Feb 8, 2023

44% of U.S. Adults Are Digital Donors—Here’s What Defines Them

What makes a digital donor?

Data from Meet the Digital Donor, the fourth volume in Barna’s The State of Generosity series, show nearly half of Americans (44%) prefer digital forms of giving. In this article, we’ll share two key observations about digital donors that may prove helpful for organizations, nonprofits and churches as they look toward the future of giving.

Meet the Digital Donor

When Generosity & Technology Intersect

1. They Are Open to New Things
Seven in 10 digital donors (69%) either completely or somewhat agree they have a strong curiosity about unfamiliar things, 16 points higher than analog donors (see About the Research below for full definitions).

This tendency coincides with their stated preference toward giving methods that have become available in recent years. It also indicates that as digital and electronic methods of giving continue to expand and change, digital donors may be interested in continuing to learn about and use new forms of technology. Indeed, digital donors are more likely than their peers to try new technology, devices and service innovations (such as ride-sharing or grocery delivery) before their friends.

2. They Feel Confident Giving Online

Not only are digital donors open to new forms of giving, but they also feel confident being generous through digital and electronic tools. Asked about their comfort with various giving platforms, including crowdsourcing sites like GoFundMe and mobile payment services like Venmo and Zelle, digital donors express more confidence than analog donors.

Perhaps the most telling gap appears when asked about their confidence in giving to nonprofits online: While 61 percent of digital donors feel comfortable doing so, just shy of one in three analog donors (31%) feels the same way. In fact, a higher percentage of analog donors (36%) says they would be confident with none of the giving innovations listed.

This divide is likely explained by additional data that show analog donors are not sure online giving is effective and secure. There is a clear divide between digital donors and analog donors when it comes to trusting technology. While 84 percent of digital donors feel their personal information would be safe when giving online, two-thirds of analog donors (66%) trust online giving tools to protect their information.

Analog donors are skeptical of whether their donation will even reach the organization they’re giving to. While half of digital donors (50%) strongly agree they are confident that their donations will reach the intended organization or cause, this is double the percentage of analog donors (26%) who say the same. In fact, one in 10 analog donors (10%) goes so far as to strongly disagree that their donation would be received by the organization. With this low level of trust in the safety of online giving, it’s no wonder that analog donors are hesitant to embrace electronic and digital methods of giving. Digital donors, on the other hand, show much higher levels of trust and openness to technology when it comes to giving. It’s possible that the experiences or testimonials of the latter group may help to build awareness and confidence for the former.

Recent technological advances already have and will continue to change the way organizations, churches and individuals approach financial giving—putting a multitude of options in the palms of our hands.

Whether your organization or church has fully embraced digital giving or is still hesitant, this research has implications for anybody who is invested in the success of generous movements. It’s important for leaders and fundraisers to keep these key characteristics in mind as they make connections with today’s donors—whoever they are and however they give.

Meet the Digital Donor

When Generosity & Technology Intersect

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About the Research

About the Research
This report is based on an online quantitative survey of 2,016 U.S. adults conducted from November 12–19, 2021. The margin of error for the sample is +/- 2 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Researchers used an online panel for data collection and observed a quota random sampling methodology. Quotas were set to obtain a minimum readable sample by a variety of demographic factors and samples were weighted by region, ethnicity, education, age and gender to reflect their natural presence in the American population (using U.S. Census Bureau data for comparison).

Digital donors: Say that 1) if they had to choose between giving “digitally” or “in person by check or cash” they would prefer giving digitally, and 2) say their preferred way to donate money is either online / a website, social media, mobile giving via an app or browser, mobile giving via a text message, kiosk or terminal giving, ACH or automated checking account withdrawal or some other form of electronic giving.

Analog donors: Say that 1) if they had to choose between giving “digitally” or “in person by check or cash” they would prefer giving in person by check or cash, and 2) say their preferred way to donate money is either mailed check, in-person check, mailed cash or in-person cash.

© Barna Group, 2023.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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The State of Generosity

We’ve teamed up with Gloo and a collective of partners to study the who, what, why and how of today’s giving landscape. We’re also looking to the future of giving, both in terms of trends and the next generation.

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