TREND SPOTLIGHT: Small Donors Are Giving Big

The recent surge in small, individual donations may shape the future of nonprofit fundraising. So how do you capitalize on it?

As the pandemic swelled in 2020, so did generosity from everyday people. GivingTuesday reported an 11% increase in participation small donors (those who gave gifts of less than $500)—a marked change from previous years, when overall charitable donations by individuals actually decreased.

This surprising data suggests average households responded to the crisis by giving what they could to causes they care about, even if they could only afford to do it in small amounts. With giving on the rise and expected to continue through 2021, leaving these small but dedicated donors out of your outreach efforts may be leaving money on the table.

Who are these new small donors, how do you find them and channel that generosity into your organization?

Who’s Giving and What it Means for Nonprofits

The trend of more smaller donations will likely continue as younger generations age. Millennials historically give less in gross than Gen X, who give less than Boomers. Unsurprising, as each successive generation possesses statistically less wealth at their median age than the one before.

Despite this steadily growing wealth gap, Millennials nevertheless proved to be the most generous demographic, donating 10% more than any other age group since the beginning of COVID-19. Young people are giving charitably more than ever, but they have too many causes they want to support for their much smaller cash reserves—meaning smaller but more frequent donations, sometimes multiple in a year. While they may have less giving capacity, Millennials and Gen Z donors are highly capable peer-to-peer fundraisers, with broad social media networks information can travel quickly.

So how do nonprofits capitalize on the boom in small donations, and cultivate long-term relationships with those donors?

1. Craft short but potent narratives that tell your nonprofit’s story, and curate compelling images and video to bring those stories to life on social media feeds.

2. Embrace small donations! Accept donations online so it’s as easy possible for casual, younger donors to give.

3. Activate young donors’ social networks to spread your story and encourage collective action. Many small donations can add up quickly!

4. Expand your fundraising efforts throughout the year, rather than focusing on event season or end-of-year giving. With Greater Giving’s online donation page, you can create multiple campaign templates to switch out throughout the year.

How to Recruit and Nurture Small Donors

Building a sustainable connection to hundreds or thousands of people calls for a very different skill set than nurturing a one-on-one major donor relationship. It relies on a hard-hitting, emotional first impression, and then regular relationship maintenance through year-round multiple campaigns and outreach plans.


Greater Giving’s easy-to-use Text to Donate feature reduces the distance between donor and donation even further, so someone inspired by your story just has to text a short number to donate instantly. The easier it is to give to your cause, the less donors will hesitate before donating—reducing abandons.


Design a campaign geared toward younger donors that normalizes small contributions. Stress in your messaging how much even a few dollars can make a difference in achieving your nonprofit’s mission. Encourage donors to share their donations with friends, family, and followers, and spotlight the power of group action in achieving big results.

Make donating easy, and optimize your donation platform for a mobile experience. More people than ever are donating to charity using their mobile devices—particularly small donations and micro-donations. It should be simple and fast so those who are inspired by your story can complete their donation right away without distraction.

Collect donor data for future outreach campaigns and missions. Maintaining contact without flooding email inboxes is key to capitalizing on those small donors and micro-donations. If they gave once to support a specific mission or campaign, there’s a good chance that future initiatives could inspire them to give again.

After giving, encourage donors to like and subscribe to your social media pages for the latest news and initiatives, which boosts your own posts in most platforms’ algorithms. Be intentional with your messaging to avoid bombarding new supporters with communications, particularly right after donating—simply let them know you appreciate their donation, update them with the results, and wait to ask for money again until your next initiative is ready.

Always make sure to thank new donors for their support. Report back to donors when your campaign or initiative ends to demonstrate the power and importance of those small contributions, emphasizing how this one contribution helped make it all possible.

The reward for charitable giving is the feeling of doing good in the world, so always place the need and the impact front and center!

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