$50 Million Likely For #GivingTuesday

December 3, 2014       Mark Hrywna      

Donations during yesterday’s third annual #GivingTuesday were up by more than 45 percent compared to last year, likely surpassing $50 million, according to preliminary estimates.

The NonProfit Times estimates about $47 million in contributions, based on surveys of five companies that process online donations. The estimate is a compilation of numbers provided by Blackbaud, DonorPerfect, Network for Good, Razoo, Salsa Labs and Click & Pledge. The same companies reported more than $32 million in donations during last year’s #GivingTuesday.

Preliminary estimates do not yet include figures from PayPal, which last year processed almost $4 million. This year, the payment processing firm pledged to match 1 percent of all donations made through its platform.

Blackbaud processed $26.1 million in online donations, up 36 percent from $19.2 million last year. The Charleston, S.C.-based firm’s numbers represent the largest chunk of #GivingTuesday fundraising statistics. Network for Good had the largest jump by percentage (157 percent), reporting donations of $4.58 million, compared with $1.78 million last year.

Some 17 percent of donation form views by Blackbaud customers were from mobile devices this year, up from zero in the first #GivingTuesday. “The modern donor is becoming a mobile donor. As usual, it will be donors who will force nonprofits to embrace mobile,” said Steve MacLaughlin, director of product management at Blackbaud. “For nonprofits, “that should be the alarm bell of, ‘Wow, we should make sure our websites are mobile.’”

MacLaughlin cited Blackbaud research indicating that mobile responsive websites with mobile responsive donation forms have 34 percent higher conversion rates. Mobile devices are considered smartphones as well as tablets.

DonorPerfect reported total online donations of $1.44 million, with 9,302 transactions from 857 organizations. That equates to an average online gift of $155. The Horsham, Pa.-based firm also tallied $10.7 million in offline donations via 27,326 transactions from 1,690 organizations, making for an average gift of almost $392. Online donations are electronic submission or credit card that occurred during #GivingTuesdays while offline donations are checks or cash received and entered via DonorPerfect.

#GivingTuesday is growing, not cannibalizing, December giving, “because people are just asking more. Anyone in fundraising will tell you: the more you ask, the more you’ll raise,” said Jon Biedermann, vice president, DonorPerfect. The company’s statistics reached statistical significance in last year’s #GivingTuesday, with more than 550 organizations participating in both years, and this year that number will be more than 1,000, he said.

DonorPerfect ran into some speed bumps, with some customers unable to collect online donations for several hours. Biedermann said it wasn’t a high-traffic issue of being overwhelmed by web traffic. “Seemingly unrelated, uncorrelated events that combined together brought us down for awhile,” he said, noting that about 15 to 20 percent of clients were out from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with about a third of them coming back online hourly until about 6 p.m. So for about 5 percent of clients – about 350 organizations – the outage lasted some six hours.

“We’re always putting in new improvements in software and we traced it to an improvement not to the online software piece but main online DonorPerfect database that created an artificial bottleneck. Once we discovered that defect in the artificial bottleneck, we got back online but had to spool back up the whole system, which took three or four hours,” he said. Some organizations saw a surge in donations once they came back online due to in some cases to emails announcing they were back.

Biedermann said the company is the process of communicating with clients and will announce in the coming days a plan to help those affected, perhaps through a matching grant campaign or a compensation fund. Often times, insurance can cover incidents like this, he said, but decisions can’t be made within 24 hours.

#GivingTuesday has barely scratched the surface for fundraising, according to Biedermann said. The small and medium size nonprofits they work with have been using online tools only a few years and getting better and better. He likened it to running a special event, where it’s successful in the first year and then continues to growth 25 to 30 percent each year.

Some complaints could be found online about the number emails being pushed out charities or the volume of appeals on social media, but most industry observers are still bullish on the growth of #GivingTuesday. “If no one’s complaining, you’re not trying hard enough,” MacLaughlin said.

“The bottom line is that for every donor who might complain, there’s another 30 who just keep giving,” Biedermann said. “Data tells us, you never should let a donor lapse past 45 days,” he said, after that the retention rate dips and attrition skyrockets for most nonprofits.

With the 15 percent increase in the number of participating organizations, MacLaughlin still sees room for growth after third years. Blackbaud’s transaction volume was up 50 percent over last year and while that dilutes the average gift (down 10 percent), the $128 average gift online this year is still higher than the industry average. That’s after transaction volume was up 36 percent last year.

Online fundraising platform Crowdrise reported $1.7 million from 14,000 donations, which were turned into a visual representation through a virtual “Giving Tower.” With each “brick” representing a donation, an augmented reality app created a Giving Tower that stood 2,100 feet, taller than the 1,776-foot 1 World Trade Center. Some portion of the $1.7 million via Crowdrise likely was processed through Network for Good and could be within that $4.5 million.

While they don’t offer the tax-deductible contributions that direct donations to charities afford, crowdfunding platforms got in on the #GivingTuesday action for the first time this year. Indiegogo reported $7.5 million raised across 419 campaigns.