New Donor Giving Trends

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

Fidelity Charitable conducted an initial survey of 3,055 charitable individuals in March 2020. They then conducted a subsequent survey in January 2021 to detect any shifts in donor attitudes and behaviors related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other events of 2020.

There are more than a dozen takeaways, but here are the top four:

  1. A quarter of donors have donated to charity through a social media platform, and 4 in 10 have made donations through crowdfunding platforms. The study doesn’t say so, but if 25% of donors donated through social media, guess what platform the other 75% likely donated through? Direct mail is my answer.
  2. Millennials are pushing philanthropy beyond its traditional boundaries. While they currently only control five percent of the wealth in the United States, their unique attitudes, expectations, and approaches to giving back will revolutionize the social sector as they inherit trillions from their Baby Boomer parents in one of the largest intergenerational wealth transfers in modern times.
  3. After the 2020 pandemic year, 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 previously did. We all became more and more comfortable with and reliant upon virtual tools during the pandemic, and this may have accelerated digital trends in philanthropy. Significant numbers of donors say they increasingly used digital tools to participate in philanthropy in 2020.
  4. As a trusted institution among donors, the social sector (or nonprofit sector) is in a strong position to make an impact on addressing some of our society’s greatest challenges. Forty percent of donors say they would prefer to give money to the nonprofit sector than to any other major institution, such as the government or businesses, and nonprofits are seen as go-to experts on addressing basic care needs in local communities.

Yet there are significant challenges that many charities must overcome. Donors are accustomed to seamless digital experiences in every other aspect of their lives, and they expect no different from their favorite charities. In addition, nonprofits must adapt to the Millennial approach to evaluating charities, which places an emphasis on demonstrated impact and transparency.

Overall, these takeaways mean we must invest more dollars in a fundraising infrastructure that was already woefully underfunded prior to the pandemic.

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

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