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Viewpoint: Despite a better-than-anticipated 2020, nonprofits need your support

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Stephanie Cory

By Stephanie Cory
Guest Columnist

With changes to the federal tax code, economic uncertainty and a global pandemic, nonprofit board members and staff were justified in being pessimistic about fundraising in 2020. Surprisingly, however, total giving in the United States grew from $449.64 billion in 2019 to $471.44 billion in 2020, according to Giving USA. This just-released data is in line with ongoing year-over-year growth.

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project reports that the growth of donors in 2020 is continuing into 2021 with the highest first quarter donor growth since data collection began in 2004. This, combined with the news from Giving USA, makes it seem like the nonprofit sector is stronger than ever. Let’s not be overly optimistic and think fundraising can continue as is.

Thanks to individual and institutional donors who stepped up with additional support to help the sector, many nonprofit organizations weathered 2020 better than anticipated. The challenge now is: how does this fundraising momentum continue in 2021 and beyond? What does this mean to you as a Delaware Business Times reader? Now is not the time to reduce your generous support to the nonprofit organizations you support.

Nonprofit organizations that rely heavily on revenue from fundraising events tended to see reduced sponsorship and ticket sales in 2020 as events moved online. Running a 5K race on your own or donning your evening wear for a virtual gala were not as attractive to many as in-person events. Event committees are challenged now to figure out how to safely transition events back to in-person gatherings that sponsors and other supporters will want to be part of.

The pandemic’s effects on event-based fundraising underscores the need for the nonprofit sector to identify more sustainable ways to keep donors engaged and identify new donors. Well-designed fundraising events have their place in a diversified revenue plan, but it is critical for donors like you to support the organizations close to them outside of events.

With Delaware beginning to reopen, many nonprofit organizations are able to resume services that had to be suspended or moved virtually last year. For some, this means an uptick in revenue from ticket sales or fees charged. For others, this means addressing increased needs without an opportunity for securing additional non-fundraising revenue.

As a member of the business community, please begin, maintain, or expand your support of nonprofit organizations whose missions resonate with you. Sponsor an organization or one of their events through your business. Donate your time as a board member or hands-on volunteer. Give generously personally if you can. Without your support, Delaware’s nonprofit sector will not be able to thrive.


Stephanie Cory is the president of the Brandywine Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and principal of Stephanie Cory Consulting.

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