The National Geographic Society (NGS) garnered $74.4 million in new commitments during 2021, the highest new commitments annual total in the Washington, D.C.-based organization’s 134-year history.
The fundraising record is in part due in part to the strategic direction provided to the development team by the 2021 launch of NG Next, NSG’s Chief Advancement Officer Kara Ramirez Mullins wrote in an email to The NonProfit Times. NG Next’s five-year goals include strengthening the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion actions and showcasing the efforts of Black, Indigenous and People of Color explorers.
NG Next apparently struck a chord with funders. The $74.4 million in new commitments represents a 208% increase from the previous fiscal year. The total includes 11 new commitments at or above the $1 million level and 59 new commitments of $100,000 or more — the latter representing a 103% increase from 2020, according to Ramirez Mullins. The year also saw record participation in Society membership and leadership giving.
The commitments might have been new, but the sources weren’t, for the most part. “Rather than forging a new donor segment, we focused on increased activity with our already established donor audiences,” Ramirez Mullins wrote. “This resulted in increased activity across all areas of advancement, from frontline fundraising and donor visits to overall proposal activity and communications.”
During 2021, NGS relied on traditional appeals channels such as direct mail marketing, online platforms and major gift proposals. “The significant change came in the storytelling infused within our appeals,” Ramirez Mullins wrote. “The relevancy of illustrating the wonder of our world; introducing new discoveries; and sharing innovative ways to educate, protect, and explore has never been greater than in a global pandemic. So we connected that relevancy to our audiences through powerful stories threaded through our donor communications.”
The NGS had successes in other funder channels as well, according to Ramirez Mullins. “This year was also the most successful in the history of the Planned Giving program. Foundation and government grants surpassed their fundraising goal by 200% and our corporate team continued to grow and enhance corporate relations with industry partners, with a focus on retention and expansion,” Ramirez Mullins responded.
All funds raised are dedicated to bolstering NGS’s mission-driven efforts, including several endeavors spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, such as the COVID-19 Remote Learning Emergency Fund for Educators, the COVID-19 Science Fund and the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists.