Alright, so last year didn’t go as anyone predicted. As more data is unveiled about 2020 charitable giving results and patterns, including the recently published Giving USA 2021 annual report, we continue to gain a clearer understanding of the pandemic’s role.
Even without this recent data, we entered the new calendar year willing to make predictions amongst the uncertainty. Analysts harnessed their psychic abilities to highlight what could be in store for 2021. We all wondered: Will giving levels rise? Are virtual events here to stay? Are Digital Gift Officers the next big thing?
As we near the halfway mark of 2021, let’s reflect on how some of these popular predictions have played out so far and what we think the future may hold:
A Return to Pre-Pandemic Giving Patterns
Considering the fact that giving in the U.S. reached a record $471 billion in 2020 with an increase in total donors, it’s not difficult to understand why some pundits predicted that 2021 won’t hold up. The COVID-19 pandemic created an almost innate sense of urgency across the globe for people to support charitable causes. We saw organizations dedicated to pandemic response and civil rights issues thrive in the moment in particular.
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While the underswell of support brought on by the pandemic may pass, not all experts are predicting a down year. With some predicting an economic uptick with the rise of vaccinations and lessening of social-distancing restrictions, there are those that believe we could be in line for continued growth in fundraising these next two years.
Regardless of how it pans out, charitable organizations have an immense opportunity in the moment to learn more about the new donors that supported causes in droves last year. By mining the rich data that was gathered, organizations can make more informed decisions to drive positive results. Strategies implemented now could truly pave the way for greater year-over-year giving in the future.
A Focus on Personalized Engagement
Donor fatigue was a hot topic earlier in the year with many organizations fearing they had tapped out their major donors in 2020. We’ve moved onto exploring ways of maximizing donor saturation and exploring ways we can engage all levels of the donor pyramid.
To maintain high levels of giving, we heard experts predict that personalized engagement would need to be a focal point of fundraising strategies. Major donors would need to continue to be engaged, but new donors would also need to be reminded of their impact if organizations hoped to convert these pandemic donors to annual donors.
At the halfway mark, personalized engagement – at scale – is still top of mind. As fundraisers grapple with heightened demands, they continue to recognize the need for tools and strategies that will not only expand their reach but improve the quality of the one-to-one engagement simultaneously. More and more, this is feeling like a key element to futureproofing charitable giving.
Innovation and Transformation Will Accelerate
Fundraisers got creative with the ways they reached their donors in 2020. Necessity proved the mother of invention as organizations leaned on Zoom calls and engaged donors through virtual events. While some fundraisers are breathing a sigh of relief that in-person events are back, the reality is virtual events - and new, innovative ways to fundraise – won’t be disappearing in the future.
For the nonprofit fundraising sector, in particular, the pandemic was a catalyst for innovation and transformation. Those already behind on the eight ball were left reeling, some even unable to navigate the pivot. Those who did found themselves amongst a new, accelerated world where innovation could no longer be a luxury.
As organizations continue to explore ways to engage donors, digital transformation, in particular, will remain a focal point. Your virtual events in the future will incorporate high-quality digital experiences simply because your audience will expect nothing less. As younger generations enter the fray as viable donors, digital touchpoints will be necessary, if not foundational, elements of their cultivation. Exploring opportunities for your organizations to innovate and transform now will pay dividends in the future as you continue to improve your strategies and drive meaningful results.
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