Many Golf, Auction Events Were Still In-Person During 2021

Even though the pandemic had millions of people staying inside and away from others the past two years, events with auctions (silent and live) and golf outings were the most successful event fundraisers according to 1,954 nonprofit executives polled by OneCause.

Of organizations where in-person auction events were held, 51% of executives said they were “very successful,” as compared to somewhat successful, could have been better, and not successful at all. When it came to gold 44% of respondents said they were very successful.

Golfs events were big business in 2020, even with drive-up check-in and the events being outside, said Jenna Jameson, corporate communications manager at Indianapolis, Ind.-based OneCause. For 2021, 70% of respondents to the survey were back to in-person events, she said.

“People leaned into their golf outings as a way to bring people together,” said Kelly Velasquez Hague, vice president of content marketing and brand engagement at OneCause. “It became a safe refuge fundraiser during the pandemic,” she said.

The online survey of 1,954 nonprofit professionals was conducted between Sept. 7 – Oct. 1. Survey respondents represented a wide spectrum of organization sizes and verticals. The majority of respondents identified their roles within development, executive leadership, and events. A wide range of technology solutions and vendors were used by respondents and were not limited to OneCause customers.

In light of the COVID-19 variants, nonprofits remained agile in their fundraising with the ability to quickly move in-person events to virtual, to embrace hybrid solutions, and provide options for supporters to engage how they feel most comfortable, according to the report’s authors.

Success rates across all types of fundraising are improving, especially with online giving campaigns and events. Almost half of those surveyed generated 20% or more of their annual operating budget from their event and online fundraising efforts. Incredibly, 90% of responding organizations held at least one fundraising event in 2021, with 79% meeting or surpassing their event fundraising goals. The number of organizations surpassing their goals (28%) has more than doubled in the past year, according to data from the respondents.

Online and event fundraising are helping nonprofits expand their donor base. Approximately 27% of nonprofits are reaching a greater percentage of first-time donors and 16% are seeing growth in re-engaged lapsed donors. Only 18% report a decrease in retention rates. This is happening even as the pandemic continues to be a top challenge for respondents. Other top challenges impacting nonprofits this year include donor engagement, donor fatigue, and maintaining year-over-year fundraising growth (especially with recurring giving).

In person is nice but also online revenue is important, with 59% of respondents saying that as much as 40% of annual operating revenue is from an events and/or online fundraising. The data shows that 14% or respondents said at least 61% of operating revenue was from events or online fundraising.

Of 13 fundraising challenges proposed in the survey, executive directors responded that donor engagement was the biggest challenge at 88%, followed by donor fatigue at 87%. Staff turnover was the last thing on their minds at 45%.

You can download a copy of the 15-page report at https://onecause.com/2021-fundraising-outlook-study/