Survey Informs Fundraisers on Donor Trends, Motivations and Where Philanthropy Is HeadedMay 6, 2011 By Joe Boland
Given the ever-growing desire of donors to demand personal relationships and accountability from the nonprofit organizations they support, it is perhaps more important than ever to understand donors' true motivations and characteristics, and how they plan to give moving forward. That's why there are so many studies out there tracking donor activity, giving habits and response channels. Last month, Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Applied Research, released the third annual Cygnus Donor Survey, Where Philanthropy is Headed in 2011.
The survey was conducted from Feb. 7 to March 6 of this year. More than 22,000 North American donors responded, 17,605 of whom are from the U.S. Cygnus partnered with 40 nonprofits to garner such a large response.
Here are some of the key findings from the U.S. edition of the survey (there is also a Canadian edition):
- Respondent donor demographics — 60 percent female, 12 percent younger than 35, 61 percent 35 to 64 years old, 26 percent 65 or older, 40 percent professionals, 25 percent retired, 89 percent with at least an undergraduate degree.
- More than half of donors supported the same number of causes in 2010 as they did in 2009; 26 percent supported more causes; 15 percent supported fewer.
- 23 percent of the oldest donors (65 and older) supported 20 causes or more; 9 percent of donors 35-64 supported 20 causes or more.
- 41 percent gave more money to charity in 2010 than in 2009; 39 percent gave about the same; 18 percent gave less.
- 79 percent of respondent donors expect to give the same or more in 2011 as they did in 2010; 7 percent expect to give less.
- 23 percent of the most generous donors (giving $10,000 or more last year) plan to give more in 2011; 10 percent expect to give less.
- 86 percent of donors said they have continuously supported at least one cause for five years or longer, citing reputation and trustworthiness as primary factors in loyalty; 53 percent said "achieving and communicating measurable results" also helps loyalty.
- 41 percent cited "my priorities shifted to other causes" for having stopped giving to one or more organizations in the past two years; 32 percent cited oversolicitation as the reason for discontinuing giving.
- 48 percent of respondents made at least one gift in response to direct mail; 29 percent went online to the charity's website to contribute.
- 26 percent of those who gave through the mail plan to give less via mail in 2011; 1 percent said they plan to give more through direct mail.
- 65 percent of respondents plan to make at least one gift online; 86 percent of young donors (under 35) plan to give online, 69 percent of donors 35-64 plan to give online and 53 percent of 65-plus donors plan to give online.
- 69 percent of respondents have one or more social-media accounts, but the majority do not follow any charities on social media.
- 69 percent of donors prefer electronic communications over print communications.
- Donors say that "being asked to give by a leadership volunteer" influences them more than anything else to give and give generously.