Pivot to Virtual Events Helps Nonprofits Sustain 2020 Fundraising Goals

By Jenna Jameson, Corporate Communications Manager at OneCause

 

Nonprofits across the country continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 on their fundraising. The pandemic has been a catalyst for innovation and experimentation, as organizations were compelled to find new online revenue streams to supplement projected revenue from in-person fundraising events.

In our recent report, Fundraising Through a Pandemic, we wanted to examine where nonprofits are finding success and how they are planning for the future. We conducted an online survey of 1,997 nonprofit professionals sharing how the pandemic impacted their budgets and strategies, insights from their virtual fundraising pivots, and their outlook for 2021.

The findings are presented to help nonprofits continue to navigate the new virtual fundraising landscape, and also guide those who are still undecided with actionable data to inform their annual fundraising plans. Here are a few key findings from the report:

Cancelled events had an impact on fundraising budgets.

COVID-19’s impact on fundraising is overwhelmingly the number one challenge cited by nonprofits in the survey. Overall, 56% of nonprofits report raising less than budgeted, while approximately one-third are raising in line with expectations, and 11% are raising more than their original goals. Other top challenges of the year include donor engagement, year-over-year fundraising growth, donor fatigue, and recurring giving.

Almost all nonprofits surveyed (98%) typically hold one or more fundraising events annually. Because social distancing orders came at the height of the spring fundraising season, the impact was real and wide-ranging. This year 48% had to cancel and 40% postponed at least one event.

Nonprofits that pivoted to virtual events are more likely to be raising at or above their budgets.

While some organizations put their event fundraising on hold, 62% of nonprofits converted to a virtual fundraising event and 16% converted to a hybrid event. The good news is that the majority of those who pivoted to virtual events (70%) describe the event as successful. In fact, those that converted to a virtual or hybrid event were 10% more likely to be raising more or at their original fundraising budget than those who cancelled events. Only 3% felt their virtual event was not successful at all.

According to those who were very successful with their virtual events, mobile optimization and creative donation options are most important when engaging a virtual event audience. Switching between livestream and recorded content and social media integrations were also considered very important. Deepening human connections and inspiring giving in a virtual world is the new donor currency every fundraiser needs for success. It’s through technology supported giving experiences that nonprofits are able to expand reach virtually to connect with supporters and drive impact online.

Events remain an important part of 2021 nonprofit fundraising strategy.

According to those surveyed, engaging and retaining known donors is by far the most important goal for nonprofits in 2021. A majority of the nonprofits are planning to connect with donors through event fundraising. 78% of nonprofits surveyed are planning to host one or more events next year. We found 45% of those surveyed are optimistic about holding an in-person event. 21% of nonprofits remain undecided as to their 2021 event fundraising plans.

Many nonprofits (42%) are preparing to expand into hybrid events to drive better engagement and higher impact with both in-person and virtual attendees. For those venturing into hybrid strategies for the first time, a heightened focus on creating a seamless, dual giving experience that brings a mission to life, fosters donor affinity and inspires giving will be especially important.

2020 will be marked as the beginning of a massive change in the way nonprofits fundraise and connect with donors. Those that took the leap to virtual fundraising are finding success and new levels of engagement with their supporters. We encourage all nonprofits to continue to try new approaches and expand their online fundraising footprint.

The full report, Fundraising Through a Pandemic, is available for free to download on the OneCause website.