It found that the proportion of people who said they had visited a charity website in the past six months rose from 23 per cent in February to 30 per cent in October. The figure almost doubled in the past five years, from 16 per cent.
The findings come from nfpSynergy's regular survey of 1,000 people over the age of 16.
Women in the survey were the most likely to visit charity websites - 34 per cent did so, compared with 26 per cent of men. For people aged between 16 and 24, the figure was 41 per cent, compared with 18 per cent of the 55 to 64 age group.
Volunteers were almost twice as likely to surf the net for voluntary sector websites, with 49 per cent saying they did so, compared with 25 per cent of non-volunteers.
"Five years ago it was seen as a good thing for charities to have websites - now it's essential," said Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy. "Having a website is a particularly good way of reaching younger supporters.
"Some of the increase is because people are surfing the net a lot more, but charities have also become better at marketing their websites and are more innovative."
Saxton said that as well as improving their own websites, charities are getting better at using other sites, such as MySpace and Second Life, to reach new audiences.
Dean Russell, digital marketing consultant at Precedent Communications, agreed. "Even smaller charities are beginning to realise they need to have a web presence," he said. "The sector is getting better at engaging audiences, but there's room for improvement.
"The bigger charities, such as the NSPCC and the British Heart Foundation, are investing more money online - and it shows. People are seeing it as an important investment."
Top website tips
Third Sector columnist Dean Russell says your website should:
- Free up time
- Make life easier for your organisation - not become a burden
- Be something for your organisation to be proud of - it should not be there simply for the sake of it
- Be regularly reviewed to ensure it is working effectively and is accessible to users.