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April 16, 2021
Donors’ 2021 Intentions Suggest Need for Vigilance by Charities
Fundraising Future

January 1, 2021 — Although charitable giving grew by 7.6% during the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier and potentially strong giving in the final months of the year, American donors say they will stop or slow their giving in the coming year, according to recently completed surveys.

The increase in giving and number of donors for the first three quarters of 2020, compared to 2019, suggested potentially strong giving in the final quarter of 2020, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP), administered by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

A sense of optimism among donors with the COVID-19 vaccine beginning to be distributed, coupled with a relief bill signed into law last week and strong stock market performance, could have bolstered end-of-year giving if Americans felt more confident about their financial situation, FEP suggested.

Giving during the third quarter of 2020 marked the second consecutive quarter of strong growth in giving, according to FEP.

However, a national survey of 629 U.S. donors, completed by Campbell Rinker just after Giving Tuesday last month, found that 18% of donors said they will stop or slow their giving in the coming year, compared to 34% who said the same thing last April, reported by The NonProfit Times (NPT).

Sixty-seven percent of donors said they expected to give the same or more in 2021 as in 2020, up from 61% who said the same in April, NPT reported.

While the AFP survey showed gains in giving in the third quarter, the rate of growth in the overall number of donors slowed a bit, from 7.2% after the second quarter to 6% after the third quarter compared to 2019.

The increase in donors in the FEP survey was led by the number of new donors, up 11.7% compared to 2019. The only area of significant decline was in new repeat donors—donors who gave for the first time to a charity in 2019 but hadn’t given again to the same charity in 2020 so far—down 10.3%.

It’s likely that many new donors last year switched their giving to pandemic relief organizations, said Jon Biedermann, chair of the FEP, which would account for the drop in new repeat donors and the increase in the number of new donors.

In addition, according to Campbell Rinker, household giving trends show that 2021 might be another challenging year for nonprofits. During 2020, donors have consistently reported lower confidence than they did in the last comparable poll in 2018.

“The absolute priority for charities must be to keep fundraising through these times, no matter your cause,” said Ben Miller, vice chair of the FEP. “Through every disaster or other crisis, time and time again, those charities who have continued to fundraise, who have communicated to donors why their cause remains important no matter the environment, those organizations have always been more successful.”

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