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Giving Up 1.6%, Online Gifts Still In Single Digits

The online portion of charitable giving continued on its dial-up-speed ascension in 2015, representing just 7.1 percent of charitable giving, up from 6.7 percent in 2014. The small share restrained online giving’s overall 9.2 percent increase from making a bigger dent in overall giving, which climbed by 1.6 percent in 2015.

The data is from Blackbaud’s 2015 Charitable Giving Report, which tracked overall giving data for 5,379 nonprofits throughout the 2014 and 2015 calendar years. “It’s probably the thing that surprises people the most, that online is still less than 10 percent,” said Steve MacLaughlin, director of analytics for the Charleston, S.C.-based software company. “I usually point to commerce. Amazon is huge, but retail is still less than 10 percent online. We’re in a similar place with digital.”

E-commerce accounted for 7.4 percent of all U.S. retail during the third quarter of 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Apple products, iPhones and iPads, represented 85 percent of the devices used in mobile giving in 2015. iPads were the most common mobile giving device during four months, including January and December, while iPhones were the giving device of choice during the other eight months of the year.

People tend to browse and shop on tablets as opposed to phones while away from work during the holidays, MacLaughlin explained. He declined to speculate too much into a reason for Apple’s stranglehold on mobile giving devices other than noting that the demographic of Apple customers might mirror that of typical donors.

MacLaughlin sees giving on mobile devices as a potential driver of online giving, as its trajectory is moving more rapidly than online overall. Giving on mobile devices accounted for 14 percent of online giving in 2015, up from less than 10 percent in 2014. There might also be a natural transition of donor behavior brought on by Baby Boomers becoming more active.

“They are digital immigrants. They are not natives,” MacLaughlin said, differentiating Baby Boomers from more tech-savvy Millennials and members of Generation X. “But we know that they use [digital] and in increasing numbers they choose to make the gift. And when that happens, it will snowball.”

Other key findings from the report include:

* June continues to be the second biggest month for overall giving, trailing December 17.4 percent to 10.2 percent. April was 2015’s second largest month for online giving with an 11-percent share. June typically ranks second in both categories, MacLaughlin said, but April’s numbers were skewed in 2015 due to donor response to the earthquake in Nepal.

June is usually a big giving month because it marks the end of many fiscal calendars and organizations push to meet goals. “This proves that December doesn’t have a magical [power],” MacLaughlin said. “They do more fundraising and drive more activity.”

* December, while leading the way in many donation categories, had the fourth lowest share of mobile giving with 13.7 percent. May led the way with 17.1 percent of online gifts made with mobile devices. MacLaughlin attributed the difference to the fact that high December overall donation volumes dilute the portion of mobile giving.

* Medical research organizations proved to be an outlier in many categories, leading all subsectors in online-gift dependence with 17 percent of fundraising coming online. It was also the only subsector to see a decrease in online giving in 2015, by 0.7 percent, and not have December as its biggest online giving month. Medical research organizations jumped aboard digital fundraising earlier than most, MacLaughlin said, transitioning fundraising for popular run, walk and ride events to online a decade ago. Such events tend to occur earlier in the calendar year, likely leaving medical research organizations to focus on mid-level and major-gift donors in December.

* Higher education and K-12 education led all subsectors in online giving increases in 2015 with 15.2 and 12.3 percent, respectively. MacLaughlin said that he sees plenty of room for online fundraising for education and healthcare, which saw a 9.3 percent increase in 2015, to grow. Online giving accounted for about four percent of the subsectors’ charitable giving in 2015.

For a full copy of the report, visit

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