A glimpse of the fundraising picture in 2020 reveals some important truths

Within the fundraising circles I move in, 2020 was the most amazing year ever.

By a long-shot.

Among my friends and clients, year-over-year fundraising revenue was up between 20% and 200%. And 2019 was a good year for most of them, so those weren’t rebound numbers. It was an unprecedented jump in revenue. More giving from more donors.

Donors came through for the causes they loved in the crisis.

All types of causes. Countries around the world. Large, small and in between.

So when the Blackbaud Institute Charitable Giving Report reported that overall giving was up 2% in 2020, I did a double-take.

2%?

How could it be that little? That’s the kind of growth we see in a “normal” year.

That’s when I realized: I live and work in a bubble.

A happy, successful fundraising bubble. People and organizations (of all sizes) that kept level, clear heads in the scariest part of the crisis, and had record-breaking years in 2020. It turns out donors understood what we were up against and wanted to do their part.

Outside the bubble, things were a little different, and the Charitable Giving Report uncovers some of the problem:

  • Large organizations (total annual fundraising of $10 million+), up 5.3% year over year. That’s a very good year in normal times. But still looks low from here in the bubble.
  • Medium organizations (total annual fundraising $1 million to $10 million), up 1.2%.
  • Small organizations (total annual fundraising less
    than $1 million) down 7.2%.

Small organizations felt a lot of the pandemic fundraising pain. Small orgs, which tend to be more dependent on events to raise money, and which often have so few direct-response campaigns that a single moment of panic could wipe out a serious percentage of revenue. And many small orgs are disconnected from the fundraising profession, so they may have never heard the good news that donors were happily stepping up and giving.

Which reminds us all: Be part of the wider fundraising community! Don’t rely on your instincts alone. We are better together.

(But you already know that. Tell your friends who are trying to make Lone Rangerism work.)

The other important finding in the report is this:

Online giving grew 21% over 2019. This after a couple of years of slow growth. Online giving made up 13% of overall fundraising. This is a meaningful increase, and it may not drop back to “normal” when the crisis ends.

If you aren’t taking digital fundraising seriously now, the time is upon us when everyone should.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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