Digital giving lags behind more traditional methods

Researchers found that people contacted through social media sites account for 35 per cent of charities' overall audience

90 per cent of online gifts are made through online donation platforms, such as JustGiving
90 per cent of online gifts are made through online donation platforms, such as JustGiving

Thirty per cent of donations to charity are made through digital channels even though charities reach about half of their audiences digitally, according to research released today.

The Digital Giving Review 2012 is published by Give As You Live, a website that allows online shoppers to direct contributions from retailers to charities, in partnership with the Institute of Fundraising. Publication is timed for the opening of the IoF annual convention today.

The research was based in part on a survey of 500 charities and shows an even split between the size of charities’ online and offline audiences – 51 per cent and 49 per cent respectively. But only 30 per cent of donations are made using digital methods, compared with 70 per cent by more traditional methods such as cash or direct debits, the research says.

Audience figures were based on reported contacts through email and social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Offline audiences were measured according to the charities’ databases of offline contacts.

Researchers found that people contacted through social media sites account for 35 per cent of charities’ overall audience.
But only 3 per cent of online donations come through Facebook and none via Twitter. The vast majority – 90 per cent – of online gifts are made through online donation platforms, such as JustGiving.

Polly Gowers, chief executive and founder of the technology and fundraising company EveryClick, which provides Give As You Live, said: "With online and offline audiences the same size, charities need to convert online supporter engagement into financial support." She said the survey also raised many questions, including what proportion of the audiences were the same people or the same demographic. Understanding this would be hugely valuable, she said.

"If you are already communicating by phone and post, but also talking to them online, you would prefer to stop using the offline method because that is expensive," said Gowers.

The research shows that smaller charities generally contact a higher proportion of their audiences online than larger ones.
Fifty-six per cent of smaller charities’ audiences are online; that figure is 39 per cent among the largest charities polled.
Gowers said this was because smaller charities could adapt to new technologies more quickly than larger ones.

The survey says charities contact supporters more often online than offline. Nearly half – 47.5 per cent – communicate with their audiences daily through social media. Among big charities, 80 per cent send daily Facebook updates and tweets. The biggest barrier to successful online fundraising is internal resources, it says.

Give As You Live will do another survey in the autumn. It will question donors about the frequency and content of communications and will help charities to understand the "critical balance between channel, frequency and message", the report says.

The full report is at

- See more news from this year's IoF National Convention

51% of the charity audience is online

30% of donations come through online methods

90% The proportion of online donations made through online giving sites

3% The proportion of online donations that come through Facebook

47% of charities communicate daily through social media websites

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