The Impact of COVID-19 on Nonprofits and the Outlook for 2021

During a year of unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits and other businesses have dealt with waves of constant change and uncertainty. Throughout forced closures, months of remote work, and inconsistent reopening plans, nonprofits have constantly adjusted by implementing strategies like virtual nonprofit fundraising to stay afloat.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Nonprofit Fundraising

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All nonprofit organizations rely heavily on fundraising, especially through charity events, for operation. As the pandemic began to spread, many organizations had to adjust to remote work and face the harsh reality of event cancellations.

The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic showed a bleak March and April. Most countries faced strict shutdowns and limited in-person interactions for essential business only. With heavy limitations on numbers for in-person gatherings, nonprofits began to shift their plans for scheduled fundraising events.

Forced closures of event venues called for previous fundraising plans to be revisited. Limited reopenings and event capacities also impacted plans while nonprofits were constantly adapting to the new guidelines.

Virtual Nonprofit Fundraising During a Pandemic

One of the major impacts seen by all industries during the COVID-19 pandemic was the sharp switch to remote working conditions and the cancellation of most in-person events. Adapting to these new conditions, nonprofits continue to strategize ways to make virtual communication effective.

Nonprofits that have successfully navigated through the pandemic relied heavily on digital marketing and fundraising tactics. Organizations switched their efforts to social media and email campaigns. Many planned in-person events became virtual fundraisers. Check out the previous link to download WealthEngine’s free step-by-step guide for successfully hosting these online events.

While organizations are still adjusting as new phases are implemented throughout different states, the emphasis on virtual fundraising allowed nonprofits to function during the pandemic. These continued efforts include virtual fundraisers, ongoing email marketing campaigns, and strategic social media content to keep donors engaged with the mission.

Effects of Remote Work on Nonprofits

As businesses shut down and employees began to telecommute, remote work became the new normal for most during the pandemic. This caused a heavy reliance on Zoom meetings, Slack, and email communications. 

The switch to remote work impacted the way employees performed their jobs. This change also caused adaptations in most aspects of daily life.

Working Remotely: Pros and Cons

The new normal that emerged in 2020 saw many employees navigating their new work-from-home environments with little preparation. The shift to remote work was abrupt, and organizations have begun seeing the pros and cons of having employees work from home.

Flexibility is a huge plus for remote work. Previously, many employees found themselves trying to balance their work and home lives, including things like child care and screen time hours. The lack of commute time and the ability to use their computer almost anywhere, means employees working remotely function on their schedules as needed.

Virtual communication can be a downside when working from home. Zoom calls and Slack messages make it hard for employees to connect. 

This can make collaborative efforts challenging. Without the usual office banter, workers can feel isolated and may struggle to effectively communicate with coworkers and complete projects.

Remote work presents another con due to the lack of work/personal life boundaries. Constant access to computers and no real separation between the office and home can make it difficult for employees to set clear working hours. 

Remote work has caused a shift in employee habits. Flexibility will remain a high priority for those working remotely long term.

Interacting With Donors

The COVID-19 pandemic halted most in-person meetings during 2020. For nonprofits that rely on donor interactions, this shift has impacted the way organizations communicate. 

While meaningful interactions with donors remain crucial to success, these conversations have moved online for the time being. Many nonprofit donors are seeing a shift to email and social media communications.

Content like newsletters and Instagram posts have played a huge role in keeping donors up-to-date. Virtual fundraisers have offered ways to connect and encourage continued contributions to the organization’s mission.

Due to the reliance on virtual communication, nonprofits have had to find new ways to engage with donors to maintain their relationships.

2020 Nonprofit Fundraising Statistics

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Nonprofit fundraising statistics play a significant role in predicting trends for the next year. With the unusual circumstances surrounding 2020, much of this data can be used to show exactly how the pandemic affected the nonprofit sector.

The impact of COVID-19 on nonprofit operations resulted in 75% of organizations making cuts to their budgets. This sounds concerning, but the ability to work virtually allowed for budget cuts that helped nonprofits stay afloat while adjusting to new pandemic guidelines.

During the second quarter, nonprofits saw a 7.2% increase in total donors. As the pandemic began to affect daily life, organizations were lucky to see more donors contributing to their respective causes. 

Overall, donations less than $250 saw a 19.2% increase. This means many organizations benefited from small donations made by new or existing donors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

GivingTuesday saw a 29% increase of donors on December 2nd with 34.8 million people participating in charitable giving. This led to a 25% increase in total numbers compared to money raised in 2019.

Despite a year of change and uncertainty, many of the statistics show a positive year for nonprofits.

Moving Forward: Long term Outlook and 2021 Predictions

As the pandemic continues to shape 2021’s economy, nonprofits will see the need for flexibility remain a key consideration in planning. With vaccine accessibility and downwards trending case numbers, it is possible for in-person work and fundraising to resume in 2021.

Nonprofits can expect an opportunity to build public trust in the coming year. There seems to be a continued trend with social justice movements and philanthropic giving. Virtual fundraisers and networking events may integrate into the new normal.

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down, nonprofits will continue to see lasting effects on their structures. Remote work may be the new normal, and digital engagement will remain important for donor retention.

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