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10 Nonprofit Sector Trends for 2021

Are you as ready for 2021 as I am?

COVID-19 brought a slew of challenges for the nonprofit sector this year — but it didn’t get us down!

As always, nonprofits showed their resilience and innovation to overcome a very difficult time.

I’m excited to see the nonprofit world kick things up a notch in 2021. So, in this post, we’re sharing what the experts have to say about what’s to come in the nonprofit sector. Here are ten trends to plan for in fundraising, nonprofit marketing, technology, and partnerships.


Fundraising Trends

How People Give Is Changing

“The pandemic has upended every aspect of our lives, philanthropy included. This report signals a new kind of generosity as people give back to their communities in more imaginative ways, despite facing tremendous challenges. To tap into this generosity, nonprofits and fundraisers should consider providing supporters with creative ways to support the organization’s mission and connect with one another digitally, which is especially valued by women donors.” – Jeannie Sager, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

COVID-19 did not stop people from giving generously. Indiana University’s Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI) released a report showing that 56% of U.S. households engaged in charitable giving during the pandemic.

However, how they’re choosing to give looks different.

Almost half of charitable giving was noncash indirect giving, like supporting restaurants by ordering takeout and continuing to pay businesses for services they could not use.

In 2021, consider asking your supporters for valuable indirect and in-kind gifts. Here are a few things to keep in mind when receiving in-kind gifts:

  • Know the law when it comes to your record keeping. Stay up to date on the IRS’ rules and regulations on in-kind donations.

  • Don’t take in-kind gifts for granted. Send an acknowledgment letter just as you would for a cash gift.

  • Recognize the gift as a cash gift. When recognizing the large in-kind contributions in annual reports, at events, or on your website, research what the retail value is.

Monthly Giving Is On the Up and Up

Most fundraisers know that monthly donors are far more valuable than one-time gifts, no matter what the size. You’ll see an increase in donor-retention without working for the next gift, automated recurring donations will save you time, and donors feel they have a more profound and long term investment with your organization.

With subscription services becoming the norm, more people will be open to the monthly giving model. The State of Modern Philanthropy 2020 revealed that large nonprofits have 26% of their online revenue from recurring gifts — and we predict that this number will continue to grow!

Giving Days Will Keep Getting More Popular

“One of the most interesting trends during the pandemic in terms of revenue has been the consistent overperformance of community giving days. In reviewing data from both dozens of individual giving days as well as larger calls to action like #GivingTuesdayNow, the reality is clear: Communities, nonprofits and individuals will continue to benefit from having a focused day to generate excitement around the work they are passionate about.” – Tim Sarrantonio of Neon One

Growing from #GivingTuesday, giving days are increasing in popularity. Not only did 2020 Giving Tuesday donations increase 25%, but numerous giving days have popped up with a great deal of success.

If you have struggled to take part in giving days effectively, try some of these tactics:

  • Plan early, and send out communications about your campaign with plenty of lead time.

  • Make sure storytelling is central to your campaign.

  • As said earlier in this post, in-kind gifts are on the rise. Consider making non-cash appeals.

  • If your campaign is being swallowed by the hundreds of other campaigns taking place simultaneously, you’re not alone. Consider collaborating with other local organizations to host a giving day apart from large ones like Giving Tuesday.


Nonprofit Marketing Trends

Get Ready for Gen Z

Gen Z’s oldest members turn 25 in 2021, a prime age to cultivate to become donors. This will be the largest consumer generation over the next five years, reaching 82 billion. It will be well worth your time to invest in reaching the newest generation of supporters.

Here’s what you need to do to reach Gen Z in 2021 and beyond:

  • They grew up entirely in the digital world. If Covid-19 didn’t push you to go fully digital, you must do so in 2021 to reach these digital natives.

  • Being deemed “identity nomads,” Gen Z values inclusivity. Make sure you dig deep to ensure your communications are inclusive.

  • They thrive in communities. A recent Facebook report shows that “While they prize their individuality, Gen Zers also crave the connections that communities create, which may explain why there are over 10M+ groups on Facebook, with 1.4B people using them every month.” Create space for community both online and offline to best engage Gen Zers.

  • Gen Z are truth seekers. They will see right through an inauthentic brand. Make sure your organization is both transparent and true to itself.

Video Trends Will Keep Rising

“People want access, authenticity, and transparency. Use video to lift the veil on your work. In this same vein, people prefer to interact with amateur content than super polished and posed accounts.” – Julia Campbell, Nonprofit Digital Marketing Consultant

If you aren’t using video in your nonprofit marketing, you’re missing a crucial opportunity. A recent Google survey revealed video trends for nonprofits that you can’t ignore:

  • YouTube is the top video platform.

  • 79% of donors reported that online video ads were the most useful online media marketing they saw

  • Video ads tied with email ads garnered the highest and fastest levels of engagement.

  • 39% of people who watch a video lookup the organization within a day of viewing it.

  • 57% of people who watch a video for a nonprofit donate.

In 2021, make video creation and live streaming a key part of your content plan. Check out our The Ultimate Guide to Live Video Streaming on Social Media for Nonprofits for a step-by-step guide on six social media platforms and lots of inspiration to get you started.

Time to Get In On Stories

Disappearing content, also called ephemeral content, are pictures and videos posted on social media that disappears within 24 hours. What started on Snapchat has been adopted by platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn.

This kind of content is only growing in popularity. Disappearing content is an easy and affordable way for your organization to reach and engage with your audiences. Here are the top advantages of using disappearing content features:

  • Show your organization’s human side, allowing your supporters and audiences to feel connected to your mission and work.

  • Easily create engaging content by sharing poll, question, and quiz stickers

  • Collaborate with partners and influencers through Q&A interviews

  • Fundraise right from stories using the donation sticker


Nonprofit Technology Trends

It’s Time: Digital is Now First 

“Today, ‘the best experience anywhere is the expected experience everywhere’. Meaning we’re all now held to the same benchmarks as Amazon, Starbucks and other for-profit companies.” – Emily Eakin, Traction on Demand Principal Strategist

The nonprofit world experienced a digital transformation in 2020. For those who may have been dragging their feet to adapt to technology, COVID-19 was the big push they needed to put digital first.

In 2021, the nonprofit industry will continue to adopt digital experiences, like investing in new online fundraising tools, optimizing social media, SMS texting, and gamification. Now is the time to focus your efforts on engaging tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Z.

Virtual Events Are Here to Stay

“Virtual events are here to stay. Your organization can’t continue to ignore the momentum of the past 30 years. Access to virtual events was, is, and will be what your audience expects. Organizations must get out of the once-a-year-conference-hosting mentality to be intentional about connecting, informing, inspiring, and being relevant and present always. Virtual provides that option.” – Sarah Sladek, XYZ University LLC Founder and CEO

COVID-19 forced nonprofits worldwide to do the unthinkable and cancel their most significant fundraising events of the year. In turn, we saw nonprofits embrace virtual fundraising events, with many having great success — our virtual event report revealed that 56% of virtual event organizers reached their event goals in 2020.

Let’s take the Chinatown Health Clinic Foundation in New York City, for example. They canceled their May gala, which was their largest fundraising event of the year. Within a month, they organized a virtual gala, which included online appeals from celebrities and recognized community leaders — and they exceeded their gala fundraising goal!

Chinatown Health Clinic Foundation

While we’ll be back to “normal” sooner than we know it, virtual events are not going anywhere. They allow for supporters with geographic or physical limitations to take part and have opened up all kinds of new and creative ways to engage attendees and sponsors.

In 2021, virtual event attendees are going to expect highly engaging experiences. Wild Apricot’s 2020 Virtual Events Research Report for Membership Organizations report found that virtual events that didn’t engage attendees were 150% more likely to be unsuccessful.


Partnership Trends

Better Together: Nonprofit and For-Profit Partnerships

“In 2020, we continued to see the lines blur between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, and we expect this to continue into 2021. On one hand, consumers and employees alike are demanding that businesses add more purpose to their profit-centric model. On the other hand, we see nonprofits borrowing heavily from successful for-profit companies in search of a more scalable and sustainable growth model.”- Scot Chisholm, Classy CEO and Co-Founder

In 2021, we will see a rise in cross-sector partnerships. In 2020, several social justice movements took center stage. People expect that companies be value-driven and take an ethical stand. This is good news for the nonprofit sector, as companies will be seeking meaningful collaborations and relationships with nonprofits.

Don’t be afraid to take the lead. Reach out to for-profit businesses for sponsorship and partnership opportunities.

Volunteering Looks Different 

While COVID-19 changed in-person volunteering opportunities, it didn’t deter people from giving back and volunteering virtually. Just like virtual events, virtual volunteerism is going to be a permanent fixture in the nonprofit industry. Here are a few reasons why:

  • It allows people with busy schedules to volunteer on their time.

  • It gives opportunities to people with geographic and physical limitations.

  • It engages Millennial and Gen Z digital pros.

Not sure how to engage volunteers virtually? Here are a few ways:

  • Virtual mentorship opportunities

  • Translation services

  • Remote admin tasks like research, email marketing, social media management, graphic design, and fundraising calls.

  • Expert consultation, like legal advice, marketing strategy, and fundraising coaching.


This blog post by Tatiana Morand was published on Wild Apricot. Read the original here


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