Pandemic-led Nonprofit Trends That Will Define Charitable Giving in 2021

The nonprofit sector was not immune to the social and economic turmoil that swept across nations with the pandemic. No doubt, it has made the role of nonprofit organizations even more important. But it has also challenged their very existence. And whether they can continue to support communities and drive their mission into the future may now depend on their ability to adapt to an extraordinary post-COVID world.

Here are key trends that have emerged with the global health scare, which will define how nonprofits move forward in 2021.

1. New ways of giving

As the pandemic unfolded, many people faced unemployment and financial stress. And government funding was equally strained. So, nonprofits that relied on individual generosity, fundraising activities, and state support faced severe financial troubles.

But charitable giving didn’t exactly stop during the pandemic either. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

Then, why didn’t nonprofits see these altruistic acts translate into monetary support for their organizations?

The answer lies in the way people donated. Nearly half of these households chose an indirect way to give. Take for example ordering takeaway from their local restaurant or continuing to pay for regular services like daycare, although they could no longer use them during the pandemic.

Making financial donations directly to individuals has also grown in popularity. The #TwitterFoodBank hashtag that suddenly started to trend is a good example of this.

Clearly, many people are stepping forward despite their own predicament in a time of crisis. And for nonprofits, this demands finding new ways of directing support from donors to those in need.

2. Prioritizing immediate social challenges 

During the pandemic, more people have focused on supporting immediate problems faced by their local communities. So causes like healthcare, food, and human services have ranked high on their agenda.

In fact, according to donors, 34% of charitable giving has gone into hunger relief and 29% towards healthcare causes. And charities are reporting a similar trend. According to Charity Navigator, donations to Feeding America through their online tool Giving Basket has risen by 1,980%. Doctors Without Borders reports an equally positive trend with 131% YOY growth.

So, to draw in more support and participation, nonprofits would now need to prioritize causes that address immediate social challenges.

3. Technology taking center stage

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The urgency to adopt technology has sped up with the dramatic changes brought upon by the pandemic. And it’s affecting how nonprofit employees work, raise funds, engage and communicate with donors, and serve their communities.

According to one report, 82% of nonprofits have now digitalized a few or all their programs and services. And 62% of nonprofits have converted to virtual fundraising. Data analytics tools are also playing an important role in identifying donor trends, customer relationship management, and other critical areas for their operations.

The bottom line is, technology is now helping more and more nonprofits to improve efficiency, gain deep insights, bring in agility and speed, and expand their reach. It’s also enabling them to perform better, overall. According to a Salesforce report, nonprofits with a high digital maturity showed a 9–25% higher performance in areas like program delivery and fundraising compared to those with low digital maturity.

4. A new generation of donors

Social and environmental issues are moving more Millennials and Gen Zs into action than any other generation. And this hasn’t changed with the global health scare.

According to Fidelity Charitable, 46% of Millennials are showing a greater willingness to give more during the pandemic. Now, compare this with the Baby Boomers and Gen Xs who reported a 14% and 25% interest, respectively. And an impressive 75% of Millennials have already given money to a friend, family member, or a charity during the crisis.

So, nonprofits must now adopt new ways to engage this younger audience. This is a generation that values purpose, social connectivity, and digital adoption. So, integrating inclusive messages, online communities, and greater transparency would be essential to reach out to them. And marketing strategies should include emerging digital trends like videos, live streaming, virtual events, and ephemeral content.

5. Shifting outlook for volunteerism

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With increased fears of health risks and continuing social distancing orders, many people are shying away from volunteering and opting to stay indoors instead. According to Fidelity Charitable, 47% of those who had volunteered recently expect to stop or reduce the time spent volunteering. And this trend is more prominent among the older generations compared to the younger ones.

But this doesn’t spell the end of volunteerism. Nonprofits can still encourage it by integrating technology and creating opportunities for virtual volunteering.

This will help reach a wider audience and make volunteering accessible to more people, such as those with limited mobility. And it would be an attractive proposition for the digitally savvy younger generations, too.

Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures, and that’s exactly what 2021 will demand from nonprofits. Charitable giving has evolved significantly as COVID-19 leaves ordinary life upended in ways unimaginable. But this has also created new opportunities for nonprofits to reimagine how they drive their mission forward with better agility, speed, and innovation.