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Donors’ Online Giving Spikes at Year-End and During Disasters

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Donors appear to give more online when their experience is intimate and emotionally coherent, according to a study of online giving across charitable websites released Dec. 8 by Network for Good and TrueSense Marketing.

The Online Giving Study, which was sponsored by AOL, also found that people give online for reasons of convenience, especially at year-end and in the aftermath of large-scale disasters. More than 20% of all giving for the entire year occurs during the last 48 hours of the calendar year.

 “As we enter this giving season, this research shows how much relationships matter between charities and their supporters—online as much as offline,” Bill Strathmann, Network for Good’s chief executive, said in a statement. “Even small improvements in the online experience can make a big difference in the amount a charity can raise”

The study covered $381 million in online giving through Network for Good’s platform, including 3.6 million gifts to 66,470 different nonprofits from 2003 to 2009.

 “What Network for Good and TrueSense uncovered about online donors will benefit fundraisers, nonprofit leaders and their funders,” Steven Busheé, principal of TrueSense Marketing, said in the statement.

Key study findings include these:

  • Just as the strength of the donor-charity relationship heavily influences offline giving, the online giving experience significantly affects donor loyalty, retention and gift levels. Small improvements to the online experience can make a big difference in donations.
  • Giving on social networks is significant, but donor loyalty is highest on charity Web sites that build strong connections with donors. Personality matters on these sites: The loyalty factor for donors acquired through generic giving pages is 66.7% lower than for donors who give via charity-branded giving pages.
  • Analysis of giving added up over time via different pages powered by Network for Good shows that donors who gave via charity Web sites started at the highest level and gave the most over time. Those who used giving portals started lower and gave less over time. Those who used social giving opportunities gave the least initially and added little afterward.
  • Recurring giving is a major driver of giving over time and should be strongly encouraged in the giving experience.
  • ·         Online giving spikes during December and large-scale disasters. During disasters, donors are more likely to consider new giving options, while in December, they’re more likely to give based on relationships with the charities.
  • One-third of all online giving occurs in December, and 22% of annual giving happens in the last two days of the year. Online giving (by dollars) on December 31 is concentrated between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. in each time zone.
  • Online giving happens largely between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. People give during work hours—there’s even a drop in giving during the noon hour.

Network for Good is a nonprofit organization that helps donors support charities of their choice and helps nonprofits raise funds for their missions through online fundraising services. Network for Good also provides free training to nonprofits on online outreach through the site

TrueSense Marketing, which has offices in Pittsburgh, Seattle and Pasadena, is a fundraiser that uses fact-based approaches to direct mail, online fundraising and other media.