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Posted on Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

Ann Arbor ranks 5th nationally in online giving, new study shows

By Ben Freed

Ann Arbor is the No. 5 city in the country for per capita online donations, according to Blackbaud, a company that provides software and other services to services to nonprofit organizations.

“Today in the United States, about 7 percent of all giving happens online, and that’s at or slightly ahead of where retail is,” Blackbaud’s idea lab director Steve MacLaughlin said.


Much of the construction at the University of Michigan is funded by private donations, some of which come from the university's online giving portal.

Alan Warren | file photo

“So we’ve actually seen that philanthropic giving online is outpacing online retail in terms of the percentage of dollars changing hands.”

While online giving is expanding, MacLaughlin said nonprofits typically view the Internet as a “last step” for donors who have already had contact with other forms of media.

“Most giving is not accidental,” he said. “The vast majority of people giving online have been directed there by an email, telephone call, piece of direct mail or television ad. Online is the place it happens because of convenience.”

According to Blackbaud’s report, online donations from individuals in Ann Arbor increased by 26 percent from 2011 to 2012. The number of donations rose to more than 28,000 and the total amount of money donated online from the city reached nearly $2.5 million.

Ann Arbor jumped one spot on the list from sixth to fifth in 2012, leapfrogging Cambridge, Mass. Seattle is the top per-capita giving city, followed by three closely bunched cities around Washington, DC. By comparison, Detroit was No. 257.

MacLaughlin said online gifts have been steadily increasing in average size as givers become more comfortable using the Internet to make donations to their chosen nonprofits.

“A lot of it is convenience, but there can also be other factors,” he said.

“If you can give a multi-thousand-dollar gift via a credit card online and also get rewards or miles, that can factor in to how you choose to make your contribution.”

The survey’s reach was limited to nonprofit organizations that use BlackBaud’s software, which could explain some of the bunching at the top of the list. MacLaughlin said Blackbaud works with companies that represent 10 percent of all online giving in the United States, making their numbers fairly representative.

Ann Arbor may have received a boost because the University of Michigan is one of the organizations included in Blackbaud’s report. Donations are measured by their source, not destination, but Ann Arborites could be more inclined to donate to the local university.

MacLaughlin said the University of Michigan launched an online giving portal that has helped it increase online giving.

“One of the things it does very well is give you search options for giving opportunities within the university,” he said.

“Whether you’re more interested in giving to scholarships in the school of engineering or giving to a particular part of the English department, they allow donors to search for those opportunities rather than just directing them to give where they decide it is ‘most needed.’”

While overall giving to philanthropies remains flat, Blackbaud expects the trend toward online giving to continue as consumers become more and more comfortable with ecommerce and online monetary transactions.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 10:54 a.m.

Not even remotely a statistically valid survey.

Dog Guy

Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 3:38 a.m.

Ann Arbor makes another "top ten" list thanks to Obama campaign donors.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

Political campaign donations are not considered charitable donations, so, no--Obama had nothing to do with it.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 12:53 a.m.

Sometimes I'm sorry I buy anything online because my spam email spikes. I can just imagine what it would be like if my donations were done online.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 12:20 a.m.

How are they measuring Ann Arbor, by metro region or my city proper or by zip code/mailing address?