Year-end planning is well underway and fundraisers are seeking critical insights to help shape their strategies for the balance of 2021 and beyond. Pursuant‘s 2021 Giving Outlook report is an ideal tool that delivers a sharp lens to the latest trends and insights and provides practical advice for planning.
We leveraged this opportunity to ask some follow-up questions with the report’s author, Matthew Mielcarek. Matthew is VP, Analytics and Insights, at Pursuant and plays an integral in bringing critical insights to light with unique perspectives.
Listen to the conversation:
Let’s get started.
You've produced four Giving Outlook reports to date. We started this back in 2016, so what's new? What's new in 2020 and 2021?
Every year it is so different. And of course, 2020 was remarkable. It was the highest year of charitable giving on record. And so, I hope that all of the fundraisers out there and the nonprofits that have incredible needs feel validation for all of their hard work.
I think it's just amazing to be able to look back and know that it was the highest year ever on record, on top of a 5.1% increase over the prior year.
Fundraisers were forced to shift their strategies in 2020. What has been the impact of digital fundraising in the past year or so?
Folks who had digital programs felt incredible growth. According to M+R’s Benchmarks, digital fundraising grew over 30% in 2020. The question that so many of us have now is, when does this slow down? And when do we emerge from this pandemic experience to arrive back at normal? So, those are just a few of the things that really stood out to me this year.
The Giving Outlook is an aggregation of all of the current giving reports, showing trends and key statistics in fundraising as well as consumer trends. What has surprised you from the last 18 months? Did you have an expectation about something that was subverted?
One of the most interesting facts that we see most recently is that revenue from mid and major donors is down. This is really from the most recent quarter of data that we were able to look at. It’s fascinating because mid-level donor revenue typically has been raising and growing over time, probably over the past couple of years, as fewer donors are giving in the philanthropic space and the philanthropic universe. And so, it's surprising to me to see that trend likely has paused, really for the very short term.
What do you theorize or know is most likely driving the dip in the mid-level?
It's totally the infusion of new donors who were giving at lower levels. And by lower, I mean, $100 donors or less, and probably giving online. So, it's a great phenomenon for the past year that there is a huge influx of lower dollar donors. The donor pool has expanded, which is an amazing thing for our industry. Now it's up to all of us as fundraising professionals to hold on to them. And then, in particular, those with a desire and capacity to give again, to do so, and to upgrade, and to become those mid-level donors or major donors. And I'd also say when we talk about mid-level donors, in many cases, we're also talking about sustainers. And so, we know that sustainable programs, monthly giving programs have grown in popularity over the past five-plus years. So, along with mid-level giving, I know that we will return to those trends over the next few months or the next year as well. And so, I'd expect us to return there, but again, I'm surprised we're not there yet.
We saw that giving was up overall 5% in 2020 compared to 2019, and we saw more of those lower dollar gifts, but mid-level fell. So, what made up the bulk of that overall 5% growth?
That is a great question. So, you're referring specifically to the Giving USA broad and overall philanthropic total. What's interesting is that when you start to break that out by source, those individuals, so people who were giving, giving by individuals, that revenue grew by 2%. But the bulk, the greatest amount of growth actually came from foundation giving and grant-making in particular. That was up 17% from the prior year. Foundations drove the greatest growth. Individuals were at 2%, as I shared. Bequests are also in there, so a planned giving. And then corporate giving rounds out all of the categories. And corporate giving was down last year, I think by 6%, which is pretty typical when we face economic uncertainty as well.
What are some of the ways that donor preferences are changing and how are nonprofits adapting?
We are referring to it as the “great resumption.” As America begins to go back to work and school and traveling again, we as fundraisers need to ask ourselves, how are we engaging with these individuals? And so, broadly, the ways that nonprofits are adapting are to really explore and rebalance their fundraising strategies. And specifically by channel, we're seeing a lot of organizations do that. So, a really direct one that occurred last year is rebalancing from face-to-face events, in many cases, to digital and online. And we understand why that might occur, but as we proceed further into this resumption, a hybrid approach may be required. So, that's talking a little bit about the channel, but it's also rebalancing fundraising strategies to different program areas as well.
Look at your philanthropic portfolio and don’t be afraid to shift resources, whether it's acquisition budgets, team members, or otherwise to areas that are more productive. Another place might be stewardship and at the mid-level. So, I talked about my belief in mid-level not going away, but really pausing in terms of that revenue that is coming. And so, a lot of organizations most recently have just focused people on individuals within their own organizations to focus on new donors, to thank them, and then to begin really that upgrade pathway.
If I'm a fundraiser, what's the one key point that they can take away from our dialogue?
I would say the clock is ticking. And specifically, what I mean by that, as we come back every year from summer vacation, we better be asking ourselves, what are we doing? And I would say that the end of the year, in particular, this year is vitally important. So, many organizations that we work with might raise 30% or more of their annual revenues in December. I find that this year will be more important, this end of the year more important than most. And quite simply, because there are many new COVID donors on many organizational house files.
To read the full 2021 Pursuant Giving Outlook and view the accompanying webinar, click here.
Curious about how the changes to Apple Mail tracking will affect your year-end campaigns? Click to register for our webinar with Nonprofit Learning Lab on October 13, 2021.