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October 27, 2020
Nonprofits Expect Fundraising Declines in 2020 and 2021
Fundraising Down

July 5, 2020 — More than half of charitable organizations in the United States expect to raise less money in 2020 than they did in 2019, and an equal percentage believe the same will occur in 2021, according to a recently completed survey.

The survey of 850 fundraisers in the U.S. by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), was conducted in May.

The impact of COVID-19 did not affect charities immediately, AFP said. Asked about its impact in the first quarter of the year—January through March—respondents were evenly split. Overall, compared to the first quarter of 2019, 33% did not see any changes in fundraising totals, while 31% saw increases and 35% saw decreases.

When queried about the impact in the second quarter of the year, respondents answered less favorably. More than half of respondents—57%—expect to see decreases in giving. Only 25% expected an increase, while 18% said they believed giving to their charity will remain the same.

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they expected to raise fewer funds in 2020 compared to 2019, while only 21% predicted organizational funding will increase; 23% believed fundraising totals will remain the same.

Most fundraisers expect to see some negative impact into 2021, with close to 72% said they anticipated that giving next year will continue to be lower than in a typical year. Approximately 16% believed giving will be about the same, while 12% thought giving will increase in 2021.

“We expected to see a significant drop in giving as a result of COVID-19, and our data shows that it will be a difficult time for fundraising for 2020 and well into 2021,” said Mike Geiger, AFP's president and CEO. “However, it’s clear that at this point, giving continues as organizations are adjusting and continuing to hear from donors.

"In addition, the impact hasn’t been the same across all organizations – human service organizations are, by far, the most optimistic subsector, and larger charities seem to be doing a bit better as well.”

According to AFP, 30% of human service charities said they expect to raise more funds in 2020 than in 2019, six percentage points higher than any other subsector.

Also, organizations with budgets of less than $5 million were more pessimistic, and more likely to think they would raise fewer funds, compared to charities with budgets of $5 million or more.

Almost half of charities reported increasing their fundraising activity now because of COVID-19, while 44% reported they will keep their fundraising at normal levels throughout the year, AFP said. Only 7% of organizations planned to decrease their fundraising.

When asked which types of fundraising they will focus on more in 2020, 82% of respondents selected activities related to donor retention and stewardship as the most popular option. Online and technology options were also popular, with 78% of respondents saying they would focus on social media, online and virtual events, and 75% selecting email as a priority.

Nearly 64% or survey respondents said have had to cancel at least one event, and 24% canceled three or more events. At the same time, more than 50% said they switched at least one in-person event to a virtual event, with 14% converting three or more events into online experiences.

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