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Understanding the Research Behind Social Giving: 4 Keys

Published by Kelly Velasquez-Hague

*This is a guest post from our friends at OneCause.

Understanding the Research Behind Social Giving: 4 Keys

As a nonprofit fundraiser, you’ve likely heard of social giving—perhaps under a different name, like social fundraising or peer-to-peer fundraising. 

Social giving and engagement can take a number of forms for your supporters. Popular examples include attending fundraising events (like auctions or galas), sponsoring participants in run, walk, rides (like 5Ks or event-a-thons), or contributing to a special occasion, challenge, or giving day campaign (like through personal fundraising pages and dedicated giving days).

Perhaps you’ve hosted this type of campaign for your organization before, or you’ve participated in a similar fundraiser as a social donor yourself. Or maybe you’re looking to expand your nonprofit’s current strategies into the social fundraising arena. Regardless, diving into the research behind social giving is critical for optimizing your practices.

In this guide, we’ll discuss a few significant findings from the Social Donor Research and Giving Experience Studies by OneCause completed in 2018 and 2021, respectively. As we explore these facts, keep in mind the three main categories of social givers: event attendees, run/walk/ride sponsors, and occasion/challenge/giving day participants. 

Through surveys of more than 2,000 self-reported social donors, the OneCause team has found that:

  • The #1 motivator for social giving is ease.
  • Social fundraising is a powerful way to garner new support.
  • Social donors care more about impact than recognition.
  • Many social donors are likely to become repeat givers.

Although social fundraising tends to generate smaller individual donations (79% of social donors give less than $200), its wide reach and online fundraising nature make it a favorite choice for fundraisers and supporters alike. 

Ready to learn more about social giving and how to maximize the impact of your upcoming campaign or event with research-backed tips? Let’s get started.

The #1 motivator for social giving is ease.

Social giving is often characterized by the fact that donors hear and are attracted to giving opportunities through their social networks. But in order to engage today’s Social Donors, simplicity must be a central part of the experience. 

That’s why ease of giving is self-reported as the top motivator, followed closely by mission and impact. In fact, 64% of donors contributed to a nonprofit because “It was easy to do” and 63% said it was because they “care about the mission of the organization.” When organizations host accessible and easy-to-join social fundraising campaigns, they engage and activate a whole new network of giving.

Providing a streamlined online donation page can go a long way for maximizing the number of Social Donors who complete their gifts. The simpler and the quicker it is to submit a donation, the less chances donors have to be distracted, discouraged, or abandon their contribution. Online and mobile donations offer the greatest ease, and they’re on the rise. Website donations increased by 10% between 2018 and 2021, while mobile donations increased by 15%.

Additionally, with the right fundraising software, you can provide even more easy opportunities to give. According to fundraising statistics from 360MatchPro, approximately 39% of nonprofits use or have used a peer-to-peer fundraising platform. Post pandemic, the adoption of nonprofit software to streamline the giving experience continues to rise. When organizations set themselves up with the right software, they not only optimize giving for supporters, but increase the likelihood that Social Donors will give again (as depicted in the graphic below).

Social fundraising is a powerful way to garner new support.

31% of social donors we surveyed about their experience had given to a nonprofit for the first time. Because new donors are much more likely to support a campaign promoted by a friend or loved one, social campaigns offer a fantastic opportunity to acquire first-time supporters.

For example, imagine Bob has never heard of your nonprofit. His sister, Tina, is an avid supporter and decides to participate in your upcoming walk-a-thon fundraiser. In order to raise money, she posts to social media and sends emails from her fundraising page to her family members. She shares her passion and connection to your mission as well as impact statements on how donations will make a difference with her social networks. As a result, Bob takes a closer look at the organization and its mission. In doing so, he discovers that he also aligns strongly with your mission, makes a donation, and decides to subscribe to your monthly newsletter to keep in touch.

For Social Donors and other popular peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, this type of situation is common. Thanks to social proof, people are significantly more likely to get involved with things that their peers are already interested in. In fact, 50% of donors hear about fundraising events through a family member, friend, or colleague. As a nonprofit fundraiser, social motivation helps attract new supporters to your cause.

Social donors care more about impact than recognition.

After you’ve wrapped up your giving campaign, it’s time to communicate your appreciation to everyone who supported your organization. While acknowledging donors and showing appreciation for their contributions is a social fundraising best practice, our studies show that social donors place a higher emphasis on understanding the impact of their gift than being recognized as a supporter. 

Sure, being thanked for a donation is always nice, but it’s more important to communicate the tangible impacts that funds raised have on your mission. According to The Giving Experience Study by OneCause, 64% of donors said that clarity about how their donations made a difference was the most important factor at a fundraising event. 

When you combine impact with gratitude—i.e., thanking supporters for their gifts and then telling or showing them why their donation matters—you connect donors on a human level to your cause. Their support extends beyond a transaction (completed donation), into a deeper and more engaged realm of giving. Today’s Social Donors are looking for that connection to the causes they give to, so be sure you are fulfilling this need! 

Now let’s talk about repeat donations and today’s Social Donors. 

54% of social donors anticipate giving again in the next 12 months, with 28% saying they’ll likely become annual or monthly donors for the cause. Yes, that’s right, over half said they would give again! 

As a nonprofit fundraiser, you know that retaining dedicated supporters is more time- and cost-effective than seeking new donors. Finding ways to keep today’s donors is a major nonprofit advantage. Put time and effort instead into prioritizing and retaining today’s Social Donors. Encourage them to get further involved in your mission beyond fundraising—through volunteer programs, content sign-up, community events, and educational opportunities. Forge deeper connections, and the data says they’re more likely to stick around. 

Ultimately, the likelihood of your Social Donors becoming recurring givers depends on your cultivation strategies. Go deeper, find ways to connect them to your mission, and most of all meet them where they are: online, in digital channels, and on virtual fundraising platforms.


As you can see, social giving is a popular and rapidly growing form of fundraising that has the power to raise significant funding for your cause. Not only that, but it’s a great way to get new supporters aware of your organization and on board with your mission. 

By taking a look at the research behind it, you can better understand what social donors want and how you can engage with them to make the most impact. Good luck, and happy fundraising!

Kelly Velasquez-Hague

Kelly Velasquez-Hague

Director of Content Marketing of OneCause

Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors raise more funds for their cause.

Published by Kelly Velasquez-Hague

Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors raise more funds for their cause.