The study by marketing firm Bluefrog reveals that donors who are used to price comparison services such as uSwitch are starting to apply the logic of consumerism to charities. It also shows they may be fickle because they do not entirely trust any single organisation.
The study, which examines the reasons why donors stop supporting charities, was compiled after more than 100 interviews and 12 focus groups with existing and lapsed donors to 11 major UK charities.
Alan Gosschalk, director of fundraising at Shelter, said it was important to identify donors who were likely to continue giving, such as older people, who show a lower attrition rate.
"We are trying to teach our fundraisers that it's not just about signing people up - it's about signing up long-term donors," he said.
The research also suggests charities need to be better at giving donors individual attention to prevent them defecting to other causes or ceasing to give altogether.
Mark Astarita, fundraising director at the British Red Cross, said charities had to respond to donors becoming more demanding about the level of service they expected. "We need to get better at caring, nurturing, supporting and informing them, and treating them as individuals," he said.
"It will be a huge challenge to make the mass marketing approach feel like a one-to-one relationship, but if we are going to survive we need to invest more in fundraising strategies," Astarita said.