What’s Trending in Giving

I’m so grateful that I made it through last year. When COVID first hit, I was thrown into a whirlwind of activity helping my clients navigate what would become one of the most challenging times in their careers. No one knew what the future would bring when it came to fundraising. After a year of uncertainty, things are settling down a bit. While I don’t have a crystal ball to predict what may happen in the next few months, here are a few trends that I’m seeing in the fundraising world that may guide your efforts.

1. Major gifts are still coming in at a steady pace.

I prefer not to reflect too much on 2020 (for obvious reasons), however, in order to look at this trend, you have to look at the past. When COVID-19 first hit, I saw the number of major gifts increase significantly. Everyone wanted to support nonprofits fighting the battle. They wanted low-income children to have equal access to technology so they could learn from home. The generosity was abundant. Here we are 12 months later and the good news is that major gifts are still coming in at a steady pace. I anticipate that this will continue as the economy begins to stabilize and we find that new normal.

2. In-person events are back!

Can I get a whoo-hoo?!!!! Yes, there is a reason to celebrate. There are a lot of groups out there that are taking the brave, first steps to host in-person events. While they still have social distancing requirements, and masks (can’t wait to see those fancy ones), they are not letting this pandemic stop them from moving ahead with life. For years, I heard people complain about how much they hate fundraising events. There are even people out there advocating that we get rid of them (I’ll share my opinion on that in a minute). What’s hilarious about those conversations is that over the last few months, I’ve heard nothing but good things from donors about special events. They CAN’T WAIT to get dressed up again and go to a gala. Yes, you heard me correctly. They want to support charities but are over the virtual events. They are pretty burnt out on them. So, this is good news for you if you’re planning spring events or fall galas. Oh, and just in case you were wondering if you should have an event at all, the answer is yes! Events are your pipeline to future donors. Done correctly, they can be a great part of your brand too.

3. Donors are funding more than just COVID-19 efforts.

You may have seen the abundance of donations and grants that were made to tackle the pandemic. Throughout 2020, many of the big donors shifted all of their funding to address the challenges that came with COVID-19. We’re now seeing that focus shift back to areas the funders traditionally supported. However, there’s also a move within the foundation world to get funders to realize that they need to continue to be nimble and ready for the next big “thing” that may happen. It’ll be interesting to watch how the philanthropists and foundations evolve in the coming years.

4. There’s a rise of the Mega-Givers.

Let’s put good blame on The Giving Pledge for being the impetus for some of these gifts. The recent gifts made by Mackenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Penny and Phil Knight, and so many more, are blazing the way for more mega-gifts in the future. This is great news for the nonprofit sector.

There you have it! That’s my take on the trends that are leading the way in 2021. Let’s hope that this is the year of a strong recovery. I hope that you stay healthy and begin to thrive again as you continue on with your fundraising.