Online Giving Trends from 2009 and the Haiti Earthquake

Submitted by Brett on Wed, 01/27/2010 - 8:45am

Steve MacLoughlin, Blackbaud

The September 2009 issue of NTEN Connect had a review of trends in online giving. I want to provide some updated findings for the entire year, as well as discuss the importance of online donations to support the Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

2009 proved to be another important year for online giving by nonprofit organizations. Blackbaud has been actively engaged in researching and analyzing trends in the nonprofit sector for quite a while. The information in our 2009 research comes from approximately 2,300 nonprofit organizations using a combination of our online fundraising, email marketing, and integrated CRM tools. The analysis represents the largest study of online giving trends in the nonprofit sector.

Online Giving Continues to Grow

An analysis of the past 36 months of online giving continues to show positive growth despite challenging economic conditions. Blackbaud’s research found that online revenue grew by 46% in 2009 compared to 2008. The two largest months for online giving were December and May. Even though February was the smallest month for online giving the first three months of 2009 had a 60% year-over-year growth rate in online revenue.

Year End Online Giving Trends

The final three months of the year represent the largest amount of online giving to nonprofit organizations. In 2009, 46% of online revenue was processed during October, November, and December. The month of December accounted for 30% of revenue and 18% of the transaction volume. The average online gift in December 2009 was $244.17. This was a decrease of only 2% compared to December 2008.

Another very positive sign was that online giving in December 2009 grew 32% compared to December 2008.

Year-Over-Year Growth Trends

The analysis also looked at a subset of the same 1,703 nonprofits in 2008 and 2009. 65% of these nonprofits had a positive increase in online revenue compared to 2008. These nonprofits had a 21% year-over-year median growth rate in online revenue. Nonprofits that raised more than $1 million online in 2009 had a 35% year-over-year increase in revenue. Online giving continues to be a tremendous growth opportunity for nonprofits, even those that have been doing it for several years.

Average Online Gift Trends

The average online gift in 2009 was $144.72. This represents a 5% decline from 2008, but remains significantly higher than other fundraising channels. The healthcare sector had the smallest average gift amount of $94.37, while other sectors like foundations ($209.53), higher education ($204.05), and religious organizations ($196.44) had much larger gift sizes. It should be noted that non-hospital healthcare sector nonprofits have a higher percentage of online peer-to-peer fundraising than hospitals ($120.16) which may account for the lower average gift.

Online Major Giving Trends

Blackbaud continues to analyze trends with donors making significant online gifts in excess of $1,000. The research identified 1,798 nonprofit organizations in the analysis with at least one online gift of $1,000 or more in 2009. This represented 77% of the organizations in the sample analysis. 36% of online gifts of at least $1,000 were within a gift range of $1,001 to $4,999. The median online gift amount for online donations of at least $1,000 was $3,500 in 2009. This was up from $2,500 in 2008.

To learn more about 2009 online giving trends, I have posted some additional information, graphs, and insights on SlideShare at:

Haiti Earthquake and Online Giving

The response to the Haiti earthquake by online and mobile donors has been awe-inspiring. Several nonprofits were immediately prepared to accept donations and in some cases new giving opportunities were created very quickly. For example, the newly established Clinton Bush Haiti Fund accepted more than 126,000 online donations in just a few days.

There is still a tremendous amount of giving taking place, but there are a few things worth noting already. The first few days following the Haiti earthquake saw online giving volumes three times higher than what was given during the last week of December 2009. That is typically the heaviest period of the entire year.

As noted in an USA Today article, online "donations for the first five days after the January 12 disaster totaled 19% more than during the same time frame after the 2004 Asian tsunami and 109% higher than the equivalent following Hurricane Katrina in 2005." It is also worth noting that online giving during the first five days of 9/11 was less than 1% of what has been given to Haiti in the first 5 days.

Mobile giving has certainly been a major source of a lot of giving to support the Haiti relief effort. While mobile fundraising has been widely used in the UK and Europe, it has struggled to take off in North America. The American Red Cross, UNICEF, Salvation Army, Doctors Without Borders, and many other nonprofits have used mobile giving in a big way. Mobile giving will be the first response giving option of choice in the future.

Ongoing Research and Analysis

The Haiti earthquake, the economy, increasing technology adoption rates, and other factors will heavily influence online giving in 2010 and beyond. You can get updates on my blog, at NTEN's 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference, and hopefully in future issues of NTEN Connect. It is certainly a rapidly changing area where nonprofits can leverage technology in new ways to meet their mission.