Holiday Giving Survey: Three Quarters of U.S. Adults Will Make Donations

Nonprofit organizations will bring in $48 billion during 2010 holiday season

More than 174 million adult Americans plan to give money to charity between Thanksgiving and year-end, according to a Convio survey released Tuesday. Estimates of giving to nonprofit organizations during the 2010 holiday season approach $50 billion across all giving channels—online, direct mail and donation at checkout.

Online giving alone is estimated to account for upward of $6 billion, an increase of more than 30% from this same period in 2009.

“The results are encouraging as Americans seem to put aside the economic challenges to support the nonprofit sector and the good work charities do in our society,” Paulette Maehara, president and chief executive of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, said in a statement. “With the nonprofit sector representing more than 5% of GDP (gross domestic product) and employing about 10% of the American workforce, the year-end giving season is critical to the success of the many organizations that have a significant impact on our culture and communities.”

The 2010 Holiday Giving Survey, conducted by Edge Research on behalf of Convio, highlights these points:

  • Seventy-four percent of adults plan to make a charitable contribution this holiday season, and 60% of holiday donors plan to give $100 or more. With average total gifts of $281, the anticipated amount raised by nonprofit organizations will be more than $48 billion.
  • Giving is profoundly multichannel—seven in 10 donors will give in multiple ways. Donors who give online are particularly generous, donating a total of approximately $13.7 billion through all channels with more than $6 billion being given online. Donors also engage in non-traditional forms of giving—tipping, third-party purchases and purchases from charity gift shops.
  • Holiday giving is emotional: Donors say appeals that put a face to the donation (either human or animal) and remind them to help those who are less fortunate at this time of year, are most persuasive.
  • Holiday giving is particularly effective with harder-to-reach Generations X and Y, as large percentages of these groups intend to give and give generously—83% of Gen Y plan to give, while 79% of Gen X say they will give. Gen X plans to give $348 in total this holiday season, more than any other generation.
  • Donors are projected to give through a variety of channels this holiday season, with 72% giving in two or more ways, such as direct mail and online. A substantial 25% of high-dollar donors (individuals who have given at least $1,000 to a single charity in the last 18 months) and 21% of holiday givers will make online donations, emphasizing the importance of nonprofits adopting an integrated marketing strategy.

“The results reinforce the need for nonprofit organizations and professional fundraisers to embrace technologies that create the best experience and engagement possible for donors be it through the web, social and digital technologies or through traditional direct mail, events or face-to-face giving,”

Maehara said in the statement. “The reality is that all these channels matter and they all work together to reach, engage and inspire people to support the many nonprofits that are playing an increasingly important role in shaping our world.”

Social media is still an emerging vehicle for holiday donations—9% say they might be solicited through Facebook, Twitter or another social network; and about half of those say they will give through these outlets.

The average total amount holiday givers plan to donate is $281, while high-dollar donors’ average projected donations total $952. Some 55% will spread their contributions across two to three organizations, and 23% percent will give to four or more nonprofit groups. Two-thirds plan to donate the same amount as last year, and 12% plan to increase their contributions this holiday season.

Support spans a variety of charitable sectors, but the biggest recipients of holiday donations are human and social service organizations with 50% of donors, while faith-based organizations come in second with 45% of donors. Next are disease and health services at 29% and animal welfare organizations at 25%. Disaster and international relief at 19% and education-related organizations at 15% are in the next tier.

High-dollar donors are particularly supportive of faith-based organizations, with 68% giving to these groups.

This is not surprising, given that 74% of donors said the number one reason they give is because “the holidays are a time to be thankful for what you have, and give to those who need it.”

Edge Researchsurveyed a total of 1,148 holiday donors between Oct. 20 and Nov. 8; these were drawn from a census-representative population of adults.

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