Riding The Swell of Increased Giving in a Pandemic


There have been many surprises in 2020, many of which have been unwelcome, to say the least.  Yet one unexpected happening that HAS been greeted with open arms has been the reversal of industry trends – creating a proverbial swell of donors and revenue since March of this year.

As reported within the Q2 2020 donorCentrics benchmarking, nonprofits across verticals experienced lifts in nearly all metrics – signaling a reversal of declines that began in mid-2017.



As the above graph illustrates, organizations saw significant year over year increases across KPIs, including those related to new donor acquisition.  In fact, for many organizations, the new donor ‘swell’ looked more like traditional disaster, or crisis, response giving.  In turn, many nonprofits now find themselves with a pool of new donors they want to retain for the future of their programs.

But how? We know that if these donors are like most disaster donors, they may not be around for the long haul. But don’t fret! There are things that you can do right now (and recency in this case is everything!) to maximize the retention of this audience in the coming year for the long-term health of your file.

  1. IDENTIFY AND TRACK: There is a likelihood that donors acquired during this timeframe are potentially different than traditionally acquired donors – even if they are generated through traditional messaging and offers. Begin by understanding who supported your mission for the first time over the past year, and seek to understand any anomalies (other than timing) that might be associated (aka list specific nuances, message, timing, offer, etc.)
  2. DEVELOP AND EXECUTE: Donors acquired during this time are likely to be different than traditionally acquired donors. By developing modified messaging that recognizes their original response and motivation to give, we can show donors that we know them, and that their gift, and ongoing support, matters.  As illustrated in image below, as fundraisers, greater time should be spent on cultivating donors, to help demonstrate to the donor that they are important.

This doesn’t always mean sending handwritten cards, and adding a huge expense to your program. It may just mean taking the time to identify audiences that require specific versioning and messaging that will help maximize KPIs for the long-term health of your program. From an ROI perspective, creating targeted strategies to these ‘special’ donors’ may present some additional initial costs, but increased retention from critical groups should more than offset that cost.

  1. MONITOR AND EVALUATE: crisis generated donors are a different beast in many ways, so even when best practice strategies are employed, donors acquired during this time period may be more difficult to retain. For that reason, it is important to monitor these donors carefully within their first 12 months on file. If response trends are lagging, consider special recapture strategies in months 13-18 months before strategically placing them in a holding pattern (until specific opportunities present themselves in the future).

It’s so critical that in these times of the ‘unknown’ we continue to rely on best practices established during other unique moments in philanthropy in order to guide our way.  In our blog post next week, we will spend a bit more time discussing the points mentioned above.  See you soon!

Candice Briddell

Candice Briddell, Managing Partner and Co-Owner, has worked within the fundraising and marketing industry for nearly twenty years and has been a part of the MINDset team for over a decade. Prior to that, she was integral in the retention marketing program at AOL.