Keep Going in 2021
There’s a trend of generosity right now
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that philanthropy doesn’t stop, even during a quarantine. In fact, the pandemic seems to have brought out the best in us. We’ve seen so many donors and organizations rise to the challenges of last year with grace and good spirits
In addition to the pandemic, 2020 has been a tumultuous year for social justice, politics and the environment. Despite all the unpredictability and turmoil of the landscape of needs, so many have adapted to the changes and addressed the big issues.
These changes aren’t over, and neither is your cause. So it’s vital that you continue fundraising. Don’t stop asking, and don’t be afraid to ask again.
Here are some things we’ve found this year.
Giving is on the rise during COVID-19
Direct response giving is huge
According to Candid.org, a nonpartisan data group that focuses on philanthropic reporting, more than $10 billion has been given directly to address human needs during the pandemic, by several massive philanthropists and foundations. The biggest individual gift was $1B from Jack Dorsey of Twitter. Other massive donors include Google, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Notably, MacKenzie Scott has given more than $6B in gifts to more than 400 organizations this year to bolster them during the financial crisis resulting from the pandemic.
Smaller, local foundations have also poured emergency resources into their communities. According to Giving Compass the immediate response was as wide-ranging as it was deep. Take a look at their interactive map to see the breadth of funding responses to the Coronavirus.
Individual giving has increased
Just this past Giving Tuesday, an estimated 35 million people participated – up 29% from last year, according to The GivingTuesday Data Commons who coordinate the day. More than $808 million in donations were given online, and $2.47 billion in all.
Asha Curran, a co-founder and CEO at GivingTuesday, said in a public statement: “This groundswell of giving reaffirms that generosity is universal and powerful and that it acts as an antidote to fear, division, and isolation. Throughout this year, we have seen people driving extraordinary efforts rooted in a pursuit of equity, community, and shared humanity – driving giving and action across all races, faiths and political views. We know that when we act collectively – with what we can, with what we have, from where we are – we can make massive change happen.”
In May, the folks at GivingTuesday created a one-off “Giving Tuesday Now” event that raised more than $503 million online – an amount close to the total of online gifts made at the end of 2019. This is a massive surge in giving.
Much of the rise in monetary gifts during this year have been because in-person volunteer opportunities have been curtailed by social distancing and lockdown. People who would normally give back by showing up have been giving money instead.
However, the important factor here is not the increase in donations, but the fact that organizations continued to ask for donations. Just because the need is universal and apparent does not mean that every organization is automatically going to receive donations. A rise in online giving is due to a huge rise in online asking, especially through social media. Small gifts from individuals have increased in number and in size, but were given because messaging was strong.
Organizations are adapting to the changing needs
Everyone is affected
Nonprofits have been working hard to stay on-mission during the turmoil of emergency measures. There are two general types of organizations now: COVID-19 relevant missions and COVID-19 non-relevant missions.
This is not to say that some organizations are more or less relevant in the world than others. But since COVID-19 affects everyone, each organization, no matter its relevance to the virus, should be setting up COVID-19 funds. The main difference is in the messaging.
We’ve seen nonprofit work fall into three categories of need:
- Direct COVID-19 services
- Change of services during COVID
- Organizations on hiatus during COVID who still need support
Category 1 organizations have been the focal point of immediate support, including those in healthcare, housing, food security and emergency services, to name a few. If your nonprofit provides direct COVID-19 services then you should be seeking immediate emergency grants to provide your essential services.
Category 2 organizations, we applaud you: it’s not easy to pivot services in a good year, much less under these circumstances. Make sure you’re taking data from what you’ve changed, which will help not only in reporting but in helping you decide whether to keep those new services as part of your core operations in the future. Plus, you can help others learn from what you did right and what you think could be improved.
Category 3 organizations: don’t give up. Just because you’re not addressing COVID-19 doesn’t mean you’re irrelevant in the world. There is so much going on besides the pandemic, and your services will be just as necessary when we open back up as they were in 2019. Perhaps they’ll be even more relevant. Take this time of hiatus to develop your messaging for 2021 and beyond. Drill down on why you matter, and put yourself on a track to excellent communications in the coming year.
Serving your community under different circumstances
We have a fabulous example of an organization that’s pivoted services, to move from Category 3 to Category 2.
The Ensemble for the Romantic Century (ERC) is a mixed-media performing arts organization that has been unable to create performances in-person. The arts are, of course, an essential part of human life and our society, but they aren’t always of the most immediate importance in a crisis such as pandemic. ERC hasn’t let that deter it from creating and making art in ways that speak to the adaptations we’ve all had to make living in lockdown.
Instead of going on hiatus, ERC developed a whole new performance project: radio plays. In the days before internet, and even television, radio plays and radio dramas were a very popular form of entertainment. Now, in times of quarantine, this genre is more than just a “Zoom substitute” for in-person gatherings. It’s an entire shift in means of performance, and one that is suddenly quite relevant again.
Though it seems daunting to pilot a new project in a year of financial uncertainty, the need is clear. They plan to continue radio play production after lockdown is over, if this pilot series proves to be successful. And they have every hope that it will. ERC is keeping the art front-and-center, operating safely, and showing how it is still very much relevant for donors.
Communicating effectively between 2020 and 2021
- Be honest about the future and what strategizing you’ve done to keep going or to continue in the “new world”. 2021 is a new year, but it’s not the start of a cycle: everything has changed. How is your organization going to be part of things? Stay positive by reminding donors that your work is important enough to keep your organization open so that you can continue to serve.
- Focus on lay leaders and make them part of your communications strategy. Have them call donors and write letters, keep them in the loop with strategy and planning. This is a great time to increase your board members’ involvement in both fundraising and mission focus, as they continue to be at home. It’s a chance for them to recharge their batteries and get positive feedback. They’ll be reminded of why they’re part of your organization.
- Lay out your 2021 calendar right now, with as much detail as you can. When is your first ask? When is your first solicitation? Will you have a virtual gathering or gala? Month to moth – or even week to week – how many calls will you make? What are your goals for those calls? Start planning very specific tasks for year 2021, to get next year started at an energetic and productive pace.