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Pursuant’s yearly report consolidates findings from industry studies and recommends a path to recovery for a sector hard hit by the effects of the pandemic


Pursuant, a full-service fundraising agency with a proprietary fundraising analytics platform for nonprofit organizations, recently released its annual “Giving Outlook” report complete with findings from major industry studies as well as recommendations for how nonprofits can respond to one of the most challenging fundraising environments in recent memory.

Synthesizing conclusions from sector standbys, such as Giving USA 2020 and Blackbaud donorCentrics’ Index of Direct Marketing Fundraising, the report traces charitable giving in 2019 and reviews 2020’s emerging trends. Counted in inflation-adjusted dollars, important results from last year include:

  • Overall philanthropic giving reached $449.64 billion, an increase of 2.4 percent from 2018.
  • Individual giving grew 2.8 percent from 2018, a notable turnaround from the decline it experienced between 2017 and 2018.
  • Except for nonprofits focused on international affairs, donations to all categories of nonprofits—health, the environment, and education, for example—were up in 2019.

Although the nonprofit sector has suffered from a donor-loyalty crisis for some time, estimates for total donations in 2020 and 2021 were expected to exceed the historical 10-, 25- and 40-year annualized average rates of growth.

The events of this year—the global public health crisis, civil unrest, uncertainty around U.S. elections, a poor economy—have chipped away at those expectations. According to a CCS Fundraising survey, more than half of respondents saw reductions in fundraising through the first half of 2020. While glimmers of positivity shine through—donations made through direct mail outreach are up 4.9% from 2019, for instance—the report characterizes 2020 as a year of disruption.

“We’ve never seen disruption at the pace we have right now,” says Jennifer Bielat, Executive Vice President of Client Strategy at Pursuant. “How we respond to that as an industry and to the needs of our donors is going to set the stage for our future.”

Yet Pursuant’s “Giving Outlook” report also describes 2020 as a year of innovation, an opportunity for nonprofits to leverage tools not available in past recessions. The biggest differentiator in that regard, says Matthew Mielcarek, Vice President, Analytics & Insights Strategy at Pursuant and a coauthor of the company’s 2020 “Giving Outlook,” is our access to an ever-expanding dataset.

“Data gives us early insight into changing behaviors as they are happening. It helps to see the opportunity for greatest impact,” he says. “We need to stop thinking about data as a byproduct of transactions but as the core product that makes up the development side of the house.”

Bielat and Mielcarek provided examples from Pursuant clients during a recent webinar that previewed the report. One example featured a healthcare nonprofit that sought to determine whether new donors, spurred by the pandemic, would continue to support the organization once the crisis ends, a situation many nonprofits now find themselves in. Through GivingDNA, the nonprofit was able to determine which new donors were more likely to stay on and which had the capacity to increase their donations.

The report concludes with four recommendations for nonprofits:

  • Map the GivingDNA of donors. Tools like Pursuant ‘s GivingDNA platform, an augmented intelligence platform, offer nonprofits a powerful mechanism for recalibrating budgets and revenue forecasts. Coupled with the company’s deep roster of seasoned fundraisers, GivingDNA has the potential to not only stabilize nonprofit budgets but to increase revenues as well.
  • Forecast potential growth scenarios. Identifying future growth possibilities is a critical aspect of strategic planning, and Pursuant’s Concierge Giving team can provide expert support.
  • Reevaluate programs to ensure they’re still meeting needs. By assessing program opportunities with budget goals, strategic decision-making is strengthened.
  • Develop infrastructure to activate plans. Add a tool that doesn’t require CRM migration, substantial data integration, or creates another technology silo.

A recording of the webinar is available here, and Pursuant’s 2020 “Giving Outlook: Finding Growth in Radical Disruption” can be downloaded for free here.

About the Pursuant Group
The Pursuant Group empowers nonprofits to focus on their missions, not processes and fundraising. Through services and products rooted in analytics and insights, the company’s team of nonprofit practitioners and technologists has provided expert guidance since 2001. From direct response agency services to augmented intelligence technologies, the Pursuant Group provides comprehensive solutions to nonprofits’ fundraising challenges.