Giving Stagnant, Slowly Moving To Mobile

February 22, 2017       Andy Segedin      

Increases in online giving outpaced overall giving nearly eight-fold in 2016, 7.9 percent versus a paltry 1 percent. Though still representing just a fraction of gifts, donating online showed a staying power in 2016 that had yet to be previously seen, according to Steve MacLaughlin, vice president, data and analytics for Charleston, S.C.-based Blackbaud.

Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report tracked year-to-year giving of 6,845 organizations tallying more than $23 billion in fundraising during 2016. The report also includes giving data from 5,210 organizations representing $2.6 billion in online donations. Though the online giving figure represents a 7.9 percent monetary increase, the portion of donations made online increased by just one-tenth of a point, 7.2 percent in 2016 as compared to 7.1 percent in 2015 and 6.7 percent in 2014.

There is optimism in that crawl upward, MacLaughlin said. Online donations spiked during 2010 in response to the Haitian earthquake before falling back down in 2011. Donations made online similarly increased in 2015 as a result of the Nepal earthquake before experiencing a smaller bump up in 2016. It was the first time the portion of online donations didn’t decrease the year following a major crisis, MacLaughlin said. Still, as online giving represents just a fraction of overall donations, one might wonder how much attention organizational leaders should heed.

The answer, according to MacLaughlin, largely depends on the type of organization. Arts and public benefit organizations both receive double-digit percent portions of their donations online, for instance, making online strategy there more impactful than a major university or hospital that is more dependent on major gifts where online giving might be in the low single digits.

Fewer answers are available to explain a slow-down in overall giving, with 2016’s 1 percent increase, down from 1.6 percent in 2015 and 2.1 percent in 2014. MacLaughlin said that nothing specific in the data explains the more modest increase. There is no evidence that the 2016 presidential election, which has been cited in other reports as potentially affecting giving behaviors, had a positive or negative effect on donations in 2016, MacLaughlin said. Potential related influences such as changes to the overall economy and tax policy likely won’t show themselves until 2017 or 2018, according to MacLaughlin.

What’s more likely, he said, is that anemic growth rates will continue to be common in post-recession society absent proactive measures made by organizations, such as donor engagement, retention and stewardship initiatives. “Out of the recession, we saw much higher growth rates, but it was because we were coming out of the negative,” MacLaughlin said, adding that the need for donor engagement and retention programs is the “new normal if we want to achieve more than single-digit growth.”

    Other elements of this year’s report and trends to keep an eye on in 2017 include:

  • How do donors give? After numerous inquiries over the years, the 2016 report includes donor data such as average age (62), average gifts per year (1.4) and median donation amount for gifts under $1,000 ($20). The $20 figure highlights the importance of small donation programs, MacLaughlin said;
  • When will Gen Y emerge? Despite making up the largest portion of the potential donor population (30.4 percent), members of Gen Y — defined as those who were born between 1981 and 1997 — represented the second smallest percentage of actual donors (7.1 percent) and smallest portion of total giving (5.4 percent) among generations in 2016. The Silent Generation born between 1928 and 1945, by comparison, accounted for 30.5 percent of gifts despite making up just 11.3 percent of the potential donor population; and,
  • What’s next for online giving? Mobile giving, for instance, is on the rise, accounting for 17 percent of online gifts in 2016 as compared to 9 percent in 2014. Worth monitoring will be not only how online donors are gained, but how they are retained. First-year retention rates for online-only donors stand at 21 percent as compared to 29 percent for first-year offline-only donors. Multi-year retention rates also skew in favor of off-line only, 60 percent to 58 percent.

For more data, visit the Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact at

  • Blackbaud
  • Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact
  • Charitable Giving
  • fundraising
  • Steve MacLaughlin
  • The Silent Generation