Charitable giving nearly flat in 2012, but grows online

Economic conditions challenge fundraising

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Charitable giving in 2012 remained flat despite a spike near the end of the year as a result of significant donations to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Overall, charitable contributions for the year rose by 1.7 percent over 2011, according to report from Blackbaud Inc., a South Carolina firm that tracks trends and data for U.S. nonprofits.

Online giving continued to grow faster than total giving, increasing by 11 percent last year over 2011. But online represents only 7 percent of all donations, said Steve MacLaughlin, director of Blackbaud's Idea Lab and co-author of the report. He commented on Blackbaud's findings in a video released with the report.

Still, the double-digit increase in donations via websites and online appeals shows "a real return for nonprofits' use of digital tools," he said, especially for disaster relief fundraising, where "online is the first response channel of choice for a number of donors."

PG graphic: Charitable giving 2012
(Click image for larger version)

Traditional fundraising channels, such as direct mail, generated 93 percent of all giving but failed to boost giving to amounts seen before the economy started to crash in 2007, Blackbaud said.

"Fundraising performance has not returned to pre-recession levels," the report said.

Blackbaud's report included data from more than 3,000 nonprofits that generated nearly $8 billion in total fundraising last year. The online giving results were based on data from about 2,500 nonprofits that raised $512 million online.

Small nonprofits that raise less than $1 million annually had the biggest jump in fundraising in 2012 with an increase of 7.3 percent. Fundraising for medium-sized nonprofits that typically raise between $1 million and $10 million a year grew by 2.7 percent; and for large groups with annual fundraising exceeding $10 million, fundraising grew less than 1 percent.

For 2013, Mr. MacLaughlin doesn't expect huge gains in giving because of continued economic challenges.

While giving experienced a year-end bump from Superstorm Sandy relief, nonprofits can't count on those same donors this year, the report said.

Most of those donations, Blackbaud said, were "primarily concentrated among a few large nonprofit organizations and some local groups on the East Coast. Historically speaking, retention of episodic donors has been poor."

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Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.


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