Survey: Web users more likely to give - but not online

LOS ANGELES - Internet users are more likely to donate their time and money to charities but they don't like doing it online, according to a study of Los Angeles County residents released Tuesday.

Only 8 percent of Internet users said they donated via the Internet. Most said they were uncomfortable doing so or felt there were easier ways to give.

Further, donors placed the least trust in information on charities they received via the Web or telephone. Old-fashioned mailings were the preferred route, according to the survey.

And while virtually all Internet users had heard of giant e-merchandisers such as, few were aware of online philanthropy sites.

''Clearly, nonprofit organizations are going to have to build trust with Internet users if the Web is to succeed as a portal to philanthropy,'' said Jack Shakely, president of the nonprofit California Community Foundation that commissioned the survey.

On the other hand, the group Volunteers of America has said its overall donations are running 25 percent ahead of last year since opening an online operation.

The American Red Cross has accepted online donations since 1996 and is experimenting with e-mail solicitations, spokesman Chris Paladino said.

It raised about $2.5 million via the Internet last year, making it the top online fund-raising nonprofit group, Paladino estimated Tuesday.

Those who contribute via the Internet tend to donate about $75 to $100 - roughly twice the figure for the average donor - but they account for only a fraction of the funds the Red Cross raises each year, Paladino said.

''We think it's going to grow,'' he said of online donating. ''It's a new medium.''

''The traditional means of communication is still very viable,'' he added. ''It's a matter of trust. As people trust the communications they receive over the Internet more and more, you'll see more and more response.''

The Internet has had another impact on charities. Some attribute a dip in donations to the high-tech industry shakeout that has left many dot-coms struggling and put workers in the unemployment line.

The Los Angeles County study found about 70 percent of Internet users but only 43 percent of nonusers said they donated to charities. Those with Web access also had a greater tendency to give larger amounts, donate to more types of nonprofit and charity groups and to donate to a cause for the first time.

Eighty-six percent of the wired crowd but only 66 percent of nonusers performed volunteer work such as selling raffle tickets or cooking for bake sales, according to the survey.

The greater share of Internet-using givers may simply reflect their greater financial ability. The study showed some correlation between higher income and Internet access.

Altogether, 77 percent of the people surveyed said they performed some type of volunteer activity and 86 percent said they donated to charity. Both figures were well up from last year.

Only about 10 percent did neither.

Donors who gave cash, checks or credit card payments were more likely to be Internet users, older, college educated and to have higher household incomes.

However, the unemployed were about as likely to donate as people with jobs.

The study by San Francisco-based Field Research Corp. was based on telephone interviews with 523 people in Los Angeles County between Nov. 7 and Dec. 1. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.


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