According to new Cone Communications research, after learning of an issue online, 80% of Millennials are more inclined to donate or support that issue.

BOSTON, Nov. 12, 2014 — A “like” can go a long way, according to the newly released 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans say they are more inclined to support social and environmental issues in a variety of ways, including volunteering, donating and sharing information, after first “liking” or “following” an organization online. Moreover, Americans see their online activities as a positive way to make an impact on the issues they care about, as six-in-10 believe tweeting or posting information online is an effective form of advocacy or support.

Digital Transforms the Way We Give

Long gone are the days of writing a check at the end of the year to get a tax break. Digital is changing not just how, but where and when donations are made. Of those who made a donation in the last 12 months, nearly four-in-10 did so via digital channels, such as online (27%) or via mobile device (11%), while 23 percent did so via regular mail. And although the leading recipients of online giving remain nonprofit organizations (47%), nearly one-in-five Americans would prefer to give their money directly to an individual in need (18%) or to a corporate campaign raising funds to address a social or environmental issue (12%).

When it comes to giving online, there is no traditional time to make that donation. Americans are most likely to give online at various times throughout the year or when asked (29%), or following a major disaster that needs immediate support (24%) versus around the year-end holidays (12%).

“As crowdfunding contributions top $5.1 billion globally, digital is truly transforming the way we give,” says Gerard LaFond, vice president, digital engagement, Cone Communications. “Thanks to the ease of online giving, people can make a direct impact on the world around them by helping a neighbor in need, an entrepreneur starting up a small business or a charity close to their hearts. This is a game-changing shift for the nonprofit sector and fundraising efforts.”

Gap in Online Intent and Action

Americans have high ambitions to use digital channels as a form of activism. If given the opportunity, Americans say they most want to engage online in ways that result in a direct impact on issues, such as voting (71%), signing petitions (70%) and learning about changes they can make in their everyday lives (70%). Other actions they are willing to do online include:

Giving feedback directly to companies (66%)

Making donations (65%)

Watching a video with a social or environmental message(65%)

Purchasing a product from a socially or environmentally conscious retailer(62%)

“Liking” or following a nonprofit’s or a company’s social or environmental program (60%)

However, despite good intentions, Americans’ reported actions do not align. When asked which online actions they have actually taken, individuals were most likely to have donated or participated in more passive behaviors. In the past 12 months Americans report they have:

Made a donation (35%)

Watched a video with a social or environmental message (32%)

Liked or followed a nonprofit or company social or environmental program (29%)

Signed a petition (29%)

“It’s no surprise we’re seeing a gap between the actions Americans say they’d like to take online and what they’re actually doing; considering the bulk of online activities offered today are focused on more passive actions, such as watching a video or ‘liking’ a social page,” says Alison DaSilva, executive vice president, Cone Communications. “Organizations can better leverage digital touch points to help consumers make real impact on the issues they care about. The groundswell of support and action around the recent Ice Bucket Challenge demonstrates how Americans stand ready, willing and able to engage online in a variety of ways – if given the opportunity.”

Americans Motivated by Impact and Urgency

There is no shortage of online appeals for support of social and environmental issues, but organizations need to understand the drivers that will inspire action. The majority of Americans are motivated by making a meaningful difference on an issue that is compelling or urgent, including:

Their participation will make an impact (79%)

There is an urgent need for immediate support (79%)

It is easy to participate (77%) The issue is personally relevant (74%)

The content triggers an emotional response (68%)

The appeal allows participants to show their social networks what is important to them (57%)

Different Audiences Seek Different Channels and Content

Not surprisingly, mainstream social media platforms rise to the top as key channels to engage people around social and environmental issues. Americans far and away, see Facebook as the primary social media channel to participate in and learn about issues they care about:

Facebook (67%) YouTube (36%)

Twitter (25%) Pinterest (19%)

Instagram (16%)

However, preferred channels vary greatly among demographic segments. Women are more likely to use Pinterest than men (27% vs. 9%), and Millennials are twice as likely as the average American to use Tumblr (14% vs. 7%). Organizations looking to reach Boomers with social and environmental messages shouldn’t look beyond Facebook. Although more than half (54%) of Boomers said they use Facebook to engage around issues, participation levels on other channels are nominal.

Beyond channels, individuals also desire specific types of content when engaging with social and environmental efforts online. Nearly half of Americans prefer to see written articles or stories (48%), followed by videos (44%) and pictures (42%). Millennials, on the other hand, seek out more diverse content, with a particular desire to be entertained. This demographic is more likely to be drawn to games or quizzes than older generations (29% vs. 7% ages 55+).

Hispanics and Millennials Are Hyper-Engaged Online

Millennials and Hispanics are two segments of the American population that are consistently more engaged in social and environmental issues online. For example, both segments skew significantly higher in their use of mobile apps to learn and participate in issues. They are using apps to:

Learn about companies’ social or environmental business practices (Millennials 74%, Hispanics 70%, U.S. average 54%)

Give feedback directly to companies about social or environmental business practices (Millennials 73%, Hispanics 69%, U.S. average 52%)

Learn about ingredients or components in products (Millennials 77%, Hispanics 68%, U.S. average 57%)

Hispanic Americans are using online resources to not only learn about issues, but also get others involved. They are more likely to share information about companies’ social or environmental practices with their networks (69% vs. 56% U.S. average).

Additionally, Hispanics are more likely than the average population to continue to read content and engage with an organization after “liking” or “following” it online (72% vs. 60% U.S. average).

Hispanics are also taking a unique approach to their online giving. They are less likely than the average population to give directly to a nonprofit organization (34% vs. 47% U.S. average), but are more inclined to give directly to an individual in need (24% vs. 18% U.S. average) or to a company effort (23% vs. 12% U.S. average).

As digital natives, it’s no surprise Millennials are most likely to harness these channels to share their passions and look for ways to make a meaningful difference. Seventy-one percent use social media as a platform to discuss issues they care about (vs. 52% U.S. average) and once they’ve learned of issues online, Millennials are more apt to donate (80% vs. 63% U.S. average). When choosing organizations and issues to support online, impact trumps brand awareness for Millennials. In fact, more than any other population segment, Millennials say it’s more important to have an impact on an issue than be familiar with the organization they are supporting (71% vs. 58% U.S. average).

“Digital engagement around social and environmental issues allows everyone to be an activist, a philanthropist, and a hero. The challenge for organizations is to convert that click of a button into a powerful gateway for deeper impact,” says DaSilva. “To break through, organizations must understand the distinct motives, behaviors and preferred channels to customize the experience and ignite action.”

About the Research

The 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study presents the findings of an online survey conducted August 21-26, 2014 by Toluna among a demographically representative sample of 1,212 adults, comprising 583 men and 629 women 18 years of age and older. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is ± 3% at a 95% level of confidence.

About Cone Communications

Cone Communications ( is a public relations and marketing agency known for igniting brands with high-impact strategies and programs based in deep insights, unique subject matter expertise and innovation. Focusing on key areas such as consumer product media relations, social media, cause branding and marketing, corporate social responsibility, nonprofit marketing, corporate communications and crisis prevention/management – the agency is positioned to help clients achieve both business and societal outcomes. Cone Communications is a part of Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. About Diversified Agency Services Diversified Agency Services (DAS), a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) (, manages Omnicom’s holdings in a variety of marketing communications disciplines. DAS includes over 200 companies, which operate through a combination of networks and regional organizations, serving international and local clients through more than 700 offices in 71 countries.



SOURCE Cone Communications, Inc.