Top Fundraising Trends to Capitalize on in 2021

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by Scot Chisholm

The entire social sector learned a valuable lesson in 2020: even the most rigorous planning can’t insulate us from the need to be flexible and adapt to the changing world around us. At the same time, our industry has shown remarkable resilience in times of greatest need, and this year has been no exception. Over the course of the year we saw trends catalyze in the wake of changing circumstances that make it tough to predict where things will settle in 2021. With that being said, we are eager to discuss what we predict will be some of the top fundraising trends for the upcoming year (and very likely, beyond).

Virtual events are here to stay

Arguably the biggest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nonprofit industry was the cancelation of in-person fundraising events. In response, we saw an explosion in the number of events that made the pivot from in-person to virtual. Virtual participation in fundraising events isn’t new to 2020; the pandemic has just mandated a full transition from physical to virtual for the first time in history. And, we believe, the virtual events trend is here to stay because it allows nonprofits to:

  • Free themselves from geographic limitations and engage new attendees, speakers, and sponsors
  • Lower the barrier to entry for participants (with less time off, no flights, and no hotel bookings)
  • Reduce some of their major event costs, like venues
  • Easily steward attendees, fundraisers, and donors to future engagement opportunities

Recurring giving will be more important than ever

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to accelerate the move to online giving, organizations are quickly realizing the benefits of growing an online recurring giving program. In fact, many are starting to think of their traditional online fundraising efforts—like donation forms, peer-to-peer fundraising, and crowdfunding—as top-of-the-funnel activities that can ultimately drive recurring donors.

The actual giving experience for recurring donors is often better, too, since the organization needs to work for the repeat support each month (not dissimilar to other subscription services in your life). The result is a win-win situation where donors feel like they are more tapped into the impact of the organization, and the organization itself is creating a more predictable revenue stream that powers them through uncertain times and sets them up for scale.

The data couldn’t be more clear: recurring donors are great for fundraising, and 2021 will be its biggest year yet.

Nonprofit and for-profit connections will continue to get stronger

One key lesson we learned in 2020 is that we’re truly stronger when we work together. This was evident in the new partnerships we saw forming between for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On one hand, consumers and employees alike are demanding that businesses add more purpose to their profit-centric model. On the other hand, we see nonprofits borrowing heavily from successful for-profit companies in search of a more scalable and sustainable growth model. Both are great as we believe the world needs more cross-sector collaboration to solve its most pressing social and environmental problems.

We predict a further convergence of the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, and the continued rise of social enterprises and B Corporations in 2021 and beyond. So, even if you’ve never sought out cross-sector partnerships, consider doing so in 2021. There’s never been a larger demand.

Remaining nimble is now a strategic imperative

This year showed us that diversifying your fundraising strategy has never been more important; in many cases, it was the difference between an organization thriving through crisis, or shutting its doors. If your fundraising is all events-based, consider adding an annual crowdfunding campaign around Giving Tuesday. If you’re heavily reliant on website donations, consider making a small bet on peer-to-peer fundraising.

We don’t yet know what’s in front of us in 2021, but staying nimble has now become a strategic imperative for most organizations.

Want to learn more?

This past year has been one of the most challenging we’ve faced as a sector, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it. In many ways, we came together in the face of adversity on a scale never before seen. Register for our webinar on January 20, where we’ll dive into these important trends, and check out our full blog post of fundraising trends to look out for in 2021.

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