This blog post originally appeared in npENGAGE.
I have a confession to make. I used to believe that online average gift size was a vanity metric. It made for interesting tweets and blog post headlines about online giving trends, but it wasn’t very useful.
The big reason for my troubles with average gift amounts are because of the outliers in the data that can skew the data. When we replace averages with medians, it provides a more accurate and less overstated view of giving. As you’ll recall from your last statistics class, a median is the middle value between the largest and smallest in a set of numbers. That means that half the online donations are above the median and half of them are below the median.
Using online median gift amounts provides a much better picture of giving trends. With that in mind, Blackbaud analyzed $1.9 billion in online gifts in 2016 from more than 4,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States. Each organization has also been classified by sector using the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) code. Those classifications have been grouped into one of ten sub-sectors to provide a better view of what is happening with different types of nonprofits.
Here are 5 facts about online average donations:
1. Median Online Gift Size was $178 in 2016: Online gifts tend to be larger than traditional offline fundraising gifts, especially direct mail giving. As a point of comparison, in 2016 the median offline gift less than $1,000 was $20.
2. Education Institutions have the Largest Online Median Gift Size: K-12 Schools had a median online gift amount of $276 and Higher Education institutions had a median online gift of $232 in 2016. For many years now this trend has held up when analyzing online giving.
3. Medical Research Organizations have the Smallest Online Gift Size: The Medical Research sector has an online median gift size of $89. The prevalence of smaller peer-to-peer fundraising gifts contributes to a lower gift size compared to other sectors.
4. Online Median Gift Size has Seasonality: The size of an online gift changes a lot during the year. Every single sector sees fluctuations throughout the entire year. This reinforces the need to be change your online ask amounts throughout the year.
5. Median Gift Sizes are a better measure than Average Gift Sizes: We know that it is common for nonprofits to receive online gifts of $1,000, $5,000 or more. These outliers tends to skew averages and for that reason median gift sizes are better measurement of online gift amount trends.
What should you do with these online donation statistics?
Compare your own online median gift size trends to the chart above. How are you trending? Consider adjusting your online donation form ask amounts over time. Optimize your donation pages to encourage monthly giving. Test different ask amounts with different groups. Understand the behavior of your online donors. Whatever you do, just don’t keep doing the same things over and over again.