Early Trends in Covid-19 Fundraising & Steps to Secure More Funding

Philanthropy Is Transforming Before Our Eyes.

Last Year: Giving by foundations increased 2.5% (in current dollars), to an estimated $75.69 billion in 2019. Giving by all three foundation types grew in 2019. Giving by independent foundations accounted for 72% of revenue, operating foundations gave 15%, and community foundations gave 13% of revenue.

But now we need a vision for the post–COVID world.

Early trends are emerging:

  1. Direct mail giving is stable. Direct mail donations are up 4.9% year over year. Revenue is flat or up across all sectors. Average gift has increased a substantial 23.5%, driving overall revenue up 29.5%
  2. Donor-advised fund distributions are up 16% over the same period last year. These distributions reflect the designation and release of funds previously contributed to donor-advised funds.
  3. New donor acquisition remains flat. However, the early crisis drove many donors to shift their giving. The international relief and human services sectors have been significant beneficiaries as well as organizations that have gained attention during periods of shutdowns.
  4. #GivingTuesdayNow served as an episodic, disaster-response engagement vehicle for nonprofits and donors for the urgent needs generated by COVID. Organized in under six weeks, the May 5 event is estimated to have driven over $500 million in online gifts.
  5. The profile of new donors varies from the traditional donor base. In limited analysis, we’ve observed that these COVID–acquired donors are generally younger, as affluent as traditional donors, and extremely likely to respond to digital communications.
  6. In the first quarter of 2020, growth was driven primarily by donors giving gifts under $250—while mid-level and major donor revenue was down.

The digital transformation driven by the pandemic will continue into recovery. Donors are more comfortable than ever using digital channels, and it’s likely that these preferences and behaviors will continue.

While so much of the story has yet to be written, this disruption shows us that philanthropy is transforming. Right before our eyes. The pandemic has radically changed day-to-day life and that change extends to the ways that our donors each engage and support the causes that are closest to their hearts.

The Path to Recovery is to forecast optimism by generating a roadmap for the future. Now is the time to resurrect and revisit initiatives that were previously sidelined because timing wasn’t right. What growth opportunities can a widened lens help identify at your organization? Classify tactics within your roadmap as quick wins, momentum builders, and transformational.

Action Steps

Map the Giving of Your Funders and compare it with their giving to your agency.

  • Forecast Your Agency’s Potential Growth Scenarios
  • Reevaluate Your Program to Ensure It Is Meeting Needs—boost your evaluation program if needed.
  • Create a Plan to Advance or Develop Your Fundraising Infrastructure.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.


  1. Merkle RMG COVID-19 Impact Report, 2019 and 2020 Transactions February 1st through June 14th
  2. Fidelity Charitable, Communities in Crisis
  3. Blackbaud donorCentrics Index of Direct Marketing Fundraising, 2020 First Calendar Quarter Results
  4. The NonProfit Times, 5/28/2020
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