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How Your Friends Affect Your Donations this Holiday Season

New American Red Cross poll finds it’s the messenger, not the medium, that’s motivating

WASHINGTON, DC, November 19, 2014 — A new American Red Cross survey found that even among social media users, it’s the messenger, not the medium, that’s key to motivating social media users to donate to charity, suggesting that personal appeals from friends matter more than trending topics and gimmicks.

The Red Cross survey reinforced that personal relationships influence giving both offline and online.

Social users are a charitable group overall with more than seven in 10 (71 percent) donating to a charity in the past 12 months, and of those who gave to charity, 60 percent donated online. See the infographic here.

The online survey of 1,021 adults conducted October 16-19 found that in the online space, a personal connection is particularly important when deciding to give to charity. The majority (70 percent) of social media users would take some kind of action in response to a friend posting a story on social media about making a charitable donation.

Moreover, while only three percent of respondents said social media was the most effective way for the charity itself to request a donation, the number jumped to 19 percent when asked if they would likely donate money to a charity if they saw a friend post about a recent donation.

“This survey shows how social networks and charitable giving are intersecting and building on one another,” said Gail J. McGovern, president and CEO of the Red Cross. “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.”

Face-to-Face Time is Still Powerful

Even though they are giving in large numbers and are enthusiastic about their online interactions, social users still say face-to-face interaction is the best way to solicit donations.

• Four in 10 (42 percent) social users said they are more likely to give this year over last year via an offline option such as putting money in a store countertop canister, giving to someone in a public place and mailing a check. This trumped options such as texting or using social media to donate.

• Nearly four in 10 people (37 percent) said they would likely make a charitable donation in response to an in-person request.

Social Users are in it to Give, Not Receive

While trends online and in the media can draw new attention to a charity, this survey shows that social users are unmoved by trends and hype when deciding on making charitable donations.

• More than seven in 10 (72 percent) said a charity’s popularity in the media or trending status on Twitter made no difference in their decision to donate.

• When asked if receiving something like a memento, ornament or piece of clothing in exchange for a charitable donation would increase their likelihood to give, about half of those polled (51 percent) said no.

Other Key Findings

Despite only being in its third year, Giving Tuesday is on the minds of more than two in five social users (41 percent) who are aware of the charitable day of giving. And nearly half (47 percent) of those aware of Giving Tuesday said they planned to participate this year.

The holiday giving season is an important time for many nonprofits, and the survey results show yet another way that social activity is impacting nonprofits and their work.

“In recent years, the Red Cross has empowered our social communities to help us improve our humanitarian mission in the wake of disasters, and it has been encouraging to see so many social users talking about their philanthropic activities,” McGovern said. “As we move into the holiday season, the Red Cross is grateful for the generosity we receive from the American people year after year both through online and traditional giving channels.”

Survey details: Telephone survey of 1,021 U.S. adults (508 men and 513 women) 18 years and older on October 16-19, 2014 conducted in ORC International’s CARAVAN® survey. The online omnibus study is conducted twice a week among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,000 adults.

Red Cross Public Affairs, Phone: (202) 303-5551,, FOR MEDIA ONLY

About our Corporate Holiday Supporters:

During this holiday season, the American Red Cross is grateful for those corporate supporters that generously contribute to our Holiday Giving Campaign. They include: Circle K West Coast and Florida Divisions, FedEx, Mazda and its Dealers and Target. Thanks to the generosity of these and other supporters, the Red Cross is able to bring help and hope to people across the country. This holiday season, you can Give Something that Means Something by making a financial gift or donating life-saving blood. To learn more about our corporate holiday supporters, visit

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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