Pew Examines Donations to Japan Relief

A March 23rd Pew Research Center Report revealed that Americans under 40 are just as likely to donate through electronic platforms as through traditional means. The findings represent a sociological shift in philanthropy, as text messaging and online donations are becoming as prevalent as donations made through the phone and postal service.  While older adults (above 40) prefer using tools like the  mail and phone, adults under 40 prefer both digital and traditional means for donating. The Pew Center calls this behavior a "striking shift.

The study is based on telephone interviews from March 17 through March 20th, among a sample of 1,004 adults above the age of 18 in the United States. Interviews were conducted in English. More information about the study's methodology is available from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

In the first few days following the disaster 21% of respondents said that they made a donation to assist tsunami and earthquake victims. In addition, 24% said that they were planning to make a donation. More than one-third of individuals who who donated gave money through an online platform, text messaging, or email. Older adults are more likely to use online giving platforms than before; however, they still prefer traditional means like phone and mail services.

The behavior of digital giving is also increasing among college graduates. Following the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami, 33% of college grads reported that they gave traditionally, and 10% reported that they donated digitally. Now, donation patterns are roughly even: 12% gave digitally while 14% donated through traditional means.

A major goal for nonprofits is fundraising, and sometimes, organizations struggle to adopt an effective strategy. The Pew Center's findings help illuminate shifts in giving behavior for organizations who may not be sure where to begin their efforts. For fundraising, a number of tools and strategies are available -- phone calling, letters, emails, social media, etc.; however, nonprofits need to strategize in order to run effective campaigns with a strong return on investment.

The Pew Center's findings help relief efforts and nonprofits identify demographic trends in philanthropy and giving. Given this information, we see that an email or social media campaign may actually be more effective for reaching out to individuals under the age of 40. On the flip-side, the study reminds organizations to rely on non-digital resources like mail and phone-calling. This kind of strategic demographic targeting can help operations run more smoothly.

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