Charitable Giving is Up, and Forecasts Look Positive

State of Nonprofit Fundraising Report - Significant Challenges

Top issues facing nonprofit organizations today.

Last year, we conducted a survey of hundreds of nonprofit organizations across North America to find out what challenges they encountered in 2020, how they handled those challenges, and what they see for their organization in the future.

You can read the report and its revelatory findings here: The State of Nonprofit Fundraising.

Thanks to this data, we can share some important insights with nonprofits struggling to understand how to move forward in the pandemic and help ensure their future fundraising success.

Where Nonprofit Fundraising Stands Now

It goes without saying that many nonprofits have struggled during the pandemic, and that struggle isn’t over. Organizations still lack enough volunteers to do their work, and it will take time to make up critical budget shortfalls from 2020. Many organizations didn’t meet their fundraising goals and felt a greater drain on their programs than they had resources to run those programs.

But the State of Nonprofit Fundraising report delivered a surprisingly positive forecast: overall giving actually rose last year as the crisis brought out new small, individual, and household donors—and those who could give did so generously. And that trend is predicted to continue into 2021.

Reaching New Donors

A surprising result emerged from our survey that warrants its own discussion: Nonprofit organizations reported an impressive increase in new donors in 2020, as well as wider overall interest in their work. Most of these donors were smaller, individual donors (rather than major gifts), giving the sense that more everyday people showed up to support the causes they care about.State of Nonprofit Fundraising Report Cover

Taking fundraising efforts online likely played a big part in this expanded reach, as participation in a nonprofit fundraiser didn’t hinge on the ability to physically attend a gala and purchase admission, so more people from more locations were able to tune in and give.

Greater accessibility in nonprofit fundraising efforts translated to a broader donor reach. This is a critical takeaway that may—and probably should—affect the way nonprofit fundraising is conducted now and in the future.

A Positive Outlook Ahead

The rapid move to virtual fundraising and work-from-home structures as a result of the pandemic presented nonprofits with some new technological difficulties and steep learning curves. While a majority of nonprofits surveyed for the State of Nonprofit Fundraising report felt under-prepared for the challenges they encountered and suffered some setbacks as a result, it appears the industry as a whole learned a lot from those challenges.

Most respondents reported that they were now prepared to take on the coming year, and felt their fundraising goals were within reach—even though some of those fundraising goals will be lower than before.

What Nonprofits are Prioritizing in the Future

More causes than ever asked big donors for their help last year, and many nonprofit organizations reported competing with other organizations for limited giving dollars. The pandemic put a strain on many businesses who had once been reliable sponsors and took them out of the potential gift pool, which sent many more nonprofits to go knocking on new doors. Major donors had to choose which causes to support, and some organizations reported donor fatigue as a significant fundraising obstacle.

When we asked nonprofits which fundraising activities they planned to prioritize in 2021, most responded that they were putting a greater focus on donor engagement and the cultivation of major gifts. Nonprofit organizations are coming to the realization that to succeed in soliciting gifts when so many are asking for aid, they need strong, genuine, and long-term relationships with donors, sponsors, and foundations.

The nonprofit industry learned a lot during this crisis that will help fundraising efforts long into the future. While the state of the world may not magically turn around in the coming months and return to normal, nonprofits now have a lot more tools in their arsenals to overcome new challenges and continue fundraising for the causes they care about.

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