Best Practices

What can you learn about fundraising in 2021 from Blackbaud’s Charitable Report?

What can you learn about fundraising in 2021 from Blackbaud’s Charitable Report?




July 19, 2021

Last modified: 

July 19, 2021

Last year, countless fields witnessed tremendous shifts in trend in the wake of a global pandemic. While most of them were not on the positive side, fields like Philanthropy thrived as more and more people donated to help others in need. Blackbaud’s Charitable Report tracks donations in the United States, amounting to over $40 Billion in charitable giving; needless to say, it stands as one of the most reliable sources on fundraising trends.

Alumni engagement fundraising

Fundraising trends are imperative to understand what is working with donors and what’s not. Online Giving Trends, in particular, are undeniably crucial for advancement professionals, owing to the digital shift of 2020. So what are some online trends from FY 2020 that are here to stay, and how do they affect your fundraising and engagement strategies? Let’s find out.

1. Online Giving Grew By 21%

Online Giving continued to bloom with a 21% year-on-year growth in FY 2020. This number stands as a 32% increase over the last three years. It comes as no surprise, owing to the digital shift of 2020 during the pandemic. What is remarkable is the fact that donors are growing more comfortable with the online medium. Now that things are easing back to normal, online engagement still stands as a pivotal gear in alumni engagement strategies - virtual events, clubs, and reunions will continue to play a massive role in engaging alumni.

Many experts in the advancement field believe that the digital shift of 2020 will have a significant impact on the industry for years to come - Advancement Offices have realized the power of online engagement to motivate donors. From acting as fillers between the major in-person fundraising events planned for the year to engaging international and young alumni who would otherwise stay severed from their alma mater, virtual solicitations & online giving campaigns will undoubtedly lead the way.

The takeaway: Online Giving will continue to grow in years to come, thanks to online engagement that is thriving and helping offices connect with alumni far and wide. Aligning your alumni engagement strategies to these numbers are a must - having a robust online engagement plan, and an active online presence are sure to pay off.

2. Nearly 30% of the Online Gifts were made through mobile devices

Numbers show that 28% of online donations were made through mobile devices in FY 2020. This growth is not sudden, but surely steady - since 2014, Mobile Giving has grown more than 3X and will only continue to increase. Donors are now using their mobile phones to make donations more readily than ever. The growth in Mobile Giving further substantiates the shift to online platforms in 2020.

Source: Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report 2020

The takeaway: Overcoming the barrier of accessibility, Mobile Giving is unfolding to be a major source of donations. Institutions should maintain websites that are not only mobile-friendly but also support frictionless mobile donations. Regularly test your platform to ensure that the user experience is seamless for your donors. If your institution doesn’t already support gifts via mobile device, it’s high time you look into adding it as a medium for donation.

3. Online Donor Retention is at an all time high

Online Donor Retention measures how well your institution is connected to your donors - whether or not your engagement strategies are facilitating continuous support from your donors. These numbers are essential to track in order to benchmark the growth of various giving channels. In FY 2020, 25% of the first-year, online-only donors were retained, whereas, for multi-year, online-only donors, the retention stood at 66%.

The takeaway: Online engagement is certainly gaining momentum, leading to high Online Donor Retention. Blackbaud also infers in the report that Sustainer Programs have helped achieve these numbers. Sustainer Programs provide more control to the donors with gradual bite-size increments on their donations. They keep your alumni engaged from the very beginning - turning small gifts into bigger ones over the years without losing your donors. Look into how you create these programs at your institution and reap the benefits of the same.

4. Benchmarking and Engagement Metrics are the way to go

Alumni Engagement Metrics (AEM) are beginning to be a vital part of engagement strategies. AEM reflect how connected your alumni are with the institution across four modes - Philanthropic, Volunteer, Experiential, and Communications. These metrics provide a more structured view of many less tangible aspects of your fundraising and engagement strategies, paving the way for a more efficient version of them. Many institutions are reaping the benefits of using AEM and Benchmarking to obtain better results and generate more long-term donors.

The takeaway: If you are on the fence about how to start using Alumni Engagement Metrics and Benchmarking, Blackbaud offers four tips to help you kick-off:

  1. Analyzing long-term trends can do wonders for your engagement strategies. Which campaign led to a spike in numbers? Which virtual event gathered traction and why? Many such questions can be answered by looking at your engagement metrics over the years. You can understand your alumni community and their interests, set benchmarks and your goals accordingly.
  2. There are no industry-set, standard rules when it comes to benchmarking. It is imperative to share your benchmarks across all the departments at your institution. This makes sure that there is coherence when you set goals - they are shared, holistic, and more achievable.
  3. To analyze long-term trends, you must choose a set of metrics that can be measured year-over-year. Be it your annual retention rate or the cumulative attendance of all the campaigns over the span of a year, make sure this data can be collected uniformly for years to come.
  4. Lastly, to reap the benefits of these numbers you collect, make sure you listen to the story of these numbers. Make tweaks to your engagement and fundraising strategies and analyze the numbers after the implementation.

Wrapping up

Fundraising trends can help you understand the orientation of your donors and strategize your campaigns accordingly. The digital platform has equipped Advancement Offices with many tools that will continue to shape the industry in the coming years. Giving trends reflect the growth of the entire industry - contrast them against the numbers at your institution, and you have a more tangible view of many elements of your strategy. If you are looking to improve your engagement and fundraising strategies, understanding fundraising trends are certainly a way to get a head start.

About the Author

Kalyan Varma | CEO & Co-Founder of Almabase

Kalyan focuses on helping universities build lifelong relationships with their alumni by driving participation. He hosts the Almabase Spotlight Podcast, which showcases inspiring stories from Alumni Relations and Fundraising professionals. Kalyan has also delivered sessions at CASE and Blackbaud conferences.

Source: Blackbaud’s Charitable Report

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