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October 26, 2021
Pandemic May Have Altered the Ways that Donors Give

July 12, 2021 — While philanthropic giving practices generally don’t shift in a single year, the events of 2020 had at least a short-term impact on the way donors are thinking about and approaching giving, with many placing greater emphasis on key social challenges and reliance on digital tools, according to a recently completed donor survey.

Surveys of 3,055 donors, first in March 2020 followed by another this year, conducted by Fidelity Charitable, a Boston-based nonprofit that is the nation’s largest grant maker, primarily via donor-advised funds, found that:

  • After 2020, many donors reframed their thinking around which challenges are most important for society to solve, placing a higher priority on economic development, hunger and racial inequity than they did previously.

  • Donors became more comfortable with and reliant on virtual tools during the pandemic, with “significant numbers of donors” saying they increasingly used digital tools to participate in philanthropy in 2020.

“Social good is becoming a key factor in how donors make financial choices. Nearly half of all donors have purchased products that provide a social benefit, and 20 percent have made investments in socially responsible businesses or investment funds,” Fidelity noted.

A quarter of donors last year gave to charity through a social media platform, and four-in-ten have made donations through an online giving platform like GoFundMe, Fidelity said.

While Millennials, those born between 1981 and 2000, control only 5% of wealth in the United States, they “are pushing philanthropy beyond its traditional boundaries,” Fidelity said:

  • Across the board, Millennials are more likely than older generations to engage in newer methods of giving back, from impact investing to donating through a social media platform.

  • Nearly three-quarters describe themselves as a philanthropist—compared to only 35% of Baby Boomers (those born from 1946 through 1964) and 48% of Gen X (those born from 1965 through 1980).

  • More than 40% of Millennials say they are optimistic, compared to 15% of Boomers and 22% of Gen.

“Because it enjoys higher levels of trust, the nonprofit ecosystem as a whole is uniquely positioned to lead the charge on many of the world’s largest issues. However, individual charities must adapt to donors’ changing expectations and preferences in order to remain relevant,” Fidelity said, noting that “nonprofits are seen as go-to experts on addressing basic care needs in local communities”

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