October 23, 2021

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7 In 10 Nonprofits Struggling With Pandemic-Forced Digital Fundraising Pivot: Report

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Ninety-seven percent of nonprofits affirmed the need to innovate in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent study published by CAF America.

Volume 6 of ‘Future-Proofing Nonprofits For the Post-Pandemic World: The Voice of Charities Facing COVID-19 Series,’ released last month, surveyed 805 nonprofit organizations, 57.76% of whom reported having between 1 and 20 employees.

The report includes responses collected between March 2020 and December 2020, from nonprofits in 152 countries. Their collective scope of work included social services (45.56%); education (44.54%); health care (29.19%) and human rights (21.45%), among other niches. As for whom they serve: 73.25% reported working with children and youth; 47.72% work with people with disabilities; 39.92% work with the elderly; 35.48% work with the unemployed; 27.55% work with the homeless; 21.77% work with refugees; and 8.33% work with veterans.

Asked simply if their organization was negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the answer was a near-universal yes, but there was a slight dip during the summer months — 96.50% said yes in March 2020, but that number dropped to 90.40% in June. In December, the figure had risen to 93.07%.

Asked about the innovations they implemented in 2020, the top response, at 73.94%, was ‘adapting programming to the digital realm.’ Nonprofits also said that was their most successful innovation — 62.84% said they were successful at this adaptation.

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Other innovations were deemed less successful by respondents: 57.42% said they created new fundraising strategies and campaigns, but only 31.42% described those efforts as successful.

Comparing the implemented strategies against what were considered successful shifts reflected deep frustration from the nonprofits and their various efforts: 45.68% said they implemented collaboration or partnerships with other nonprofits to coordinate response, but only 27.25% called that effort successful; 42.45% said they modified existing grant agreements, but only 20.60% did so with success; 30.06% shifted staff roles, but only 16.95% said they did so with success.

Nonprofits were asked, across six priority areas — technology, communication, finance, fundraising, leadership, and diversity, equity and inclusion — where they identified opportunities to improve. 71.05% said they could use support or advice to use communication more effectively for fundraising and resource mobilization; 75.60% are looking for support or advice on finding new ways to fundraise through digital technology; and 69.24% are seeking support or advice on cultivating new and existing donors to diversity funding sources.

Asked the percentage of their board of directors who belong to the marginalized or underserved populations they support, 41.69% of responding nonprofits said 0%; another 21.92% said between 1-25%.

The 13-page report can be downloaded here, with a corresponding webinar here.

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