The Pew Internet Project recently released The Internet and Consumer Choice, a report on how online Americans use the internet to help inform purchases they make.

Unfortunately, the study didn’t look specifically at decisions regarding donations (are you listening Pew?!), but it still yields useful insights to nonprofits seeking to raise funds online.

Some takeaways from studying purchases of music, cell phones, and new housing:

  • Among all consumers, percent who use the internet in product research — music, 56%; cell phone, 39%; real estate, 49%
  • Among consumers who use internet to research purchase, percent who said online information had a major impact on purchase decision — music, 12%; cell phone, 27%; real estate, 23%
  • Among all consumers, percent who made the purchase online — music, 22%; cell phone, 12%; real estate, n/a

As Pew interprets it, for most consumers internet searching is simply one of many tools they use to assist their overall shopping experience … narrowing choices and equipping themselves to get better prices. Large-scale displacement of retail sales has yet to occur.

By comparison, in The Agitator’s 2008 DonorTrends Survey, 58% of donors say they research a nonprofit online before making a contribution (14% frequently, 44% occasionally). And 33% say they have donated online to a charity or advocacy group. These results suggest a smaller "gap" between researching donations and closing the sale online, compared to consumer purchases.


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