Holiday Giving 2020: Is the Best Yet to Come?
It’s been an unusual, unpredictable year, to say the least. There is little doubt that the pandemic has forever reshaped the way we live, interact and behave as consumers. But the remarkable thing is that donors have by and large stuck with their causes, even during these difficult months. In fact, many organizations are seeing a boost to their revenue, especially those that support local, community-based services and programs.
Is it possible, as fundraisers turn their attention to the remaining weeks in 2020, that the best-ever, year-end giving season is on the horizon? Could the disruption of the pandemic, the divisive election season, and an uncertain economic outlook be the right mix of ingredients that drive unprecedented giving by donors? There are some signals that this just may be the case.
Giving on the Rise
According to the Blackbaud Institute Index, overall giving in Q3 2020 was up 2.2% year-over-year, after a dismal dip in the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. That recent news builds on earlier reporting from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project that donations grew by 7.5% year-over-year in the first half of 2020, led by new donor growth in Q2. It seems that despite the challenges, or perhaps because of them, charitable donors continue to support the causes they care about most.
Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Response
The charitable organizations that emerged better than others from the early months of the pandemic were those that were able to pivot and be responsive to changing market dynamics. They tried new tactics, such as virtual events and digital media campaigns, to diversify and broaden their revenue mix. They consistently thanked their donors and kept them informed about the impact of their donations. They also focused on donor engagement and retention, starting with their most valuable constituents, to inspire further generosity.
For nonprofit fundraisers, these lessons are ones to incorporate into year-end strategies. As 2020 comes to a close, commit to staying alert, flexible and agile in responding to potential fundraising challenges and opportunities.
Win Over Your Donors
The battle for the largest share of donors’ hearts and wallets may never be greater than it will be over the coming few weeks. What do fundraisers need to do now to maximize giving this holiday season?
- Thank your donors. Between now and the end of 2020, commit to staying engaged with your donors, reaching out to those who have given and those who haven’t to cultivate their giving, and encourage their participation in year-end campaigns.
- Diversify. Expand on who, what and how you ask for support. Provide different ways for donors to support your mission. Broaden your channel mix to be in the places where your donors spend their time, including digital media, social and video channels. Invest in traditional direct marketing channels — direct mail, email and online — which have continued to be consistent and viable sources of revenue for the nonprofit sector throughout the pandemic.
- Give donors the opportunity to make a difference. Donors have continued to display their compassion and generosity even during these challenging times. Donors want to help and feel good about giving back and solving problems. Resist the temptation to pull back on fundraising messaging and frequency, thinking donors are “fatigued.” Donors are generous and want to give — give them that opportunity.
Use this time to leverage these new insights to become a more compelling fundraiser and above all else, give donors more reasons to engage and give during this holiday season. The challenges may be significant, but so are the opportunities.
Editor's Note: If you're interested in learning more about engaging donors during this time and how National Multiple Sclerosis Society pivoted its strategy to end at likely 85% of its overall budget this year during the pandemic, make sure to register for NonProfit POWER, a virtual event covering topics in direct marketing, peer-to-peer fundraising and technology, which is happening December 14, 15, & 16. Register for free here.
Eve Smith is an experienced fundraiser with more than 20 years of nonprofit direct response marketing expertise. As senior director of client strategy at Merkle, Eve brings extensive knowledge and practice with integrated strategy, omnichannel fundraising and marketing, and program innovation. She specializes in both scaling up already-successful fundraising programs to raise more funds and crafting new programs that leverage peer-to-peer fundraising and social giving to bring in new revenue.
At Merkle, her clients have included major national health charities, international relief and faith-based organizations and animal welfare nonprofits, among others. Before joining Merkle, Eve was lead consultant to national cause-based nonprofits and worked with leading nonprofits and foundations to advance their online marketing and fundraising programs.