What’s More Effective for Receiving Donations? Email or Social Media Advertising?

According to the 2020 Global Trends in Giving Report, the answer depends on where your donors are on the globe.

The report by funraise.org surveyed over 13,000 donors from around the world in March-May 2020. I would note that the entire survey was conducted online.

Perhaps the most interesting question that emerges from the survey is: What is more effective? Email advertising (through newsletters, quarterly updates, etc.) or social media advertising?

What digital effort at the end of the day will bring more resources to your goal? After all, most non-profit organizations do not have an unlimited budget. Beyond digital, there are other channels that need to be invested in. So what would be more worthwhile?

According to the report, at a glance, 26% of donors around the world say that email is the media that most inspires them to give, with social networks coming in second place with 25%. But if you start breaking down the report by continents the story can change.

If you are in the US or Canada, that number is even greater. 33% say email is the media that excites them the most, an increase of two percent from 2018. Only 18% say social media inspires them to give the most.

However, if your donors are from Europe, Asia, Africa, and even Latin America, the picture is different. A significant percentage are more inclined to take action when presented with advertising on social networks (34%, 32%, 37%, and 41%, respectively).

So both channels are super effective, and yet it is interesting to see the moderate increase in the effectiveness of email – a tool that has existed since about the beginning of the Internet.

Why can email be more inspiring than social networks?

While the report does not address why donors were more inspired by email, I suspect it has to do with how email marketing can be more personalized.

From the segmentation of your lists to the ability to include first names and other contact information, email behaves more like a conversation between friends than social networks.

A good email is a direct, sharp, and focused call to action that leaves no room for doubt. When done well (and in North America, they tend to do it well), other means of advertising will have a hard time competing with the benefits of inbox marketing.

Digital is the key.

Around the world, other channels that inspire donors included websites (17%), print (13%), TV commercials (8%), phone calls (4%), radio commercials (3%), text messages (2%), Billboards (1%), and messaging apps (1%).

This survey was conducted exclusively online, so it makes sense that those surveyed would have a penchant for digital tools over non-digital ways of advertising like advertisements or print.

Still – only 28% of respondents indicated non-digital advertising as an effective way to receive donations from them.

The majority of respondents (72%) are aged 40+. 47% are aged 56+. That is: there is no deception here with a survey aimed at the millennial generation or younger. This is a true sentiment of a fairly representative sample. One thing is clear from the numbers. If your goal is to get or maintain donations, you must invest in digital marketing.

Download the full report.