Since 2008, the Charleston, S.C.-based software firm, Blackbaud, has researched which of the country’s 265 largest cities - those with a population of at least 100,000 people - are the “most generous online.”
In each of the annual surveys, Augusta has found itself near the bottom nationally, and last among the five Georgia cities included in the report - Atlanta, Athens, Columbus and Savannah.
In 2013, Augusta ranked 202nd nationally, with $662,000 donated online through 6,575 online donations.
Though that figure has improved significantly from 2012, when Augusta ranked 236th nationally with $335,624 donated through 5,225 online offerings, the city still lags behind Columbus (7,578 online donations), Athens (11,041), Savannah (13,056) and Atlanta (140,175), which currently ranks third in the nation. The report was completed before Macon consolidated with Bibb County.
Many local nonprofit organizations speculated that the reason for Augusta consistently ranking poorly in online generosity is that Blackbaud’s study was restricted to the charitable groups to which it provides software and services for operations, such as fundraising and financial management.
Another theory is that the Augusta area is saturated with nonprofit organizations. According to data compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits & Philanthropy, Augusta has the second most nonprofits per capita in the U.S., one for every 193 residents. Only Missoula, Mont. has a greater rate – one for every 80 residents.
“We have a lot of small nonprofits in our area that very much dilutes what we do,” said Barry Paschal, senior director of marketing and communications for Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA. “The (smaller organizations) do not poach too much from the larger nonprofits, but it can lead to philanthropic fatigue from people asking for too many donations.”
Paschal said online giving has never been a major part of Goodwill Industries annual campaigns, but said the charity implemented a new online donation system this year through FirstGiving.com. The site helped Goodwill raise more than $25,000 during its annual Good Boats dragon boat festival, he said.
Other organizations suggested Augusta lags behind other cities because it has fewer young people with smart phones, wifi accounts and disposable income.
Before coming to the Augusta Chapter of the American Red Cross, Executive Director Jennifer Pennington said she worked with the East Georgia Chapter headquartered in Athens.
Though she said overall giving is stronger in Augusta, online donations in the Athens area were 52 percent higher in the last year compared to Augusta.
Despite the statistic, Pennington reminded residents that all donations are accepted.
“No matter which way our donors give, we are grateful for every dollar donated to the American Red Cross,” she said.