Charitable giving remains strong despite COVID-19 pandemic: survey

Upsplash/Joel Muniz

Giving to charity in the U.S. remains strong despite the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study of donors and their attitudes.

The report, which is called Charitable Giving in the Wake of COVID-19 and was conducted in May and June, found that 85% of 1,079 U.S. donors who were surveyed online expect the amount they regularly give to charity to remain at last year’s level or increase in the latter half of this year.

Fewer than 10% of donors intend to shift support to new or different causes as a result of COVID-19, and over 70% who financially contributed to pandemic relief efforts said those donations were “over and above” their normal giving, the report also found.

"Our clients during the first part of the pandemic started receiving very generous gifts and these nonprofit leaders were elated but they were also concerned that these gifts would be the last they would see this year and would potentially curtail services to vulnerable populations," said Paul Martin, a senior partner with DickersonBakker, in a phone interview with The Christian Post Tuesday.

But those concerns are not warranted, he said.

Founded in 1985, DickersonBakker is a professional consulting firm that has been working with nonprofit clients — rescue missions, colleges, Christian ministries, and faith-based entities — for over 30 years.

Leaders of nonprofit organizations should be confident to look beyond the economic shutdown and plan for the future beyond short-term efforts, Martin said. 

The study surveyed donors who contributed between $1,000 to $1 million and showed that approximately 60% expect that their giving will remain the same as last year’s, and a quarter of respondents said they expect to increase their gifts in the remainder of the year.

Only one-in-six donors expect to give less, and fewer than one-in-20 anticipate a substantial drop in their giving for the rest of the year.

"Regardless of the pandemic, faith-based donors plan to maintain or grow their support of nonprofits. In fact, 85% of those donors who give over $1,000 a year to at least one nonprofit are likely to give the same or more before the end of this calendar year."

U.S. donors appear to be optimistic about the economic recovery in the coming months, according to Paul Virts, who led the study and observed that over a third of those surveyed report their financial situation is better now than last year.

“Nearly two-thirds expect the economy will rebound by the end of 2020 or by the middle of 2021 at the latest,” Virts said in a statement to CP.

“Only a small minority — 9 percent — say they don’t expect the economy to recover to pre-pandemic levels for a very long time.”

Nonprofit group leaders will have to adapt their appeal strategies in light of quickly-changing circumstances, especially as the end of the year approaches.

The fall fundraising season is a particularly important time of the year for nonprofits and will produce “winners and losers,” said Derric Bakker, president of DickersonBakker.

“In this environment, donors are clearly being more vigilant in their giving, and nonprofit fundraisers who are complacent in presenting a strong case — or who are not attentive to donors’ needs — will likely pay a price,” he stressed.

Martin added that he believes these trying circumstances brought about by COVID-19 have yielded an opportunity for the furtherance of the Gospel.

Donors "see an opportunity for evangelism and discipleship but they also see an opportunity to reach out to those vulnerable populations here in the U.S., perhaps at rescue missions or abroad through global missions," he said.

"Overwhelmingly, donors are generous. When nonprofits ask us, 'Hey, some of our people have lost their job or maybe their businesses are not as productive and profitable as they once were,' the advice that we give those leaders of nonprofits is: Don't make decisions for your donors, let them make the decisions," he said.

"God may have called them to a specific place and their ministry is to be able to fulfill that donation, so let them."

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