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.