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How Your Friends Affect Your Donations this Holiday Season

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. Of those, six in 10 have donated online, revealing that not only the generosity of social media users, but also highlighting how online channels can spur charitable giving. See the infographic here.

The survey findings on charity giving by social media users come during the holiday giving season, an important time for many nonprofits. The Red Cross urges people to make financial donations or give blood during the holiday season.

“Here in Minnesota we have seen a tremendous increase in social media use over the past several years and users are talking about the great work they are doing to help those in need,” said Phil Hansen, CEO of the American Red Cross Minnesota Region. “During the holiday season, we’re excited to see how people will continue to make a difference play out on social media.”

The national 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.

Social Users are in it to Give, Not Receive
While trends online and in the media can draw new attention to a charity, 72 percent said a charity’s popularity in the media or trending status on Twitter made no difference in their decision to donate.

And the survey found that users are interested in giving, not receiving, as 51 percent said that receiving something like a memento, ornament or piece of clothing in exchange for a charitable donation would  not increase their likelihood to give.

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.

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 counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. The Minnesota Region serves 5.2 million people across Minnesota and part of western Wisconsin with offices in Duluth, Mankato, Minneapolis, Rochester and St. Cloud. For more information, please visit 

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