The People Who Support Animal Causes: Descriptive Results
This study was driven by a desire to increase the number and size of donations to animal causes. Our eventual goal is to conduct one or more experiments to directly test methods of increasing donations, but we first need a strong foundation of data about current donors and donation patterns. Surprisingly little is known about who donates to animal causes, how they donate, and why they donate to some causes but not others.
This study builds on data from Faunalytics’ recent reanalysis of data collected by the Blackbaud Institute and Edge Research from donors to all charitable causes. The sample of animal-cause donors in that dataset was a small subset of the whole, and many animal advocacy organizations expressed strong interest in learning more about animal donors.
For the current study, we collected data from a much larger sample of animal-cause donors. These results provide details specific to the interests of animal advocacy and protection organizations.
On the Full Report tab, the first half of the report describes donor characteristics: basic and additional demographics of people who donate to animal causes, diet, animal guardianship, and animal-related hobbies.
The second half covers donor behavior: how much animal-cause donors give, which causes they support—animal and otherwise, which charities are most important to them, how they prefer to donate, and more.
- Most animal-cause donors give to companion animal charities, often exclusively. We were not surprised to find that 82% of respondents had given money to companion animal charities. In addition, two thirds of those donors had not given money to any other type of animal charity. Overall, 25% of donors had given money to charities for wildlife or endangered species, 17% to charities for a broad range of animals, and 12% to charities for farmed animals (including sanctuaries).
- The overwhelming “preference” for companion animal charities may actually be about familiarity rather than preference. When presented with a range of charity options in a hypothetical donation scenario, the percentage of people who donated to companion animal charities was about the same (85%), but the number of people who donated to other animal causes increased dramatically: 52% donated part of the money to charities for wildlife or endangered species; 49% to charities for a broad range of animals; 37% to marine animals; 29% to donkeys, horses, etc.; 28% to animals used in science; and 26% to farmed animals. This result suggests that the smaller proportion of donations to non-companion animal charities can be partially explained by their lack of visibility rather than donors’ lack of motivation. When presented with the option to expand their donations, many people took it.
- The most promising demographics to target for new donations are people aged 55 and up and people with incomes of at least $50,000. These groups had the largest proportions of “potential donors”—people who have donated money in the past year (and therefore can afford to) but have not supported an animal charity. In particular, it is important to remember that older demographics should not be ignored when it comes to fundraising because, as a movement, we tend to focus our efforts on younger people.
- The typical donor gave $90 to animal charities in the past 12 months, and this represented 30% of their total donations. Donations ranged from $1 to $10,000, and from less than 1% to 100% of their total donations. As is often the case, a small percentage of major donors contributed a large proportion of the total dollars to animal causes.
- People were much more likely to describe their reasons for donating in terms of animal protection or welfare than animal rights. Describing animals as “vulnerable” or “innocent” was common, while describing them as deserving of equal treatment or respect was not.
- One in three people who donates to animal causes names an animal charity as the most important charity to them personally. Everyone was asked which animal charity was most important to them. Most people (79%) named a companion animal charity. Another 9% named a charity for wildlife or endangered species conservation, and 4% named charities for a broad range of animals. The remaining causes were named by 1% of respondents or fewer.
- Animal-cause donors care about a variety of issues, human and animal. Only 9% of respondents had donated exclusively to animal causes. The vast majority spread their donations around. Among animal-cause donors, the most supported human causes were for vulnerable populations: local social service organizations (e.g., food banks), children’s charities, and emergency relief efforts. Speculatively, highlighting animals’ vulnerability to human exploitation and abuse might increase the size or frequency of donations from existing donors.
- After online donations, which were made by 39% of the sample, the next most common donation methods were mail (25%) and in-person donations at a charity’s location (25%). Given the increasing emphasis on online donations, it is important to note the majority of animal-cause donors who had not used that method in the past year. In addition, many respondents indicated that they prefer less-common donation options like adding a donation to their bill at a store.
- People who donate to animal causes are more likely to be vegan or vegetarian, to live with companion animals, and to go fishing regularly than the general population. Although some animal-cause donors live more animal-friendly lives, many do not. In some ways, such as fishing, they are actually less animal-friendly on average.
This report covers the weighted descriptive results and qualitative findings from this large dataset. Upcoming releases will include:
- A report that provides more detail on high-impact donors, including people who donate large amounts and people who donate to non-companion animal causes. Additional data in these areas has a lot of potential benefit for animals.
- We also plan to look more deeply at how donor characteristics relate to attitudes, preferences, and behavior. For example, are there characteristics that differentiate donors who do more (volunteering, other support) from those who don’t?
If you have suggestions for additional analyses of these data or would like to help, please let us know!