As we connect with our donors to inspire 2021 year-end giving and look ahead to 2022, it is smart to reflect on what we learned in 2020. What were the philanthropic trends in year one of the pandemic? What can we learn from these trends to maximize year-end giving and launch your plans for 2022?
Now more than ever due to the pandemic, nonprofits are faced with many questions about how to adapt and revise their services and extend their outreach to donors and constituents.
Taking the time to solicit feedback from stakeholders can help your organization be thoughtful and strategic as you make these decisions. This feedback can:
- Help take the guesswork out of decision-making.
- Impact your strategies for current and potential clients, audience members, program participants, donors, and partners.
- Help you answer questions, understand real and perceived barriers, hear from new and underrepresented voices, and hone efforts around philanthropic support, services, inclusion, perceptions, and brand messaging and communications.
In June 2021, I attended my first in-person board strategy session since the pandemic began 15 months ago. I was delighted to grab a marker and write on a white board to capture the brainstorming ideas of a group of committed volunteers who were excited to be together. At the same time, I was facilitating a group of volunteers on Zoom who joined the meeting virtually and diligently followed the conversation and contributed their ideas. By the end of the 4-hour session, I was admittedly relieved that the blend of in-person and virtual had gone so well – buoyed by excellent technology, the ability to host small group breakouts both in-person and virtually, and attentiveness to the needs of all attendees regardless of their method of participation.
This is our new reality in both meeting and event planning. For the remainder of 2021, and likely beyond, we will be challenged to welcome all to our meetings and events regardless of geography, health, and busy schedules.
What are the key considerations we need to address as we step into this new reality?
2020 was a year like no other. Despite the challenges and unpredictability that occurred, giving maintained the normal overall pattern of year-to-year growth and reached the highest total in history.
Life is full of opportunities and challenges, and we certainly faced our share in 2020. However, not everything we’ve gone through in the last year is negative. There are some lessons learned we may want to keep – opportunities to capitalize on in the future. It is important to learn from each challenge so you can prepare, mitigate, and more easily turn the next challenge into an opportunity. That’s called resiliency. It sounds easy—but let’s be honest: it isn’t.
Resiliency is the ability to recover from a setback, adapt to new challenges, and keep going in the face of adversity. In a nonprofit, as a staff or volunteer leader, one of the best tools to foster resiliency no matter what is thrown at your organization—internally or externally—is a strategic plan, which:
- provides a road map to lead your organization from where you are now to where you would like to be in the future;
- sets priorities and focuses your organization’s resources; and
- establishes measurable goals and a template to evaluate progress and adapt to a changing environment.
On a recent JGA webinar, I shared six tips to help you create a resilient organization by building resiliency into your strategic planning.
“Anyone who has been involved in philanthropy, either as a donor, volunteer, or development professional, knows the joy that comes from giving generously or serving as an intermediary to a generous gift.” – Daniel A. Schipp, Senior Consultant, JGA
Since March 2020, our motto at JGA has been “generosity is not cancelled.” So many things in our lives have been cancelled due to the pandemic, but generosity is not one of them. Donors have not stopped sharing their gifts of time, talent, and treasure. We have seen this generosity in support of campaigns, days of giving, and ongoing operations, as well as a continued commitment to volunteerism – although the format has changed in a virtual world.
What does this mean for 2021? As you look toward continuing to raise philanthropic support for your mission in 2021, what will you do to set the stage for generosity to continue?
Giving USA Foundation has released annual estimates of charitable giving for 2019, showing that giving reached more than $449 billion—including $64.11 billion, or 14%, to education—amid a strong economy. Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for 2019 reports Americans gave $449.64 billion in 2019. This marks the third year of growth with the highest giving levels ever seen—over $400 billion—driven by individuals as the largest source of charitable gifts. Total giving reflects an increase of 4.2% in current dollars and of 2.4% in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2018. These numbers demonstrate a robust pattern of giving, bolstered by a strong economy.
Overall top 2019 trends included:
- Three out of four sources of giving increased. Giving by individuals, foundations, and corporations posted solid increases—including giving by corporations increasing by 13.4%—while giving by bequests remained largely flat.
- While individuals remained the largest source of giving, they notably comprised less than 70% of overall giving for the second year in a row since 1954. This does not mean that individual giving has decreased but rather that the mechanisms of giving have changed, with more giving by family foundations and bequests.
- Giving to education and every other subsector, except international affairs, grew—up from two subsectors experiencing growth in the previous year. This occurred both in terms of current dollars and inflation-adjusted dollars.
The environment for charitable giving was favorable in 2019. Economic strength underpinned very positive giving patterns and precedes potential challenges that may occur in 2020, considering the economic, health, political, and social challenges prevailing to date. However, positive trends in 2019 help establish momentum and a strong base of support to which nonprofits can strive to return.
Giving USA Foundation has released annual estimates of charitable giving for 2019, showing that giving reached more than $449 billion amid a strong economy. Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for 2019 reports Americans gave $449.64 billion in 2019. This marks the third year of growth with the highest giving levels ever seen—over $400 billion—driven by individuals as the largest source of charitable gifts. Total giving reflects an increase of 4.2% in current dollars and of 2.4% in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2018. These numbers demonstrate a robust pattern of giving, bolstered by a strong economy.
In addition to the impacts of the economy and other challenges this year, political giving trends may be another relevant factor. Historically, political giving represents a low share of all giving and has not had substantial impact on giving across subsectors—so the 2020 election is not anticipated to have a major effect. However, due to high engagement in advocacy, awareness of current issues, and unusual circumstances in 2020, this trend may shift in this election cycle.
Today, the vast majority of us find ourselves and our staff working from home. This remote work arrangement, while necessary for everyone’s health and safety, creates some unique challenges. Though the current crisis has changed how we work, it hasn’t changed the desire to keep the missions of our institutions moving forward. Here are a few tips for you and your team while you are working remotely that will help position your organization to be more effective once the crisis passes.