often ask how to reach wealthy donors in the U.S., Canada, Europe, etc. First, create an email strategy and make a concerted effort to grow your email list. Second, embrace #GivingTuesday! Study the giving day, download the Official Giving Tuesday Toolkit, and jump right in. Introduce donors in your country to Giving Tuesday and use it as an outreach tool to reach donors abroad. Each year, your organization will learn more about how to promote the giving day effectively online and, consequently, improve your results.

3) Accept cryptocurrency.

The 2019 Global NGO Technology Report also revealed that 2% of organizations worldwide accept Bitcoin or other Cryptocurrencies – up from 1% in 2018. Although not a large increase, the cryptocurrency market is on the verge of radical change.

An illustration of a phone showing money received from a donor. The copy reads, "A connected wallet for a connected world."
Resource: Calibra | Digital Wallet for Libra Cryptocurrency

As much as we love to hate/like/revere/fear Facebook, the release of their global cryptocurrency, Libra, in 2020 will likely, eventually, be integrated into Facebook Charitable Giving Tools and accepted by the world’s largest payment processors. As the largest social network in the history of humankind, Facebook’s entry in cryptocurrency has the potential to transform digital money as we know it and breakdown many of the obstacles to giving and receiving internationally.

If your organization is new to cryptocurrency, The Giving Block and Bitpay are pioneering cryptocurrency payments for nonprofits, as well as information sharing and research. Also, Facebook has launched the Libra Association, a not-for-profit membership organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

4) Make your website secure and accessible to all.

Finally, according to #NGOtech19, 70% of NGOs, NPOs, and charities worldwide have an SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer certificate) with the lowest rate being in Asia (58%) and the highest rate being in the U.S. and Canada (81%). Google Search began classifying websites without an SSL certificate as “Not Safe” beginning July 1, 2019. Translation: If your organization’s website is one of the 30% worldwide that do not have an SSL certificate, Google is no longer crawling your website thus your SEO is likely plummeting. Even worse, for web users that have downloaded a web browsing security software, such as Bitdefender, visitors are receiving a “Warning! Do not proceed. This website is unsafe.” message when they visit your website. Most will not proceed to visit an unsafe website.

Fortunately, this is an easy, and in most cases, free problem to fix. First, go to your website in your browser of choice. If the URL begins with “http://” rather than “https://”, then your website does not have an SSL certificate. Simply call your web host and request that an SSL certificate be installed on your website. In most cases, the SSL certificate is free.

Also revealed in the 2019 Global NGO Technology Report is that only 18% of websites worldwide are compatible for those with visual or hearing disabilities. In 2010, the World Health Organization estimated that the number of people visually impaired in the world is 285 million. That number has likely jumped significantly in the nine years since. NGOs, NPOs, and charities worldwide serve as the collective online voice for justice and equality, and their online presence needs to reflect that responsibility. It should be a top priority to make your website accessible to all. The first step is to learn and then implement the basic web accessibility guidelines created by the World Wide Web Consortium.

In Conclusion: Additional Must-Know Data and Research Reports

Above are four action items for your nonprofit’s digital communication and fundraising strategy gleaned from the results of the 2019 Global NGO Technology Report. However, many more can be learned from downloading the report and reading the key findings. That said, there are 22 other extremely valuable research reports for the nonprofit, NGO, and charity sectors worldwide. The reports provide benchmarks for success, analysis of emerging technology trends, and valuable insight into how donors are evolving worldwide.

Heather Mansfield
Nonprofit Tech for Good
Heather Mansfield is the editor-in-chief and founder of Nonprofit Tech for Good and author of the best-selling books Social Media for Social Good and Mobile for Good. Over the last 10 years, she’s presented over 500 webinars thus training more than 250,000 nonprofit, NGO, and charity staff worldwide. Heather also writes and produces the Global NGO Technology Report and the Global Trends in Giving Report.