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Nonprofits and Individuals Meet in Cyberspace


Last month GuideStar invited newsletter subscribers to take part in a survey on nonprofits and the Internet. More than 1,000 people responded, sharing information about their organizations' Internet presence and experiences with e-philanthropy.
Cosponsored by GuideStar and Network for Good, the nonprofit survey complemented two Network for Good donor surveys. More than 10,000 people participated in the donor surveys.

Together, the donor and nonprofit responses create a picture of how these groups are connecting in cyberspace:

  • The Internet has become part of everyday American life.
    More than 60 percent of Americans now have access to the Internet. Two-thirds of respondents under age 35 and 40 percent of those aged 55 and over use the Internet.

  • The Internet is becoming increasingly important to users who want to engage with and support causes and organizations.
    A majority (58 percent) of donor participants reported they use the Internet to search for information, volunteer, donate, and sign petitions for causes or organizations they want to support.

  • The Internet is causing people to take action both off-line and on-line.
    Three out of four respondents take some additional action-on-line or off-line-after visiting a charity-oriented Web site. Some 60 percent stated that had they not visited the charity site, they either definitely would not have taken further action or were unsure that they would have taken additional action.

  • On-line giving is still a small portion of overall giving, with younger donors most likely to give on-line.
    Some 39 percent of people who take action after visiting charity Web sites, however, make off-line donations to those organizations.

  • Nonprofit organizations are using the Internet in various ways to communicate with their supporters.
    Virtually all of the nonprofit respondents reported that their organizations either currently have a Web site or plan to add one in 2003. The nonprofits use the Internet to provide information on their missions, goals, issues, achievements, financial data, and to gather support by encouraging Web site visitors to become members, donate, volunteer, sign a petition, or buy a product.

  • Nonprofits agree that e-engagement is efficient and expands their reach.
    Some 75 percent of the nonprofit respondents agreed that conducting transactions through the Internet is cheaper than using off-line methods. Some 65 percent agreed that the Internet has enabled them to reach a larger audience.

  • Donors and nonprofits have different expectations for charity-oriented Web sites.
    Although nonprofit respondents and donors gave similar responses in some cases, such as ranking "significant content about cause" as an important part of a charity's Web site, their perceptions on other points diverged. Nonprofit participants, for example, ranked "information about how donations are spent" seventh in a list of components that make up a good Web site, whereas donors ranked it second.

The surveys show that the Internet has become an important tool for nonprofits and raise questions about how organizations can exploit it even more. For more information, see Towards e-engagement, an on-line PowerPoint presentation.

Note: Funding for this research was provided by the Kellogg Foundation. The donor surveys were conducted by Network for Good and the Bridgespan Group in October 2002 and February 2003, and the nonprofit survey was conducted in February 2003 by GuideStar, Network for Good, and the Bridgespan Group.

suzanne-coffman-150x150.jpgThe preceding post is by Suzanne Coffman, GuideStar’s editorial director. See more of Suzanne’s sector findings and musings on philanthropy here on our blog. 
Topics: Nonprofits Cyberspace