Nonprofits appear to be banking that a click of the mouse will help fill organizational coffers more reliably than special events. That conclusion is based on how certain fundraisers are being compensated.
A study of the past three Nonprofit Organizations Survey and Benefits Surveys sponsored by The NonProfit Times indicates that a relatively new position, online giving manager, is becoming more established while the position of major events manager/specialist has stalled or declined in compensation.
Analysts who stay abreast of nonprofit trends say the surveys show a shift in fundraising brought about by a number of factors, such as the economic downturn of 2008-09, which led to staff cutbacks and fewer fundraising events. There has also been a shift in fundraisers’ target donors toward Millenniums, who grew up with computers and social media.
The shift does not spell an end to fundraising events but the need for a more strategic approach to them.
The number of online giving managers is small but the position had a base salary of just above $65,000 in 2010 and 2012, substantially more than the slightly less than $50,000 average cost per employee in the fundraising family of jobs for those years. The base salary for special events manager/specialist dropped from $48,556 in 2010 to $46,196 in 2012. The position fell from slightly above the average cost per employee for the fundraising family of jobs in 2010 to more than $3,000 below that average in 2012.
Higher salaries for online giving managers suggest that the position is an emerging field for nonprofits, said Matt Di Lauri, managing director of People & Systems Solutions in New York City. “When supply is low and demand is high, the cost is going to increase. You’re probably going to have to take [online giving managers] from the for-profit area where the income is higher.”
Bringing candidates from the for-profit online world might limit the number of nonprofits that can afford an online giving manager. No organization with an operating budget of less than $2.5 million reported having an online giving manager in any of the past three surveys. Special events managers/specialists, on the other hand, were reported among all sizes of nonprofits.
Smaller nonprofits such as Miss Ruby’s Kids, an early literacy program with an operating budget of $306,000 in Georgetown, S.C., have neither an online giving manager nor a special events manager/specialist, but participate in limited online giving efforts. Miss Ruby’s Kids’ website has an online giving section where one can give electronically any amount above $10. The page includes an explanation of various levels of giving, from “Friend,” for a gift of up to $499, to “Visionary,” for those who give $25,000 or more.
The option brings in a small amount of money, said Betsy Marlow, executive director. “It was a good way for people who wanted to use a credit card” as well as for website visitors who decide to give something. “It’s convenient and easy.” But Miss Ruby’s Kids, which participated in the 2012 survey, relies on a series of fundraising events, highlighted by an annual garden party, an annual appeal, and grant proposals to raise the bulk of its funding.
The online giving manager is a “relatively new position,” Di Lauri said, one that grew since “the world really did change.” As an example of that change, he noted that a 2005 photo of the installation of Pope Benedict XVI showed “just a sea of heads.” In a similar photo this year of Pope Francis’s installation, “everyone was opening up a phone for a picture,” said Di Lauri.
Shifting demographics have led nonprofits to embrace the Internet and social media, said Nurys Harrigan, president of Careers in Nonprofits in Chicago, Ill. “The donors they are trying to attract now — the Millenniums — give online,” she said. The Millenniums refers to the generation now generally in their 20s.
“Online giving is more accessible and gets to more people than having them come to special events, which are a lot more work” both for the organization and the potential donor, Harrigan said. Given the work and cost involved in staging an event, “I think [nonprofits] will go down to just one major event a year.”
That trend developed with the economic downturn, she said, as nonprofits have done fewer events and “doing what they can with less staff.”
Kristin Mannion, senior client partner of Korn/Ferry International in Washington, D.C., said the “cost factors and acquisition costs related to finding donors and raising revenues are more recognized now. Special events – marathons, walks, galas – are very expensive, and online giving is much less expensive albeit still in its nascent stages of success as currently used by most nonprofit organizations.”
That, she said, “would likely translate into bringing on new talent to manage the social media/internet/online efforts.”
Heather Eddy of The Alford Group in Evanston, Ill., said nonprofits are combining online giving with some traditional means of fundraising. “I do see a lot of our clients working with direct mail companies to integrate online and direct mail campaigns,” she said.
The job description for online giving manager as stated in the survey appears to support Eddy’s view. The manager is “responsible for the organization’s online fundraising activities including both donor acquisition and relationship development; leads the development and implementation of online fundraising strategies including online stories, email campaigns and other e-commerce activities; [and] works to increase donor giving via the organization’s website and other online initiatives in collaboration with other income development activities throughout the organization.”
The job market website CareerBuilder reports a trend in that direction among the job descriptions it sees for fundraising/giving managers. They “will often ask for online and email marketing experience, as well as web development proficiencies. These are skills that can fetch high salaries in the private, for-profit sector, so any salary increases for online giving professionals is a sign the supply of talent in this field is limited and competitive,” said Ryan Hunt, senior career adviser.
But, online giving does have its limitations. Some question whether it can provide the continuing relationship needed for major gifts, which might require years of relationship building with a potential donor. “You need events to get people interested in what you do,” Eddy said. Rather than online giving replacing special events, “I see organizations being more strategic” in developing both segments to work in tandem.
The evolution to online giving is “a natural progression in how people think, she said, noting how people “are less and less skeptical in shopping online” and have moved toward using the Internet and other social media. Moving toward online giving reflects “how we embrace it and use it.” E