Research | An evolving Fundraising Climate

publication date: Feb 7, 2021
author/source: CCS Fundraising


This report represents the fourth installment of a series that began in spring 2020. At the time of our first Philanthropic Climate Survey (April 20-May 1, 2020), it primarily served as a vehicle for providing timely information on the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis on nonprofit fundraising.

As months wore on and the pandemic endured, the focus of our survey broadened beyond merely assessing the impact of COVID-19. There are a multitude of factors affecting the nonprofit sector and fundraising today, and it’s often difficult to separate the implications of one element from another. The questions in our fourth-edition survey speak both to COVID-19’s impact on fundraising and to the broader array of current events influencing philanthropy.

Our key findings from this survey edition include:

• The pandemic had mixed effects on fundraising in 2020. Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents reported an increase in fundraising in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while 44% reported a decline. Looking ahead to 2021, 43% said they expect a decline in fundraising, and 27% said they expect an increase.

• Many survey participants said that their nonprofit changed some aspect of its operations in response to the renewed societal focus on racial equity and social justice that emerged this past spring and summer. Fifty-one percent of survey respondents reported that they took “steps to make our workplace more diverse, equitable, and/or inclusive.”

• Many respondents are finding success with virtual major gift solicitations. Fifty-six percent of respondents have conducted a virtual major gift ask so far (via phone, video, or both methods). Of those who have conducted one, a combined 72% reported that their virtual solicitations were as successful (49%) or more successful (23%) than their typical success at securing gifts via inperson solicitation.

• Virtual donor engagement methods may have staying power beyond the pandemic. Forty-three percent of respondents reported that they want to include hybrid virtual/in-person event options even after social distancing requirements are lifted. Thirty-four percent reported that they will include hybrid virtual/in-person options for major gift solicitations post-pandemic.

• Remote work for fundraisers may also be here to stay. About 90% of respondents reported that at least some of their fundraising employees were working remotely at least part of the time in January. Eighty-three percent of respondents were contemplating remote work options for fundraising staff members post-pandemic.

As we begin 2021, we look ahead to the coming year both with optimism from the positive signs for philanthropy we have seen so far, and with recognition that this year will almost certainly bring many challenges for nonprofits as they navigate the “next normal.”

It is CCS’s hope that this report provides nonprofit leaders and fundraisers with helpful contextual information to navigate the year ahead.

CCS is pleased to share the findings from our latest Philanthropic Climate Survey, conducted from January 13 through January 21, 2021. We thank the 1,040 participants from across all nonprofit sectors. To download your free copy of the full report, click here.

If you have any questions about this report or about CCS Fundraising in general, please reach out to

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