DickersonBakker Blog

America’s Nonprofits: The Donors Have Spoken-Don’t Count Us Out Yet

If you’ve ever been involved in fundraising, you likely sensed the nonprofit world collectively holding its breath amidst the fear and shutdowns of 2020. As a fundraising consultant who worked through the Great Recession (2007-2009) and the brief recession following September 11th (2001), admittedly, I was initially confident the impact of Covid-19 would come and go ‘quickly’, whatever that meant. I was wrong.

Months passed and reports across the country shared the concern nonprofit leaders were feeling, worried the economic conditions surrounding the COVID pandemic would surely lead to a downturn in giving.

Not So Fast. Donors had something to say.

During that same timeframe, our firm went straight to the source, engaging more than 1,000 donors in a national survey to ask their giving intentions for the second half of 2020. The research concluded, fears of a downturn in giving were largely unwarranted.

In August of 2020, our report–titled Charitable Giving in the Wake of Covid-19— revealed only one-in-six donors expected to give less than the previous year, six out of 10 anticipated their giving would stay the same, and one-in-four expected their giving to increase in the second half of the year.

“This study reinforces what many of our clients have been seeing all throughout this pandemic. Americans – particularly faith-based Americans – do not fall back in times of crisis. They step up and give.”

Derric Bakker, President of DickersonBakker

Numbers don’t lie. Charitable giving increased in 2020.

You don’t have to google far to find the results of our 2020 research held true – charitable giving did not go down. Countless data analyst report increased giving ranging anywhere between 2% to 8% for the year.

As an update to our 2020 study, we recently conducted research (February 2021) — Charitable Giving in the Wake of Covid-19 Update — which revealed nearly 2-in-3 nonprofits reported increased fundraising revenues in 2020 and more than 1-in-3 reported significant year-over-year increases.

And while our 2021 Update shows fewer than one-in-four (22%) experienced a decrease in giving, and less than one in ten (8%) reported a significant decline in revenue in 2020, we’ve all heard about organizations that have struggled through the pandemic.

In the release of our 2020 study, there was a warning issued – “there will be winners and losers in the quest for donations during the upcoming fall fundraising season.” That also held true. What was the difference between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’?

Our 2021 Update revealed nonprofits largely did not cut back on fundraising staff through the pandemic. And just one-in-three nonprofits cut fundraising spending – even still, those were particularly organizations with the largest annual budgets ($50M+) and those in higher education.

So, what gives for the nonprofits whose giving did not hold steady or may have decreased?

The fact remains, competition for donations and donors always exists. But in today’s landscape, organizations that have continued to ‘hold their breath’ as it relates to fundraising, are not winning over their donors. In many cases, they’re losing donors by not actively engaging them.

What’s an organization to do?

While we all wait to settle in to our new normal as vaccines are distributed and glimmers of life and work with fewer restrictions and social distancing shine through, nonprofits must continue to keep their foot on the gas of fundraising.

The fundamentals remain – a strong case for why donors should give, a dynamic donor outreach strategy, a targeted ask and the manpower to get it done, yields results.

Nonprofit leaders, be encouraged that donors stepped up when many thought they wouldn’t. They remain ready and willing to support the organizations they care about. Be purposeful in your donor engagement. Remind them of their impact on those you serve. And don’t be afraid to ask!

Read the full report at Charitable Giving in the Wake of COVID-19 UPDATE

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