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February 26, 2021
Report: Donors Rely Less on Trust When Giving to Nonprofits

November 8, 2020 — While trust in nonprofits is considered highly important by donors, reliance on trust as a giving indicator eroded during the last three years, but that doesn’t appear to thwart their intention to support nonprofits in 2020, according to a newly published report.

While donor trust in nonprofits has declined in recent years, donors say , an indicator of donors’ willingness to give, declined before the coronavirus pandemic hit, and while the crises spawned by COVID-19 has hit nonprofits hard, one in four donors plan to boost their financial support of nonprofits in 2020, according to a newly released study.

According to Special Report: COVID-19 and the Charitable Sector, published by the Better Business Bureau and based on input from 3,100 respondents, 63.9% said they rate the importance of trust before giving as essential, but only 16.8% reported highly trusting a charity.

Erosion of trust in charities dropped before the pandemic hit. According to the report, reliance on trust as a giving indicator has eroded in the past three years: the portion of respondents who rate the importance of trusting a charity before giving decreased from 73.0% in December 2017, to 69.8% in December 2018, and to 65.4% in December 2019.

Based on a survey completed in August, the report identified some positive indicators:

  • 24.4% of respondents said they plan to give more to charities in 2020, compared to their average annual giving during the past three years. However, this is a 6.4% drop from a similar survey conducted in March.

  • Younger generations remain more likely to intend to give more, but their expressed level of intent has dropped significantly in the past four months. For example, in March, 60.8% of Gen Zers (born 1998 to 2002) said they intend to give more during 2020 but, by August, only 41.7% intended to give more. Older people felt differently. For example, in March, 11.9% of Matures(born 1928 and 1945) intended to give more during 2020, but by August, 17.2% said that they intended to give more.

  • The portion of respondents who expressed that they will look for ways to support charities, or to look for ways to help unemployed individuals, decreased over the year. Impetus to support charities decreased from 48.2% in March to 42.8% in August.

  • Among donors who intend to give less to charity, 54.5% said they need to be conservative because a lot is uncertain this year, and 48.3% say they lost income due to COVID-19.

  • Matures and Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) are most likely to feel the need to be conservative, with 81.8% of Matures and 64.2% of Boomers feeling conservative.

  • Gen Xers (born 1965 to 1980) and Millennials more frequently reported having lost income (66.7% and 63.9%, respectively). Gen Zers are the most likely generation to say they will give less to charity because they are giving money to support business in their community, with 28.6% expressing that position compared to 0% of Matures and 1.9% of Boomers.

Nearly all (95%) of charities are somewhat or very concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on the charitable sector in 2020:

  • 78% anticipate their donors will be less able to give

  • 61% said the organization will be unable to host fundraising events, aside from galas or walks as planned

  • 44% said anticipate the organization’s donors will redirect support to individuals in need

  • 32% said the organization’s cause is unlikely to be top-of-mind

Looking ahead to the impacts of COVID-19 on them in 2021, 82% of charities said they were somewhat or very concerned about losing revenue from fundraising events, and 74% were somewhat or very concerned about maintaining financial stability.

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