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Survey: Passive Donors Still Engaging With Philanthropy

Despite the 49% of Americans who reported having a pessimistic view of the economy in a recent survey, 90% still expect to donate the same amount or more by the end of this year than they did last year.

Americans are giving differently than they have in the past with many no longer confining their giving to established nonprofits but also donating directly to individuals and causes in need. Additionally, many now have a more expansive view of giving that also includes non-monetary contributions such as volunteering their time.

“While this helps explain some of the trends the industry is experiencing, nonprofits still need individuals’ monetary donations to create long-term sustainability,” wrote the authors of the recently released report, Why America Gives.

Classy, an online fundraising platform acquired earlier this year by GoFundMe, compiled the findings from a survey commissioned in August and September of 1,000 adults who made at least one charitable contribution during the prior 12 months.

Loyal donors, defined as those who made at least three recurring or standalone contributions to the same charitable organization in the last five years, were found likely to give four times more by the end of this year than passive donors, defined as those who have contributed to an organization through one-off donations but have not shown any consistent pattern of giving.

Passive donors continue to engage with philanthropy in non-traditional ways. Notably, 59% of them were spurred to inquire about charitable organizations that support a given cause after initially donating to an individual with a need related to that cause.

Doing so, which can include volunteering for an organization with a shared commitment to that cause, is often the first step of building a long-term relationship essential to converting these passive donors into loyal donors.

“While loyal donors are vital to bring donations into an organization, passive donors want to get more involved with organizations they believe in and trust,” the authors wrote. “Gaining their support long-term means first meeting them in that moment of need and then establishing a relationship that fosters their loyalty.”

Timeliness also matters when fundraising as 60% of respondents reported donating to a new cause in response to a timely appeal related to a topic in the news such as a humanitarian, environmental or natural disaster.

Gen Z and millennial donors, in particular, showed a marked propensity for using their dollars to drive social change and to fund timely causes that matter most to them. Among these next-gen donors, the most popular causes receiving support all centered around current events with this year’s top ones including international human rights crises, climate change, reproductive rights and women’s health, and disability rights.

“Regardless of the type of donation an individual made in 2022, the timeliness of the ask is what propelled many to act,” the authors wrote. “Donors show up in a big way when there’s a clear need for help and they feel they can be part of a solution.”

Next-gen donors, though currently giving less than traditional donors from prior generations, were also found more likely to increase their donation amounts this year in spite of the economy and more willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives in order to do so.

The report, constituting Classy’s fifth annual survey of Americans’ giving habits, was commissioned in partnership with Mindsight, a business research consultancy. Its release was timed to coincide with the approach of Giving Tuesday on Nov. 29.

“Every year we release our Why America Gives findings ahead of Giving Tuesday to help inform nonprofits on donor sentiment ahead of the important end-of-year giving season,” Krista Lamp, a spokesperson for Classy, told The NonProfit Times. “This year, however, we dove deeper into overall insights rather than a sole focus on Giving Tuesday and end-of-year giving so nonprofits could use the results to inform their fundraising efforts for next year.”

Other insights from the report include the following:

  • The top ways loyal donors prefer building relationships with an organization are by donating through a simple donation page on its website, signing up for email and other communication updates, and volunteering their time
  • 50% of loyal donors are open to supporting a mix of new causes and organizations alongside those they’ve supported in the past
  • 37% of loyal donors give to multiple organizations per cause they’re passionate about
  • Gen Z and millennial donors are four times more likely than traditional donors to learn about causes from influencers, celebrities and others outside their immediate social circles; are three times more likely to advocate on an organization’s behalf; and 1.6 times more likely to donate to a new cause as the result of a sudden news event or crisis
  • Gen Z and millennial donors are also 2.5 times more likely to prefer receiving updates from an organization in bite-sized portions on a bimonthly or more frequent basis, compared to traditional donors who prefer a quarterly or less frequent cadence
  • 60% of all donors cited a nonprofit’s website as the top place they’ll go to do research about an organization before donating 

The full report can be viewed at www.classy.org/why-america-gives.