The Growing Importance of Charity Websites to Philanthropy – Executive Summary

Download the full report (including key info graphics)


In 2010, as charitable organizations were seeing a general increase in online donations, Dunham+Company commissioned a study* to try to understand what was driving this increase. Specifically, the study wanted to uncover:

  1. How many donors were using charity websites to give?
  2. What was the difference in online giving among various demographics of donors?
  3. What prompted the gift to the website?
  4. When a donor gets a direct mail letter in the mail, how do they choose to fulfill their gift?

To then understand the trends around online giving, this study was repeated in 2012 and again in 2013. Following is what we uncovered over the last three studies including the trending of online giving since 2010 and how that differs by demographic and by marketing channel.


What Percentage of Donors Are Giving Online?

The first, and most important, question to answer is just how many donors have given online. In October 2011, 61% of donors reported giving online, and in April 2012, 63% reported the same behavior. Giving through a charity website is slightly lower at 50% (some donors have given through shared sites, crowd funding, etc.).

What is consistent from 2010 to 2013 is that about 1 out of 2 donors indicates they have given to a charity through the charity’s website. Obviously, it is imperative for charitable organizations to pay attention to this channel.

Who Is Giving via Charity Websites?

When we dig deeper into the data, what emerges is some important trending around who is giving through charity websites. The first thing to note is this type of giving by age. What is most important to focus on is the shift from 2010 to 2013.


Note that the only demographic where there is consistent growth in giving through charity websites is donors age 60+. Even more enlightening is the shift in the spread between the under-40s and those 60+. From 2010 to 2013, this type of online giving among donors 60+ grew from 37% to 47%. That represents 27% growth from this age group that is so vital to charitable giving.

“Giving via charity websites is no longer the realm of the under 40s but is also the world of the over 60s.”

This is a critical finding for two reasons. First, this indicates that giving via charity websites is no longer the realm of the under 40s but is also the world of the over 60s. So when you think of the person giving through your website, you should no longer only think of someone who is young or in mid-life, but also think of someone 60+.

Second, those who are 60+ are an age group that is at the core of philanthropy in America. According to the Bank of America Study on High Net-Worth Philanthropy, those 60 years old and older give more to charity than any other age group.

What is Driving Giving to Charity Websites?

When asked what prompted their donation through a charity’s website, the top five reasons donors cited in each study were:

  1. Someone asking in person.
  2. Nothing in particular.
  3. Someone asking through social media.
  4. An appeal letter received in the mail.
  5. Something the donor saw on the charity’s website.


As the chart above shows, an in-person solicitation to support a charity is, by far, the strongest motivator for someone to give a gift through your website. The study also reveals the relative importance of someone asking via social media, as 18% of donors now say they have given through a charity’s website as a result of such a request. What is vital to note however, is that the donors did not respond to the charity asking for support through that medium, but rather, someone the donors know asking for their support through social media.

About one in six donors (17% in 2013) gave through a charity’s website because they were influenced to do so by direct mail. This is in stark contrast to the proportion of donors influenced to give this way due to an email message, which in 2013 was just 2.7%. Notably, the amount of online giving driven by email messages has dropped by more than half since 2010 (see full report for more on this).

Once again, while there is overall growth in the preference to give through a charity website as in response to a direct mail appeal, the greatest growth is among the 60+-year-old demographic. This demographic has increased their online giving in response to a direct mail appeal by 10 basis points, or 55%, since 2010.

Download the full study report (including info graphics).

* The 2010 study was part of a Campbell Rinker Donor Confidence Survey of 510 adults nationwide who had given at least $20 to charity in the previous year. All respondents were contacted via the internet Aug. 24-Sept. 8, 2010. A sample of 510 has a margin of error of +/-4.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

The 2012 study was part of a Campbell Rinker Donor Confidence Survey conducted April 22-28, 2012 online among 494 adult donors who gave at least $20 in 2011. The 2010 and 2012 results were weighted by age to reflect the general U.S. population. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

The 2013 Dunham+Company study was part of a Campbell Rinker Donor Confidence Survey conducted online July 15-23, 2013 among 514 adult donors who gave at least $20 in the previous 12 months. Respondents were weighted by age to reflect the general U.S. population per the 2010 census. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.


  1. […] Know who’s visiting. What can your analytics tell you about visitor behaviour, e.g. location, device, time of day, dwell time? Create your pages with these in mind. Know your key web users too – giving online through charity websites for people aged 60+ has increased 27% from 2010-2013 (Source: Dunham+Company) […]

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