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Do You Plan on Making an Online Donation This Giving Season?


Retailers are doing it. The IRS is doing it. Banks are doing it. Even the Department of Motor Vehicles is doing it. In an effort to cut down on paper work, foot traffic, and phone calls, more and more businesses are steering customers to their Web sites to perform basic transactions.

  1. 45 percent of the U.S. adult population will be using Internet-based billing and payment applications by 2005.
  2. U.S. consumers spent $2.2 billion on on-line purchases in a single week during December 2002.
  3. Some 143 million people, or 54 percent of the total population, are now on-line in the U.S., up 26 percent from last year.
  4. There were an average of 2 million new Internet users in the U.S. every month in 2001.
  5. Some 35 percent of Americans go on-line every day.
There doesn't seem to be very much you can't do on-line these days. You can even make a donation to your favorite charity.

Of course, on-line giving has been a reality since the mid-nineties. Some have hailed it as the future of fundraising; others have derided it as a passing fad. But with each passing day, there are more people doing more things over the Internet. Has on-line giving's time finally come?

Last month the GuideStar Newsletter asked its readers if they intended to make an on-line donation this giving season. AlthoughNewsletter subscribers are generally more involved in philanthropy than the average American, the results were still encouraging. Nearly a third of the respondents indicated that they planned to make a donation on-line for the holidays or already had.

Many of these individuals praised the on-line process for its speed and ease.

Of those not planning to donate on-line, some cited personal financial problems or the weak economy as the primary factor in their decision. Most others, however, pointed to the on-line medium itself as the cause of their concern. Two words appearing frequently in readers' comments were "uncomfortable" and "trust," the latter invariably prefaced by the phrase "lack of."

Even some of the positive respondents expressed concerns.

Carolyn Bausch, director of development at the Potomac Conservancy in Arlington, Virginia, responded that she had in fact already made several on-line donations this giving season. She added, however, "I must confess I am still a little uncomfortable about conducting financial transactions on the Internet because I worry about security. But, on-line giving is so easy. I especially like it because it cuts down on paper waste."

Network for Good and JustGive are two of the Internet's leading donation portals. Both use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to protect the confidential information exchanged during credit card transactions. Addressing the issue of privacy, both organizations pledge never to sell or share the personal information collected. They even offer the option of giving anonymously, to protect those who wish to avoid future fundraising solicitations.

Trends are proving that on-line financial transactions are becoming a way of life for a growing segment of the public. As people continue to accommodate their lifestyles to this new reality, logic dictates that they will grow more comfortable with the idea of conducting their philanthropy on-line as well. "Donate Now" buttons may not be ready to take the place of writing checks, but a transition is slowly being made between which is the norm and which is the alternative.

Sources of bulleted statistics

  1. Gartner
  2. comScore Media Metrix
  3. Department of Commerce
  4. Department of Commerce
  5. Consumer Internet Barometer
Topics: Charity IRS Online Donations