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5 Trends in Pandemic Giving

5 trends in pandemic giving

The world has spent the last few years looking for encouraging signs. The pandemic’s effect on employment, the economy, and our ability to interact has threatened the viability of charities unlike ever before. But despite the immense challenges the pandemic posed, donors proved to be resilient.

Not every nonprofit succeeded, or even survived during the pandemic; but the overall giving trends compiled by Blackbaud in their 2021 Charitable Giving Report are encouraging. The report shows that organizations saw numbers rebound in 2021 after their fundraising was hard-hit by the pandemic in 2020.

These and other pandemic giving trends prove that despite hardships, donors will continue to give to charities they believe in.


Here are 5 trends in pandemic giving that nonprofits should know going forward.


1. Donors gave to new organizations because of the pandemic

In 2020, there was a shift in where affluent households directed their charity. In response to the pandemic’s effect on local communities, more wealthy donors supported local community needs than usual, according to a report by CNBC. The report also states that, “there was an increase in unrestricted gifts,” to give nonprofits more flexibility with major donations.

In the first year of the pandemic, wealthy donors shifted their focus to local organizations, while nonprofits also pivoted to address local communities in the first year of the pandemic. As Ann Limburg, head of philanthropic solutions at Bank of America says in the CNBC report, “What we saw were nonprofits pivoting to find ways to be relevant.”


2. Overall donations increased in 2021

The highlights of the 2021 Charitable Giving Report by Blackbaud shows that of the $46 billion in charitable giving that they tracked in 2021, there was a:

  • 9% overall giving increase in charitable giving
  • 42% three-year increase in online giving
  • 10% increase in overall average gift amount year over year

This trend in pandemic giving shows the resiliency of donors and nonprofit organizations, because both were hit hard by the effects of the pandemic. Everyone was left scrambling to figure out a way forward in 2020. And then they had to get used to the ever-changing “new normal” in 2021. But through it all, donors increased their giving in 2021. This is remarkable considering the difficulties of the last two years.


3. While monetary donations increased, volunteering decreased during the pandemic

Social distancing was a major hurdle that volunteer organizations struggled to overcome during the pandemic. According to a Gallup poll conducted in December of 2021, the percentage of respondents who reported volunteering fell to 56%, which was down from previous years. This drop in volunteering is understandable as people remained concerned about exposure to new variants. The survey concludes that a recovery in volunteering may not occur until the threat of the pandemic is over.


4. Social justice donations increased

The social justice movement of 2020 encouraged an influx in donations to social justice organizations. According to Newsweek, “Donations to causes for racial and social justice from American households rose by 16% in 2020.” The majority of the increased donations came from Black and Asian households in response to the protests and demonstrations happening nationwide.

This increase in donations was largely driven by younger donors who were drawn in by social media.


5. Human services, environment, and animal welfare organizations have had the best giving trend performance

As more wealthy donors focused their charitable giving on local charities, it is not surprising that according to Blackbaud, human services saw the biggest increase in overall giving in 2021. That was followed by charities concerned with the environment second, and animal services third.

The Blackbaud report also shows that nearly every sub sector that they tracked saw an increase in the average overall donation amount in 2021 from the previous year.


“The light at the end of the tunnel” is a phrase that was used often during the pandemic because everyone was desperate for a hopeful sign. The resiliency of donors throughout the pandemic might very well have been the light that everyone was searching for. The 5 trends in pandemic giving show that there is hope for nonprofits after two years of COVID-19.