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July 22, 2010; Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Online gifts to nonprofits jumped 23 percent from March through May this year, compared to the same period in 2009, according to a new index that tracks donations. Total charitable contributions during that time—including gifts made through traditional venues—increased only 6.2 percent.

The new tracking index was created by Blackbaud, a Charleston, S.C.-based consulting firm for nonprofits. The report looked at activity for nearly 1,800 nonprofits of various sizes that had combined annual online revenues of about $400 million.

While online giving makes up only a slice of total donations, the numbers are growing. Online revenue accounted for about 5.7 percent of overall fundraising revenue in the past year. Steve MacLaughlin, director of Internet solutions for Blackbaud estimates that more than $15 billion is raised in the U.S. online annually.

Remember, though, that giving is, in fact, down even while online giving is up. Thus this avenue is likely not an answer to the revenue problems of many organizations and, as with any fundraising strategy, consider possible downsides, and extra requirements of launching a new fundraising method. Take the Pittsburgh Foundation’s experience last year as due warning. The foundation launched an online giving initiative to encourage people to donate to regional nonprofits, but experienced technical glitches that prevented many would-be donors from successfully contributing.—Aaron Lester