Nepal Earthquake Shook Up Online Giving

June 1, 2015       Mark Hrywna      

Fueled by giving in response to a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal, online giving to international affairs organizations spiked 17 percent but it wasn’t enough to boost overall giving into positive territory for those groups.

Overall, online giving spiked 12.6 percent in April compared with the same time last year while overall giving was up 1.5 percent, according to the monthly Blackbaud Index of Charitable Giving, released today. The index represents data from 4,800 nonprofits with some $16.6 billion in annual fundraising revenue. The online index tracks approximately $1.9 billion in giving from 3,200 organizations.

The 12.6-percent spike in online giving is the biggest since September, when the index reported a jump of 13.4 percent. In terms of overall giving, the 1.5-percent bump is the smallest increase within the past 12 months.

Online giving for international affairs has had single-digit growth for several months after trending negative in November, December, and January, according to Steve MacLaughlin, director, analytics, at the Charleston S.C.-based fundraising and software firm. Online giving tends to spike within three to four days of a disaster, he said, as donors go online for information, updates and to help. “Nonprofits must engage current and potential new supporters through web, email, social and mobile channels,” he said, and “rapid activation of supporters in the first few hours is vital because online giving peaks within a few days.”

Follow-up with donors about how their giving has made a difference is critical to long-term retention, according to MacLaughlin, and mixing in additional channels like telephone can reduce the lag time for traditional offline giving. He expects overall giving to increase in May and trail off to pre-disaster levels by July.

Online giving to international affairs organizations was up 17.4 percent for April, compared with April 2014, the largest increase among the 10 subsectors tracked by The Blackbaud Index:

  • International affairs, 17.4 percent;
  • Higher education, 15.5 percent;
  • Faith-based, 15 percent;
  • Arts and culture, 10.7 percent;
  • Human services, 10.5 percent
  • Public and society benefit, 10.1 percent;
  • Healthcare, 8.9 percent;
  • Environment and animal welfare, 8.6 percent;
  • Medical research, 6.1 percent; and,
  • K-12 education, 7.3 percent.

Overall giving to international affairs was down 1 percent, one of four subsectors that reported a drop in giving for April:

  • Arts and culture, 8.1 percent;
  • Environment and animal welfare, 3.9 percent;
  • Faith-based, 3.5 percent;
  • Healthcare, 1.6 percent;
  • Higher education, 0.8 percent;
  • Human services, 0.8 percent;
  • International affairs, -1.0 percent;
  • Public and society benefit, -3.2 percent;
  • Medical research, -4.2 percent; and,
  • K-12 education, -5.6 percent.

Small organizations saw a 3-percent bump in overall giving, outpacing medium organizations, 2.7 percent, and large organizations, 0.5 percent.

Small organizations also led the way in online giving, up 17.9 percent, compared with 12.4 percent for large organizations, and 8.8 percent for medium organizations.