Giving to a charity’s website with a mobile device has jumped over 20 percent since 2015, according to an April survey of 630 US donors commissioned by Dunham+ Company and conducted by Campbell Rinker. While these increases are encouraging, the trend toward online giving has certainly slowed from the 80 percent increase seen from 2013 to 2015. 

Online Giving via Mobile Devices

Over one in five donors (22 percent) have used their mobile device to give to a charity’s website, up from 18 percent five years earlier. While the largest increase is among Millennial donors (21 percent in 2015 to 29 percent in 2020), even the oldest donor segment of 60+ increased from 13 percent in 2015 to 16 percent in 2020.

Overall, smartphone usage has also increased among donors.  Currently, 84 percent of donors said they use a smartphone, while in 2015 the figure was 79 percent. Donors using tablets seems to have peaked at 51 percent in 2015; since then, utilization has declined to 38 percent overall and to 42 percent among Boomers, the most likely generation to use this device. In 2020 just 5 percent of donors say they don’t use either a smartphone or mobile tablet.

Other ways of engaging online with charities have also increased since 2015.  Now, donors are now more likely to have ‘liked’ a cause on social media (27 percent then, 33 percent now), used an app provided by a charity (5 percent then, 9 percent now) and given to a charity using text messaging (3 percent then vs. 5 percent now).

Giving on Websites Leads Other Sources

A charity’s website remains the leading e-media portal to charity giving. In 2020, nearly half of donors said they had ever given through a charity’s website (47 percent), lower than the 59 percent who said they had done so in 2015. Younger donors, households earning $75K+ annually, and self-described liberal donors were significantly more likely to have given via website compared to their counterparts. About half of US donors who have never given online said they would be willing to consider it in the future.

Over a third of donors said they had never given online, including a quarter of Millennials.

Despite an apparent downward trend in website giving since 2015, donors said they were prompted more often by source media in 2020 to give online. The most successful prompts leading to a website gift appear to be personal solicitations – first by word of mouth (26 percent), then via social media (22 percent).  Next in line were appeal letters (21 percent), prompts on the charity’s website (19 percent), email from the charity (19 percent), third-party notices online about the charity (16 percent), a newsletter (16 percent) or an ad on TV (14 percent).

Those who had given online said they had done so an average of eight times in the past year and 47 times in their lifetime. Those likelier to give online seem to be unmarried, female, lower income, white and churchgoers. For instance, donors earning under $25K annually said they had given online 16 times in the past year, compared to just seven times for those earning $75K annually or more. Churchgoers reported giving online 2.5 times more often in the past year than non-attendees.

Giving on Social Media and Other Means

Only 17 percent of donors had given using a social media site – the next most frequent e-media choice. Just over a quarter of Millennials (27 percent), 14 percent of Gen-X donors and eight percent of Boomers had given this way.  Again, younger and more liberal donors tend to give via this channel vs. their counterparts.

About 10 percent of donors have given an extra gift during a retail transaction, and only six percent had given using a government site.

Several of these prompts were noted as being more effective than in 2015, notably appeal letter (+10 percent), website notices and newsletters (both +8 percent).  Friends asking via social media was seen as 4 percent less effective since 2015.

Personal requests were more effective among younger donors and those earning the least.  Mail solicitation was more effective among Boomers and more frequent churchgoers.  Email prompts were slightly more effective among Gen-X donors. Television ads were significantly more effective prompts for lower earning households (~21 percent vs. 9 percent for $75K+).

A quarter of donors said they had at some point started to give online and stopped before making the gift (27 percent). Low earning households (41 percent), Conservatives (35 percent) and Non-whites (35 percent) were most prone to this behavior vs. their counterparts.

Boomers, women and households earning from $25-$49K seek assurances about giving security (48-50 percent).  Younger donors and Men wanted online giving to be simpler, fewer steps and faster (+10-17 percent vs. older donors and women). 

If they receive a letter in the mail and want to donate, the highest proportion of donors (40 percent) said they would give on the charity’s website. Millennial and younger donors are twice as likely to do this compared to Boomers (50 percent vs. 25 percent).

One quarter said they would respond by mail if asked by mail (26 percent), though again this strongly correlates with age (42 percent for Boomers, 22 percent for Gen-X and 17 percent for Millennials). Less than one in ten said they’d give by calling (8 percent) or texting (3 percent), with Millennials most likely to respond using these methods (10 percent and 6 percent, respectively).

Methodology: This online poll of 630 US adult donors who had made charitable gifts of at least $20 in 2019 was conducted April 17-20, 2020 – the height of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.  The lowest amount given in 2019 was $20, and the highest was $66,500.  Responses were weighted by age to reflect the general U.S. population per the American Community Survey of the US Census. The margin of error is ±3.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.