Over the last few years we’ve heard a lot of discussion about nonprofits and their use “Web 2.0” and social media. Much of the focus has been on the fundraising tools themselves [namely “Apps” and “widgets”]… What are they? How do they work? Do they work? But very little analysis has been made about how Web 2.0 donors are different.

I am on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Change.org, etc. a minimum of 40 hours a week and I have been noticing and pondering some distinct characteristics of Web 2.0 donors:

1) The vast majority are in their 20’s and 30’s and are very comfortable with Web 2.0 technology. Once they start giving on social networking sites, they don’t go back to Web 1.0 giving (your website).

2) Most Web 2.0 donors also don’t want to receive your print materials. They want you to save the resources used to print the materials and the postage necessary to mail them. And they definitely don’t want a print thank you letter for the $10 donation they gave you on a social networking site! They have come of age in an era where environmental sustainability and frugality is much discussed and increasingly prioritized in their personal lives. This worldview directly affects they way they give and the way they want to be approached by the nonprofits that they support.

3) They want “Thank You” wall comments and compliments! They donate in a public commons like Change.org or Facebook Causes therefore the vast majority also appreciate being thanked in the public commons.

4) On average, when they donate they will only provide you their e-mail address and opt out of providing your organization their mailing address. I believe, despite much talk lately of e-mail “dying”, that in fact the opposite is true. Your nonprofit needs to focus more on your e-mail newsletter than ever before because e-mail may be the only way you can contact and nurture your Web 2.0 donors outside of social networking sites.

5) They give in smaller amounts, more often, and to many nonprofits that they have never heard of before until they saw them on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Change.org, etc. In short, if your organization isn’t on these sites, then your organization is not on their radar screen. In most cases, they will only become repeat donors if you nurture and interact with them where they live online.

I am a classic Web 2.0 donor. In 2008, I gave almost $1,200  to 90 nonprofits on Change.org. In the backend of my individual account, I can see a running list and total of all the donations I have made since joining Change.org in February of 2007… and print out a tax-receipts for 2007, 2008, 2009, etc. I never would have give made 90 separate donations on 90 different websites… not only because it takes time, but think of all the paper and postage that would have been wasted! My contact info would have been bought, sold, and traded many times over… this is why I won’t donate on an organization’s website. On Change.org and other Web 2.0 giving sites, I have the control over my giving and contact information.

Web 2.0 giving is addictive. I only gave $300 in 2007. Giving on sites like Change.org is fun… and I earn frequent flyer miles (to which I am addicted) by using my credit card.

And finally, understand that your organization will continue to have your check writers and your Web 1.0 Donors, but there is third group of donors out there now that is entirely different. Your approach to them, how you thank them, and engage and inspire them to give again needs to be entirely different as well.

Five Things Your Nonprofit Needs to Know About Web 2.0 Donors