It's the messenger, not the medium, that is key to motivating users of social media to give to charity, a report from the American Red Cross finds.
Based on an online survey, the American Red Cross: Holiday Poll (21 pages, PDF) found that even among people who are active on social networking sites, personal connections — not trending topics, gimmicks, or social media engagement itself — are the key driver of charitable giving. Among active social media users, for example, 71 percent said they donated to a charity in the previous twelve months, and of those who donated, 60 percent did so online. The survey also found that 70 percent of survey respondents said they would respond in some way to a friend's post or update on social media about a charitable donation — either by "liking" or "favoriting" the post (36 percent), trying to learn more about the charity (29 percent), or donating to the organization (19 percent). Only 40 percent of those surveyed said they would "likely" or "definitely" share information about their own donations on social media.
According to the report, 72 percent of active social media users said a charity's popularity in the media or what's trending on Twitter made no difference in their decision to donate, and only 3 percent of respondents said social media was the most effective way for a charity to ask for a donation — significantly less than the number who said they were most likely to give when approached in person (37 percent), via direct mail (22 percent), e-mail (9 percent), or phone (8 percent). The survey also found cross-promotion of online and offline solicitations to be an important factor in giving, and mentioned giving through retail checkout campaigns as being strongly influenced by social media.
"This survey shows how social networks and charitable giving are intersecting and building on one another," said Red Cross CEO Gail J. McGovern. "These social philanthropists are giving online to charities and sharing the news on social networks, which then often leads to more social activity and more giving by their friends. I believe this trend will only grow in the future."