Hindsight Is Always 20/20
2020 is over, and I know nobody is sad about that whatsoever. In my drive to organize, I came across last year’s 40 nonprofit trends for 2020.
Those were created well before any of us had ever heard of COVID-19, a pandemic, coronavirus or ever imagined having to wear a mask daily.
So, I thought it prudent to look back and highlight a few trends that certainly came true, but very differently. Some in a good way, because it helps nonprofits be ready for 2021 and beyond.
I’m not going to address every single one of these trends, but I wanted to highlight a few that became much more important than any of us had expected.
Nonprofits certainly had to pivot much quicker to use all their technology and tools to engage with their donors because in person-gatherings became a big no-no. Donor engagement will continue to be vitally important in 2021.
Prioritize the Fundamentals
I’d like to start with the first fundamental of fundraising: asking. Many nonprofits hesitated and canceled spring appeals. Those who asked early on fared much better than those who delayed. Getting the mail, opening it, depositing checks became unexpected new fundamentals. Sending thank-you letters became the next. How could fundraisers do this if they were not able to get to the office? Fortunately, you worked around it, and many didn’t miss a beat. Thank-you calls became new fundamentals for many and donors responded!
Subscription-Based Giving Models
This is, of course, the one I like the most, and monthly giving has clearly become much more popular. Nonprofits finally saw the light. Those that had monthly giving programs before 2020 were in much less of a pickle in those early days of COVID-19. Those that started asking for monthly gifts sooner than later will be in much less of a pickle in 2021! I expect this upward focus on monthly giving to continue. And those organizations that now have several monthly donors will start looking at upgrading them to higher levels and generating those ultimate gifts (legacy gifts). I’ve heard more stories of nonprofits who were very successful in 2020, beyond their expectations.
Taxes Continue to Impact Giving
The CARES act offered some that extra tax-deductibility incentive up to $300 for those who don’t itemize charitable deductions on their taxes. And this will continue in 2021. Frankly, I think the jury is still out on the real importance of this, especially if we see that so many small donors responded in record numbers throughout the year. They gave to hot-button causes supporting Black Lives Matter, elections (which are never tax-deductible), but also donated to their favorite causes. Religious organizations and arts organizations received donations even while churches were not open, or performances were not happening.
Working Remotely, Rethinking Traditional Organizations Structures and High-Freedom Work Cultures
These were the absolute biggest trends. This is where the biggest changes happened in my mind. Couples were now both working from home. Kids had to go to school remotely. Organizations had to collaborate and communicate without the water cooler and better yet, without the commute.
While nobody can look in that crystal ball of the future, here are some of the trends I expect to see more of in 2021.
- More virtual events. It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to get together in person for a while, so the number of virtual events will grow. They’ll never quite be as engaging as live events, but fundraisers will certainly save a ton of time! And that time they can focus on other things, like...
- More monthly giving and micro-giving campaigns. I’m all over this. How can you add that extra button, that extra tick box, that special email, that special appeal? And if you have monthly donors, how can you get more upgrades and more extra gifts? If you have someone who makes a small gift via social media, how can you get them to give more often?
- Shorter webinars and trainings. People are busy, and we want to learn but it must be in shorter bites. Webinars that last 30 minutes. Short trainings that last 10 minutes. More interaction while doing them.
- More time with the family. Dinner together. No more rushing to games over the weekend. That’s a win-win for many, if you ask me.
Other than that, my biggest hope is that the vaccine will become readily available sooner than later, and you’ll be safe and well so you can continue to make a difference for the patients, clients, individuals, animals you serve.
Have a successful and happy 2021!
Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly giving. She is the president of A Direct Solution, a company serving nonprofit organizations with fundraising and direct marketing needs, with a focus on monthly giving and appeals. She authored "Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant" and "Monthly Giving Made Easy." She regularly blogs and presents on fundraising, appeals and monthly giving — in person and through webinars. She is happy to answer any questions you may have about this great way of improving retention rates for your donors.
Erica has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. She helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs. She is also very actively supports organizations with annual fund planning and execution, ranging from copywriting, creative, lists, print and mail execution.
When she’s not working or writing, Erica can be found on the golf course (she’s a straight shooter) or quietly reading a book. And if there’s an event with a live band, she and her husband, Patrick, can be found on the dance floor. She also loves watching British drama on PBS. Erica and Patrick have two step sons and a cat, Mientje.