How the Russia-Ukraine war changed the way people give

May 10, 2022
Nhu Te
Senior Content Manager

Since the Russia-Ukraine War began on February 24, there has been an outpour of support from people all around the world for individuals affected by the war. Nonprofits of all types quickly pivoted to get their Ukraine appeals up and running — providing essential items and life-saving services to those in urgent need of support.

At Fundraise Up, we sought to understand how donor behavior was affected across the nonprofit industry by the Russia-Ukraine War. To uncover this, we analyzed two datasets: one group that included nonprofits with Ukraine-related appeals and one group that included non-related Ukraine appeals.

Follow along as we dive into data on:

  • How giving priorities shifted to support Ukraine
  • How much one-time gifts increased year over year
  • How recurring giving declined for Ukraine campaigns

1. Giving priorities shifted to support Ukraine

To no surprise, generosity from donors all over the world rushed in for nonprofits working quickly to provide relief for those impacted by the Russia-Ukraine War. When comparing the change in donation volume, nonprofits with Ukraine appeals saw a 684% increase in donations — significantly outpacing nonprofits without Ukraine appeals (Figure 1).

Similarly, as of June 2022, Candid reported a total of 866 grants worth $1,090,619,698 provided in response to the Russia-Ukraine War. The data tells us that more donors are giving to Ukraine-specific fundraising campaigns.

Our own research shows that donation volume actually decreased for nonprofits without Ukraine appeals as donation volume soared for organizations fundraising for Ukraine. This indicates that donors prioritized donating to nonprofits supporting Ukraine.

The greatest uptick in donation volume for nonprofits supporting the Ukraine relief happened immediately after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Even as this volume begins to recede from its March high, nonprofits with Ukraine appeals continue to see a greater volume of giving than nonprofits without Ukraine appeals.

Previous research on generosity trends following disasters has shown that there is a correlation between urgency in giving and the level of coverage given by the media for any particular event. When a disaster strikes, news outlets typically provide constant, around-the-clock coverage for weeks to months. As these types of events fade from the news cycle, giving tends subside as well.

Another factor that affects spikes in giving is immediacy. Donors often feel the urgency to give when disaster strikes. Others need extra time and education to understand how their donation will be used to help those impacted by the conflict.

2. People gave larger, one-time gifts

In our research, we found a 932% lift in donation volume for nonprofits with Ukraine appeals, a staggering increase compared to nonprofits without Ukraine appeals. This steep jump in donation volume was primarily driven by one-time gifts.

The mass social media exposure and news coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War — raw footage of people fleeing their homes and cell phone photos of bombed-out villages — elicited an immediate and empathetic response from donors. This urgent desire to give drove a high volume of giving and greater-than-normal gift sizes.

This trend was reflected in our data as nonprofits with Ukraine appeals saw significant jumps in average gift size after the Russian attack. This counters the downtrend in average gift size across the nonprofit sector in 2022 (Figure 2).

3. Recurring giving took a backseat

While one-time gifts soared in the weeks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, recurring gifts to nonprofits with Ukraine campaigns actually declined, a contrast to the growth that we're seeing in the industry as a whole (Figure 3).

Over the past year, we've tracked a gradual climb in recurring giving volume across the sector. For nonprofits without Ukraine appeals, recurring giving has grown consistently with an overall increase of 65%. However, for nonprofits with Ukraine appeals, the volume of recurring gifts dropped substantially at the onset of the war.

We attribute this dip in recurring giving to donors' desire to offer immediate and impactful gifts to organizations fundraising for Ukraine. This led new and existing donors — who may have typically given smaller monthly donations — to give larger one-time gifts.

The Russia-Ukraine War has had a profound impact on the nonprofit sector and the way people give. With emergency crises on a global scale such as this war, our findings reveal that donors tend to be more generous and act quickly in their giving, which reflects the behavior we've seen in recent months.

Our research also indicates is that donors prioritized giving to nonprofits fundraising for Ukraine over nonprofits that didn't.

With Fundraise Up, nonprofits receive the right set of online fundraising tools for quick campaign setup, best-in-class donor experience, and a donor conversion rate 117% higher than the industry average. If you’re ready to get started with Fundraise Up, schedule a demo with one of our team members.

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