Charities are finally bouncing back thanks to a recovering economy and a focus on fundraising fundamentals, a new study has concluded.
Overall donations grew 4.9 percent last year, the biggest boost since the recession hit, the study conducted by Blackbaud -- a leading provider of online donation processing -- found. This was a significant jump considering that charitable giving was nearly flat in 2012, increasing just 2 percent.
"It was a very healthy year," Chuck Longfield, Blackbaud’s chief scientist, said in a statement.
Online giving, which grew 13.5 percent last year, continues to serve as a "growth engine" for nonprofits, according to Blackbaud. This was the second consecutive year that it experienced double-digit growth rates.
In part, the increase in online giving was due to a number of crises -- including the Boston Marathon bombings and the Midwest tornadoes -- that prompted donors to pledge generously.
Giving Tuesday, the online event that invites shoppers to give back after scoring deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, also had a significant impact on overall online giving. In its second year, donors gave 90 percent more to charity on Giving Tuesday and Blackbaud processed more than $19.2 million in donations.
Blackbaud analyzed more than 4,000 organizations and found that every sector experienced fundraising growth last year. International aid organizations had the biggest overall increase in donations at 13.2 percent.
These groups have fostered better relationships with donors by focusing more on preparation and planning before a disaster strikes and doing a better job of keeping supporters informed about their progress, Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, told Blackbaud.
Often in the wake of a disaster, the bulk of donations come in within the first 90 days. Aid groups are now showing donors the "full arc" of what is needed in an effort to keep them involved. Donors also often express skepticism of how money abroad is being spent to help, so NGOs are having staff members in the field file daily reports to "engage donors more in the unfolding of the story."
An additional boon to the philanthropy sector came in the form of big gifts, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported last month.
The nation's wealthiest donors gave $3.4 billion to charity last year, demonstrating an increase in the number of gifts in the $100 million or more category.
The largest donation last year came from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, who gave 18 million shares of Facebook stock -- valued at more than $990 million -- to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
"The fact that we had so many gifts that were $100 million or more is an indication that people are really giving big again," Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, told the Associated Press. "People seem more optimistic about the economy, and certainly the strong stock market has propelled a lot of gifts. It looks like it's going to be a better year."