AFP Survey Paints Gloomy Fundraising Picture Through 2021

There’s bad news, as far as nonprofits’ prospects for fundraising are concerned. Leadership in more than half — 56 percent — believe they will raise less money this year than they did last, according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) Coronavirus Response Survey. Only 21 percent believe they will raise more.

There is worse news. In early 2020, nonprofits’ fortunes were boosted by a somewhat-normal first quarter, one in which 31 percent of respondents saw increases in fundraising and 33 percent said it held even. Second-quarter tallies are expected to be lower, according to 57 percent of respondents, while only 25 percent think their final numbers will be up.

The AFP surveyed 850 U.S.-based fundraisers in May. Asked about 2021, fundraisers are more pessimistic still: 72 percent believe they will raise less money next year than they do in a typical year, while a mere 12 percent anticipate raising more.

The gloom was not evenly spread throughout the fundraising community. Organizations with budgets of less than $5 million were more likely to believe their totals would be off than larger nonprofits. Human service nonprofits were among the most hopeful: three in ten believe they will raise more funds in 2020 than in 2019, a figure that led the next-closest sector by six percentage points.

The drop-offs in funds won’t be for lack of trying. Nearly half will increase their fundraising activity in 2020 because of COVID-19, while another 44 percent plan on keeping their fundraising at normal levels.

“There is one general rule that is the most important for charities to follow during difficult and challenging times,” AFP President & CEO Mike Geiger said via a statement. “Organizations cannot afford to stop fundraising, and those charities that continue to raise funds — and even increase their fundraising — will do the best. We have to raise money and engage our donors with sensitivity, but the funding must continue in order to support our critically needed missions.”

One way nonprofits are generating funds is through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Nearly three-quarters submitted a request for grant funding, and two-thirds successfully received one.

Unsurprisingly, in-person events are at a virtual standstill. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) have cancelled at least one event, while just more than half have switched at least on in-person happening to a virtual event.

Fundraisers are increasing their reliance on distance and virtual activities, with 82 percent upping their donor retention and stewardship activities and 78 percent either giving their social media activities a boost, increasing the number of virtual events they hold or conducting other online fundraising campaigns. Another 75 percent have become more aggressive in their email activities.

At the same time nonprofits are upping their fundraising activities, they’re also cutting personnel costs. One in five have laid off staff, 23 percent have instituted furloughs and 18 percent have cut staff pay.