Online Giving On the Rise Among Charities

More Americans are venturing on electronic giving with the nation's largest charities seeing steep climbs in online fundraising. Electronic donations increased by at least 50 percent in the past year for much of the organizations, according to a recent survey.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported a total of $911.9 million collected from online gifts among 167 organizations in 2005. For 162 groups that provided figures for the past two years, collected sums were up 148.1 percent. While major disasters like Katrina and the South East tsunami prompted much of the online boost, charities that did not raise funds for the disasters saw jumps in online revenue as well.

World Vision saw a rise in internet gifts from more than $1.75 million in 2001 to $37.1 million in 2005. Other organizations with high jumps included Catholic Relief Services from nearly $600,000 to more than $15.2 million and Campus Crusade for Christ International from $3.5 million to $8.1 million.

The Salvation Army had reported an outstanding virtual red kettle campaign this past year with an 80 percent increase in online donations made in two months compared to the previous year. This is in addition to the record-high $107 million collected from traditional red kettles in front of retailers.

For disaster-relief fund raising, the Salvation Army raised $40 million online along with another $363 million collected offline. And the American National Red Cross raised $479 million on the Web in addition to the $2.145 billion raised offline.

The largest charities demonstrated that online contributions can account for 10-15 percent of an organization's fund raising, The Chronicle reported.

"If that revenue went away, it would be difficult or impossible to replace," said Jeff Patrick, president of Common Knowledge, a consulting company in San Francisco that helps nonprofit groups use the Internet for fund raising and advocacy, according to The Chronicle.

Nonprofit organizations are continuing to find ways to mix traditional and web fundraising efforts. Compassion International held a forum inviting 2,500 supporters to participate in an online discussion about its work helping children in Africa who have HIV or AIDS before sending out a direct-mail appeal on it.

The charity's development director, Laura C. Fisher, thinks the online discussion provided a chance for donors to learn more about Compassion's work, saying the "Web allows for interaction."