Study Brings to Light the Impact the Pandemic has had on Social Giving

A recent study conducted by the Indianapolis-based software firm, OneCause, has shed some light on the noteworthy impact the pandemic has had on social giving. The study, dubbed the “The Giving Experience,” provides several key insights regarding the current state of social giving. More specifically, it highlights the motivators of social giving, when and how social donors might be comfortable returning to in-person events, and what can influence repeat donations.

The online survey was conducted by Edge Research between March 31st and April 14th of 2021 and included 1,026 participants. The research firm worked with an established industry sampling partner to ensure that the participating social donors were representative of the broader census in terms of age, gender, region, and race/ethnicity.

The study defines a social donor as someone who self-reports giving to at least one charitable organization by attending an event and/or a fundraising activity in the past 12 months. The survey’s questions were specifically designed to gather insights around the shifting attitudes, motivators, and future intentions of these donors in order to help nonprofits shape their fundraising efforts and determine best practices for engagement.

One of the biggest takeaways from the study is that social giving is on the rise, even during the pandemic. An estimated 27% of U.S. adults gave through events or peer-to-peer fundraising in the last 12 months. This is up from 23% in a similar survey conducted by OneCause in 2018. Of this group, 32% reported giving at events, 40% at runs/walks/rides, 28% during challenges, 38% at giving days, and 39% at occasions such as a birthday or memorial.

With social giving, the donors are generally younger and more diverse as well. The study concluded that Gen Z and Millennials now account for the majority of social donors and participate in social giving at higher rates than their older peers. It should be noted that older donors still give more, but diverse younger donors are giving more than they used to, and to more places.

The Giving Experience study reaffirmed the findings of One Cause’s 2018 study regarding the top motivators of social giving. Ease of giving, connection to the mission, and belief in the impact remained the top reasons people give. These factors play a significant role among not only first-time donors, but also repeat donors.

An additional part of the survey was aimed directly at determining what post-pandemic engagement might look like for social donors. As one might expect, the responses for these questions were somewhat divided with 22% of participants indicating preferences for in-person, 38% leaning towards virtual, and 30% anticipating engaging in a mix of both.

OneCause has also provided some recommendations for nonprofits seeking to navigate fundraising in the post-pandemic era. Most importantly, ease needs to extend beyond donations to all aspects of the experience, whether virtual or in-person. For online events, the registration, the log in, and the viewing experience must be improved as much as possible. Additionally, nonprofits should take this opportunity to get feedback from their supporters. Ask them if they would be comfortable joining in-person events and what safety precautions are important to them. Clear messaging is key during this time of transition.

Yet, even with this slow transition to in-person events, be sure to continue to include virtual in your event mix as there is still a large portion of social givers anticipating attending virtual events. Finally, multichannel communication strategies should be adopted for even promotion. This year, we saw the rise of social media as the top channel where donors heard about events. Be sure to lean into digital channels for promotions and event communication.

To learn more, access the OneCause study here:

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