The desire to give to causes donors believe in increases with age, Charity Digital Study finds

Polling by Third Sector Research involving more than 2,000 donors finds that 58% of 18 to 24-year-olds donate because they believe in a cause, but that proportion rises to 92% among the over-65s

The desire to give money to charities with causes that donors believe in significantly increases with age, according to research conducted by Third Sector Research in partnership with the market research firm Harris Interactive.

More than 2,000 people who had engaged with a charity or cause online in the past 12 months were asked about their donations to charity for the Charity Digital Study, which examines how people interact with charities online and their use of specific charity websites and social media channels.

Participants who said they had given to charity were asked to select any applicable responses from a selection of nine that would best explain why they donated, including "I think it is a moral duty", "because it makes me feel better" and "because I want to leave a good legacy".

According to the report based on the study, the proportion of people who said they donated because it was a cause they believed in was 58 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds; this figure rose steadily to 92 per cent among those aged 65 or over.

Despite being carried out among people who engaged with charities online, the study also found an even split between those who said they preferred to donate money online and those who liked to give offline.

Convenience was found to be the key reason for using online methods – three-quarters of those who preferred to donate in that way referred to how quick and easy it was and two-thirds felt that it "cut out the middle man". A fifth of those who prefer to donate offline did so because of concerns about internet security, and 29 per cent felt more of their donation went directly to the charity that way.

The research found that the top three ways of donating digitally were directly through a charity’s website, through a fundraising website and by text. Using a mobile or tablet app was the least-used method.

Martin Bradley, associate director of Harris Interactive, said there was a direct correlation between age and giving to a cause that the donor believed in.

As a result, he said, charities should bear in mind that people of different ages donated for different reasons and "a catch-all approach simply won’t be as effective as one that takes into account different age groups and their different attitudes or behaviours".

He said: "For some charities, different strategies or campaigns may be beyond their means. But it doesn’t have to be complicated – it could be as simple as using different phrases or taglines in communications that will resonate better with various age groups."

Bradley said the findings showed that people built a connection with charities and causes they believed in as they grew older. "This is no surprise, but it is crucial," he said. "For older age groups it means that the bond they have with these causes will be incredibly strong, and they will be loyal. People in younger age groups might not yet have formed these strong bonds and will be open to different causes.

"Quite simply, no matter what your cause area might be, younger age groups will be more willing to consider it. Given that people from younger age group are traditionally the hardest for many charities to engage with, this only provides opportunities. Charities should look to create these bonds sooner."

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