Are you Prepared for the Second Half of 2020?


by F. Duke Haddad

What a year so far! I told colleagues at the end of 2019 that 2020 would be different. I did not mean to be such a wonderful prognosticator. The first six months have been all over the place with respect to dependable and historical variables for fundraising. The headwinds have been fierce, and all of us are waiting for these to subside.

Let’s step back for a moment and look at previously predicted fundraising trends for 2020. Based upon an article by Our Fundraising Search, the top eight fundraising trends for 2020 were as follows:

  1. Storytelling will grow in importance. The need for a compelling story is more impactful than ever before in the minds of prospects and donors.
  2. Development turnover will continue to escalate. The tenure of an average development professional is 14 months. There are not enough quality candidates in the market currently.
  3. More nonprofits will migrate toward an emphasis on major gifts. This type of gift can generate significant dollars, but must involve key internal and external stakeholders.
  4. Accurate donor research will be even more critical to nonprofits in 2020. This information is critical as you expand the width and breadth of your data prospect system.
  5. Nonprofits will appear more political – whether they intend to or not. 2020 is an election year, so focus on the mission, not politics.
  6. Volunteering will be up, and giving may not be up. Seek to engage volunteers into the life of your organization.
  7. Partnering is a great strategy for 2020. Seek partners that can promote both organizational missions.
  8. A cross-cultural perspective will be in high demand in the corporate world as well as in the nonprofit sector. Seek diversity of thought and engagement by volunteers as you speak to donors.

A recent article by Our Fundraising Search continued to evaluate the performance of these trends based upon data in the calendar year thus far. This data showed that storytelling is still important, especially as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. Development turnover is still rising due to layoffs and furloughs in a weak economy. Major gift focus must remain for 2020, and the focus should be on retaining your major donors.

Accurate donor research continues to be important and this type of work can be donor on a remote basis. Nonprofits may appear more political, so this plus the pandemic will remain hot topics for a period. Volunteering will continue to decline due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. Partnering will be less than stellar since the economy will force many nonprofits out of business. Diversity will continue to be an important consideration for your organization.

A GiveGab article provided additional fundraising trends for growing nonprofits in 2020. The pandemic moved the conversation from organizational progress to organizational maintaining, overnight. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations need to think about being agile through uncertain times. To meet changing environments, it is suggested that nonprofits rely on new technologies for impactful conversations. These technologies include video conferencing software, livestreaming, social media and virtual events.

Organizations need to move to a more flexible work environment, such as working from home, maintaining regular schedules and using video conferencing, whenever possible. Consideration needs to be given to soliciting year-end donations now. Times of crisis encourage generous donors to give. Utilize a marketing effort to seek donor advised funds. Use the election cycle effect to your advantage, especially if specific topics relate to your organizational mission.

An article by Wealth-X emphasizes that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits are facing a unique set of challenges, driven by changing donor behavior. According to a recent report by CAF America, 73% of nonprofits have seen a decline in the number of contributions they are receiving. Smaller scale donors and corporate donors are either cutting or reducing their gift size. While overall donations have decreased, high-net-worth individuals continue to donate. Some areas such as health care research are seeing increased engagement and giving, while education and arts are facing fundraising and program challenges.

Suggested key strategies for succeeding in this current environment include doubling down on communicating your vision and mission, taking the time to foster greater personal connections with donors and recommitting to the 80/20 principle and possibly 90/10 principle that a larger share of your contributions will come from a smaller number of donors. Seek to balance short and long-term planning. Seek to establish a strategy of transition so your organization can pivot from the current environment state to a more stable future.

If you study the Giving USA statistics for 2019, individuals by far contribute the largest sums of funds to charitable organizations. Put the time and effort into that target market, especially for major gifts and even planned gifts. Understand that women donors and men donors react differently to approaches for funds. Use that knowledge to your advantage. Utilize wealth research tools to determine who has capacity, interest and linkage to your organization. Engage these prospects in meaningful ways. Practice consistent and personal cultivation plus stewardship techniques.

Graham-Pelton notes several crises that arisen in 2020, from the pandemic to global and domestic disturbances. In February we officially entered a recession. The pandemic created a lockdown in March and May introduced systemic racial injustice. Research has shown that uncertainty does not stop philanthropy. Goodwill and humanity depend on philanthropy. Especially in 2020, you need to be ready for the ever-changing philanthropic landscape for the balance of the year, as it certainly will be unpredictable in scope. Are you prepared to meet this challenge?