Blackbaud Data: Large NPOs Did OK, Small Took It On The Chin

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, high unemployment and other economic uncertainty, nonprofits fared reasonably well in some aspects of their fundraising during 2020. Overall giving rose 2% compared to 2019’s level, while online donations were up 21%, according to the Blackbaud Institute Charitable Giving Report.

Even more striking, donations amounts also jumped. The average gift amount during 2020 was $737, up from $617 in 2019, according to research from the Charleston, S.C-based technology firm. Online average donations, which are more likely to reflect individuals than institutions, jumped to $177 from $148 in 2019.

The 2020 Charitable Giving Report was based in part on donation data from 8,833 nonprofits that amounted to $40.7 billion during 2020. It also includes online giving data from 4,964 nonprofits with donations of $3.2 billion.

The big got bigger in 2020, as dollars flowed to larger organizations. The largest nonprofits -- those with annual fundraising in excess of $10 million -- saw a jump of 5.3% from the previous year. Medium-sized organizations, which have annual fundraising revenue of between $1 million and $10 million, realized a 1.2% uptick in donations. The smallest nonprofits, those with annual fundraising levels of less than $1 million, experienced a 7.2% decrease in fundraising revenue from 2019.

Disturbingly, all three changes represent a slowdown from three-year trends. During 2018-2020, the largest organizations had an overall fundraising increase of 7.4%, meaning this year’s take didn’t mark as much of a year-over-year increase as previous years. Medium-sized nonprofits saw their increases slow from 5.3% over the three-year period, while the smallest nonprofits, which had an overall decline of 4.6% in fundraising revenue, saw their rate of revenue drop increase.

The largest organizations, which are more likely to rely on personal relationships and high-ticket events and virtual fundraisers, were less reliant on online fundraising during 2020. Nonprofits with total annual fundraising in excess of more than $10 million reported a 15% increase in online fundraising. By contrast, medium-sized nonprofits had a jump of 24.9% in their online fundraising and the smallest nonprofits reported online fundraising was up 22.3%.

According to Blackbaud’s data, fundraisers at all levels of nonprofits might want to re-emphasize their online efforts. On a quarter-by-quarter basis, total giving wobbled during 2020, initially slipping by 0.2% during the first quarter before dropping by 8.3% as the pandemic ramped up during the second quarter. By the third quarter, the start of the end-of-year giving period, overall giving was down only 0.3%. During the fourth quarter, total giving increased 3.3%.

But, online giving was strong throughout the year, as donors opened their hearts and their wallets. Online giving increased by 6.8% during the first quarter, 36.1% during the second quarter as fundraisers began sounding the alarms, 19.5% during the third quarter and 27.5% in the fourth quarter.

Blackbaud’s analysts referred to 2020 as a pivotal moment for online fundraising. The channel made up 13% of total giving, the highest annual percentage Blackbaud has tracked. Within online donations, 28% were made via mobile devices – again, a high-water mark.