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Nonprofit Investing Survey results: Fundraising trends in 2021

The majority of the respondents to our survey were staff from nonprofit organizations. They were asked a number of questions about fundraising challenges they face in today’s complex investing environment.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 placed increased pressure on the two key ways nonprofits generate revenue — fundraising and investment returns. COVID-19 led many fundraising staff members to think and act more creatively, investing in technologies and moving from in-person to virtual events to help achieve fundraising goals. It also had an impact on staffing as 58% of surveyed nonprofits report position turnovers within the last 12 months.

Despite the continuation of certain social and economic challenges faced in 2020 going into 2021, nearly 58% of our survey respondents anticipate zero change to their fundraising goal this year and 60% feel their organization sets realistic fundraising goals.

One reason why there may be such a strong resistance to changing fundraising goals is a relatively healthy donor retention rate, as reported by our survey respondents:

What would you estimate your organization's donor retention rate to be in 2020? (The percentage of last year's donors who donated again this year.)

  • Under 5% – 0%
  • 5%-10% – 7.69%
  • 11%-15% – 4.62%
  • 16%-20% – 7.69%
  • 21%-30% – 6.15%
  • 31%-40% – 4.62%
  • 41% or more – 69.23%

Our survey results show that organizations have invested in ample staff, technology and resources to support fundraising efforts. Despite that support, over the past three years, 45% of nonprofit respondents haven’t increased the percentage of revenues coming from fundraising.

Of those nonprofits that fundraise:

  • 45% report between 1-10% of revenue sourced from fundraising efforts
  • 52% employ 5 or more full-time staff members dedicated to fundraising

Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) continue to grow despite the global pandemic

While donor-advised funds seem to be on the rise, 66% of our survey respondents said that they do not currently offer donor-advised funds, and 52% report 10% or less of overall contributions and fundraising goals are donor advised funds.

Our survey respondents reported the following about their DAF offering:

Does your organization offer donor-advised funds?

  • Yes – 33.85%
  • No – 66.15%

What percentage of your organization's assets are in donor advised funds?

  • 5% or less – 40.91%
  • 6%-10% – 13.64%
  • 11%-20% – 9.09%
  • 21%-30% – 13.64%
  • 31%-40% – 9.09%
  • 41%-50% – 9.09%
  • 51% or more – 4.55%

How does your organization sponsor/run the donor advised funds?

  • Directly ourselves: 77.27%
  • Split with an external advisor: 22.73%

How many different external advisors do you partner with in sponsoring donor-advised funds?

  • 10 or less: 80%
  • 11-20 – 20%
  • 21-30 – 0%
  • 31 or more – 0%

What is the asset threshold for your donor advised funds?

  • Under $100k – 72.73%
  • $101k-$250k – 9.09%
  • $251k-$500k – 0%
  • $501k or more – 18.18%

What percent of overall contributions and fundraising goals are donor-advised funds?

  • None – 23.81%
  • 5% or less – 19.05%
  • 6%-10% – 9.52%
  • 11-20% – 9.52%
  • 21%-30% – 14.29%
  • 31%-40% – 19.05%
  • 41%-50% – 0%
  • 51% or more – 4.76%

Is your organization utilizing donor-advised funds specifically towards grants for COVID-19 response?

  • Yes – 27.27%
  • No – 72.73%

While many nonprofits were faced with numerous financial and social challenges in 2020, the fundamental processes for fundraising appear to be intact and most donors continue to respond to giving year over year despite their own financial conditions. For many organizations where donor-advised funds are on the rise, there are several institutions that are catching up and continue to learn about its potential source of revenue for several years to come.

More results from the Nonprofit Investing Survey:

The SEI Nonprofit Management Research Panel completed a comprehensive survey of executives and investment committee members in North America to gauge their views on a numbers of critical components of their organization. The poll was completed by 102 participants, representing nonprofits with endowments ranging in size from $25 million to more than $1 billion. The poll was conducted in January 2021 and will be released in a series of chapters. No clients of SEI were polled.

Want to talk with one of our professionals?

Kendra Kaake, CFA, ASA, ACIA, FRM

Director of Investment Strategy