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Nonprofit Investing Survey results: Fundraising trends in 2021

clock 5 MIN READ

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.

As reported in The National Philanthropic Trust’s most recent Donor-Advised Fund Report,1 total grants from DAFs to qualified charities have nearly doubled in the last five years. In combination with their Donor-Advised Fund COVID Grantmaking Survey,2 which reflects self-reported data from DAF sponsors on the DAF philanthropic response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020, there has been a positive response from DAF donors to the global pandemic. DAF grants to charitable organizations increased 29.8% by dollar value in the first six months of 2020 compared to the first six months of 2019.2

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:

1 Source: National Philanthropic Trust, 14th annual Donor-Advised Fund Report, 2020
2 Source: National Philanthropic Trust, Donor-Advised Fund COVID Grantmaking Survey, 2021


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. No clients of SEI were polled.

This information is provided by SEI Investments Management Corporation (SIMC), a registered investment adviser and wholly owned subsidiary of SEI Investments Company (SEI). Investing involves risk including possible loss of principal. There can be no assurance that your investment objectives will be achieved nor that risk can be managed successfully. International investments may involve risk of capital loss from unfavorable fluctuation in currency values, from differences in generally accepted accounting principles or from economic or political instability in other nations. Emerging markets involve heightened risks related to the same factors as well as increased volatility and lower trading volume. Bonds and bond funds will decrease in value as interest rates rise. High yield bonds involve greater risks of default or downgrade and are more volatile than investment grade securities, due to the speculative nature of their investments.

This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as legal opinion or advice.

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