Reflections on 2020 Giving Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

by | Jan 22, 2021

The global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 brought almost immediate changes to all nonprofits, dramatically impacting 2020 giving. Suddenly, many programs had to close physical locations, suspend services, or transition online, dealing with either an unexpected drop in clients or a surge in demand. Traditional fundraising methods were instantly constrained. No longer could you take a potential donor on a tour, meet for coffee, or network.  Significant fundraising events, such as galas or banquets to share your organization’s story, had to be canceled, further complicating 2020 giving. This led to the following concerns:

  • Nonprofits losing significant funding due to canceled fundraising events.
  • Donors who gave earlier in the year (to respond to the initial impact of COVID-19) may not give again at the end of the year.
  • Questions regarding the timing of “asks” while taking into consideration the financial implications on individual donors due to COVID-19.

We’re still waiting to see all giving data come in from 2020, but here’s a look at what’s available thus far: 

Fundraising Effectiveness Project 

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project collects fundraising data from nonprofit organizations through a quarterly survey. The Quarter 3 Report looks at giving from January 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. Here are some highlights:

  • Nonprofits report their total donor count is up 6% 
  • Organizations saw an increase (7.6%) in donations compared to the same period in 2019 
  • Donor retention has decreased -.4%
  • Nonprofits have seen an increase in new donors and an increase in revenue from donors giving under $250 

Blackbaud Institute Index 

The Blackbaud Institute Index offers trend data that is updated each quarter. It features percentage changes comparing both the quarter and the previous 12 months to the same period in the previous year. Here are some takeaways when assessing the timeframe of October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, compared to the same period the previous year.

  • Small nonprofits (revenue under $1 million) report a decrease in giving over the last 12 months (-4.4%) 
  • Medium nonprofits (revenue $1 million to $10 million) saw a 1.5% increase in giving in the previous 12 months
  • Large nonprofits (>$10 million) show a 4.6% increase in giving in the previous 12 months
2020 giving trends

2020 Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is a national day of giving that falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving every year. Recent data shows the following: 

  • #GivingTuesdayNow, a new event on May 5, 2020, to raise money for COVID-19 relief, had more than $503 million in online contributions
  • #GivingTuesday 2020 (December 1, 2020) collected $808 million in online donations compared to $511 million in 2019 (read more about #GivingTuesday & strategies to elevate the day here).

*Each data source surveyed thousands of nonprofits of various sizes. 

So far, the data shows that the previously mentioned concerns are generally unfounded. However, the data for year-end giving, when the most significant giving occurs, has yet to be available. It is possible that the trends shown above did not continue through December 31st, but it certainly looks like individual donors have shown up in support of nonprofits in 2020. (Check back in a few months, and I’ll tell you how foundations and corporations gave in 2020.)

While in-person meetings and events continue to be restricted, I recommend revisiting these basic fundraising strategies. Nonprofits can still raise funds, but communication is key. Ensure you communicate with your stakeholders (clients, volunteers, donors) and talk about the positives (check out marketing strategies here)! How did your organization persevere, and what are your hopes for 2021? 

With a new year underway, it’s the perfect time to freshen up your fundraising strategies. The 2020 giving trends show donors are still ready to give to important causes. If you haven’t already, get started now and contact our team to learn how we can help you meet your fundraising goals this year.

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