Study shows a big shift in donor behavior online

What changed for fundraisers during the pandemic.

The big change according to the 2021 M+R Benchmarks Study (and several other sources too) was a big jump in online giving.

The M+R found that online revenue increased by 32% over 2019.

It was even more for hunger and poverty organizations: for them, online revenue increased by 173%.

More broadly, organizations that provided COVID relief, saw a 40% increase in online revenue, while those not involved in COVID increased 22%.

What happened? Here’s how the M+R report put it:

… when the pandemic swept across the world and into our lives, people responded with a heart-swelling urge to help. Uncertainty, fear, and chaos were the daily reality — and the reaction was compassion. It was empathy. It was generosity.

That’s right: Donors want to make a difference! When the need is great, their generosity grows.

And when the need is urgent, they increasingly turn to the speed and convenience of giving online.

Most email metrics — open rates, click-through rates, response rates, and page completion rates — went way up in 2020.

What does this mean for fundraisers now?

  • Get (or stay) serious about online fundraising. While it may drop back from the highs of 2020, it will most likely stay at a new high level. More and more of your donors are giving online!
  • If your organization was one that went silent during the pandemic, you will never get back the opportunity you lost. But it’s not too late to start connecting with the donors who stuck with you through the hard times.
  • If you had a great fundraising year, don’t just assume it’s all over. Focus especially on your new and upgraded donors and make sure they have a great experience in stepping up for your cause.

Donor behavior usually changes slowly. This past year, it surged dramatically forward. Don’t miss the opportunity to be there and be relevant for your donors.


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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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