Online giving to nonprofits increased by an average of 3 percent in 2021, according to a new study by M+R, an online fundraising and marketing firm that works with nonprofits.

Last year’s study found that online giving grew 32 percent in 2020. A spokeswoman for M+R cautioned that the data cannot be directly compared from one annual study to the next because the results are drawn from different groups of nonprofits. Still, the study notes, “we can interpret last year’s online revenue as essentially consolidating the big spike in giving that nonprofits experienced during the first year of the pandemic.”

Large organizations — those with annual online revenue of $3 million or more — saw online giving increase the most in 2021, an average of 6 percent. Small groups, those with less than $500,000 in annual online revenue, notched a 1 percent increase. Medium-size groups saw a 1 percent decline.

While most kinds of nonprofits continued to see growth, especially cultural organizations and those that focus on international aid or disaster relief, online giving to hunger and poverty groups fell an average of 32 percent. The study also notes that despite the dip in 2021, giving to hunger and poverty groups soared by 273 percent from 2017 through 2021, nearly triple the rate of any other kind of nonprofit.

The study notes that online giving to hunger and poverty groups from 2017 through 2020 — before the decline in 2021 — rose 428 percent.

The results were drawn from 187 nonprofit participants, mostly in the United States. Patrick Rooney, an economist who studies philanthropy at Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy, cautioned that the number of participants in the study was relatively small, especially when looking at types of nonprofits. “It’s not a great sample over all, but it’s large enough to be suggestive,” Rooney said.

He said it makes sense that giving to hunger and poverty would decline in 2021 following the previous year’s performance. “Anytime you get a surge one year, you’re likely to see a regression to the mean the following year.” He added, “I don’t think people stopped caring about poverty and hunger.”

The survey also found:

  • The average annual online giving per donor was $208, up from $170 in 2020.
  • Monthly giving grew by 24 percent in 2021, accounting for 22 percent of all online revenue. The average monthly gift was $25, up from $24.
  • The average one-time gift online was $125, up from $111 the previous year.
  • The one-year retention rate for online donors was 36 percent. For donors who made their first gift in 2020, retention was 23 percent. For previous repeat donors, retention was 60 percent.
  • One quarter of online revenue in 2021 was received in December.
  • Among nonprofits that reported online ticket sales, those sales increased from 5.5 percent of online revenue in 2020 to 11.8 percent in 2021. Revenue from online ticket sales inacreased by 13 percent in 2021, following a 62 percent decline the previous year.
  • 54 percent of nonprofit website traffic came from mobile devices, with 46 percent from desktop devices. However, users on desktop devices accounted for 65 percent of donation transactions and 76 percent of revenue. “A visit from a desktop user was more valuable in terms of direct revenue than a visit from a user on a mobile device,” the study states.