With the positive economic environment right now, most capital campaigns are really taking off in 2021. We’re seeing some interesting new capital campaign trends among our clients’ capital campaigns, and wanted share them here.

As we’ve seen with many of our clients, your capital campaign can be a booming success with a few strategic efforts. Donors are feeling wealthy right now, and they are often ready to move forward and discuss how they can help. Take advantage of these capital campaign trends for 2021:

1. Taking Advantage of the Soaring Stock Market

Most donors make larger gifts when they see strong growth trends in the stock market. As we mentioned above, they “feel” wealthier.

Because the stock market has grown so much over the past few years, investors are enjoying record high stock appreciation and profits.

It’s a wonderful time to remind donors about the benefits of giving appreciated stock. Not only can donors avoid capital gains taxes, but they can also gain significant tax deductions from their charitable contributions.

For example, a donor purchased stocks for an average $100 per share, investing a total of $10,000. Ten years later, the stocks could now be worth $280/share. The donor’s original investment is now worth $28,000.

By making the gift of the fully appreciated stock, the donor avoids capital gains taxes and gets to help their favorite organization with a significant campaign gift.

Takeaway: Many donors have extensive paper profits from the high stock market. Don’t forget to gently inquire about giving with assets other than cash.

2. More Transparent Messaging

We are seeing a strong trend toward more specific, much more transparent communications with major donors. Organizations that are sharing their status openly and honestly with their donors are receiving more support.

All along, donors have shared that they dislike formal, lofty language from the organizations they support. All the acronyms and nonprofit-speak puts them off, and dampens their enthusiasm.

During the pandemic, nonprofits are talking about their work very differently. Our clients are being frank with their supporters. They’re sharing exactly what is going on financially, and what they really need. As a result, donors are responding generously.

Our Major Gift Coaching client, Historic Columbus worried about a serious drop in contributions last year just about this time. We suggested to the Executive Director that she choose 20 major donors, communicate often with them via email and share an update of how the organization was adapting.

A few months later, out of the blue, one of the donors suddenly gifted $40,000. The donor explained that he appreciated the Executive Director’s frequent communications, and the transparency she showed in being perfectly open about the numbers.

Capital campaign trend takeaway: When your financial situation shifts – or when you have a major opportunity like a capital campaign – it is more important than ever to be transparent with your donors.

3. More Straightforward Conversations with Donors

For over a year, fundraisers have not been able to meet and greet our donors. No more coffees, lunches, meetings, gatherings. All the schmoozing of major gift and capital campaign work evaporated as we shifted to shut down for the pandemic. All the “fluff” of major gift fundraising went down the drain.

As a result, we were forced into absolutely direct conversations with our donors. No more oblique dancing those awkward discovery and qualification questions.

Now, we are training our clients to move right along with their donors, to find out what they are interested in. Be ready to ask your donors, in a very straightforward manner:

“Could you see yourself becoming more involved with our work?”

“Would you like to know more about how you can help?

As a result, our clients are saving so much time by finding out quickly which donors are interested, and which ones are not.

Capital campaign trend takeaway: It’s easy to find your most passionate supporters by asking a few direct questions.

4. Donors are Ready to Discuss Their Gifts Early in the Campaign

In this environment where donors are feeling wealthy, and nonprofits are directly discussing their needs with donors, good things can happen quickly.

For example, our campaign clients are seeing extraordinary results with one simple question:

“Would this be a good time to discuss your support of our campaign?”

This polite question is usually easy to ask. For instance, one of our clients closed a $100,000 gift the first time she asked this question. The next time she asked it, she closed a $250,000 gift.

Note that both of these gifts came in without a formal campaign ask. We just coached her to look for the right signals, and then be ready to gently pose the question. Note: she was on the phone or zoom for both of these conversations – in a digital format.

Takeaway: You can close major campaign gifts by asking your donor about their timing. Many of your donors are more ready than you may think.

Bottom Line: Capital Campaign Trends for 2021

Remember, the fundraising outlook for 2021 and 2022 is very positive. Make sure you prepare and seize this ripe opportunity.

Take advantage of these new capital campaign trends. Be willing to be transparent, direct and straightforward with your donors. You’ll see terrific results.

Don’t forget, we are happy to arrange a free campaign strategy call if you are in the process of planning a capital campaign.

With a new year comes a hopeful new outlook.  We’re all glad to see 2020 go.

What a year it has been: we suffered through a terrible pandemic, disruption of our lives, families, workplaces, a volatile political climate, and much more. What’s worse, these issues are not over. They will continue impacting our lives – and fundraising – well into 2021.

Yet there are some silver linings.

We saw immense dedication and dogged commitment on the part of nonprofit leaders and fundraisers. And, we saw creative fundraisers take advantage of new opportunities offered by the virtual environment.

Based on What’s Happened in 2020, Here’s our Forecast for Upcoming Fundraising Trends for 2021:

1. Giving is up.  And all signs are that it will remain up.

Many nonprofits experienced critical revenue shortfalls from reduced service fees, ticket sales, and admissions. As a result, donors responded with record amounts of charitable donations.

2020 saw a surge in the entire scale of giving – from small gifts to major donors to new estate commitments. More people than ever were giving and at greater amounts than usual.

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project of AFP found that the first 9 months of 2020 saw an impressive increase of 7.6% over 2019.

Big institutional funders and foundations also stepped up to increase giving in 2020. Through September, Fidelity Charitable grant volume increased 30% over the same time period in 2019.

In 2021, we expect that donors will continue to be interested, open to nonprofit messages, and willing to help.

2. Donor fatigue is a myth.

Asks were everywhere, and donors gave.

The successful organizations laid their cases for support out plainly. In addition, they explained their financial situations clearly. Even more, they pulled appropriate emotional triggers – and donors responded.

Again and again and again, donors responded.

Even with the vast amount of political fundraising going on all year, donors continued contributing to their favorite nonprofits – and new ones too.

Why do fundraisers complain about donor fatigue? It’s because of sloppy fundraising.

Fundraisers keep going to the same donors over and over, exhausting those donors. And fundraisers talk too much about the money, not about the impact.

We predict donors will continue to respond generously in 2021, if they are approached with finesse and skill. 

3. Organizations that continue to invest in fundraising will see solid returns.

Many institutions slashed budgets early in 2020, and furloughed their fundraising staff.

These organizations forgot an important point – their fundraising teams were nurturing generous revenue streams. So what happened when fundraising staff was furloughed? The revenue quickly dried up!

On the other hand, many forward-thinking nonprofits managed to keep their staff and continue operating their fundraising programs.

These groups were able to stay in front of their donors with solid asks. As a result, they were able to ride the surge in donations and keep essential revenue streams flowing in the door.

And, these nonprofits saw a very nice ROI on their fundraising expenses.

Organizations that invest in fundraising will see an even greater growth in fundraising revenue. This will be true for 2021, and will never change.

4. New respect for digital strategies in the major gift world.

The new virtual world threatened to upend major gift fundraising.

But our clients persevered. Surprisingly, we all learned that digital could be a highly effective major donor engagement tool.

What’s more, we discovered that donors were happy to engage with us on the phone or zoom. Even more, going digital meant we could save time while connecting with donors more deeply.

Now, fundraisers could no longer rely on donor parties, lunches and committees as engagement tools. In this new world, we had to personally connect with donors, and talk to them about what mattered.

We predict that major gift fundraising will never be the same. Donor engagement does not have to be face-to-face anymore.  

5. Capital campaigns can absolutely succeed in the digital environment.

We encouraged our capital campaign clients to keep moving forward and they did, with success.

Feasibility studies went smoothly in 2020. We found that donors were just as happy (some were happier!) to talk to us over zoom or the phone as they were in person.

We helped clients stage virtual campaign events. Even more, we delivered capital campaign training to board members. And we guided major asks  – all virtually, and all successfully.

In 2021 capital campaigns will now be organized and executed with a combination of virtual and in-person strategies. 

6. Fundraising continues to become more sophisticated.

New advances in knowledge are yielding helpful new advances in fundraising.

For example, artificial intelligence is just beginning to show us its benefits, especially in the area of identifying stronger donor prospects and saving us time.

And behavioral economics is revealing how to nudge donors toward a gift rather than turning them off.

We are all coming to understand donor psychology better: what really warms our donors’ hearts?  And what emotional triggers will encourage them to be generous.

We predict that these tools will help fundraising become even more successful in 2021 and the coming years. 

7. Giving Days just keep getting stronger and stronger.

2020 saw not one, but two Giving Tuesdays – and both were hugely successful.

In December, 2020’s annual Giving Tuesday yielded a whopping 25% more than the previous year, with 29% more donors participating.

In addition, many organizations and institutions are staging their own proprietary Giving Days with solid success.

Giving Days are successful because they:

  • Add a note of gamification and fun to the fundraising process
  • Reach new donors
  • Provide urgently needed unrestricted gifts

Since Giving Days are still somewhat new, they are gaining more and more visibility. They will continue to grow as important fundraising tools in 2021 and beyond.

8. Virtual events and galas can succeed nicely. 

We continued to be surprised by so many very successful virtual events and galas.

Several organizations in our Major Gift Intensive saw higher totals from virtual events than from previous in-person events.

Many unforeseen benefits occurred when pivoting virtual, including:

  • Event costs were slashed (no more flowers, food, venue, insurance or music)
  • Staff saved vast amounts of time
  • Loyal financial sponsors pulled through
  • Many more people could attend the event on a virtual platform


Thank goodness we may never see galas like before. Virtual events will become a reliable alternative moving into 2021.  

Bottom Line: Our Predictions on Fundraising Trends for 2021

There’s a lot of opportunity hidden within a disrupted environment. Smart institutions will be opportunistic, agile and creative  – and they’ll see tremendous success.

Follow these fundraising trends for 2021, and seize the opportunity!


As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If you want to build and expand your major and principal gifts programs in 2021, keep an eye on your inbox. Applications will open soon for our 2021 Major Gifts Intensive.

Wishing you a prosperous and positive start to 2021!

Remember April, when we were all clenching our teeth and thinking “Oh wow, this is not the year for fundraising. How will we get through it?” 

Well, it turns out recent data proves that 2020 is actually a great year for fundraising.

So if you were one of those organizations who didn’t hold back and kept at your fundraising in the spring – Good Job! 

Why 2020 is a Good Year for Fundraising 

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that giving was up 7.5% in the first half of 2020 based on results from the widely respected Fundraising Effectiveness Project (AFP, 2020). This project works with over 25,000 nonprofits and donor software providers to track and identify quarterly gain/loss findings for the nonprofit sector. 

And what’s more, it wasn’t just the wealthy who were behind the rise. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported gifts of $250 or less rose 19.2%, accounting for a big part of the growth (COP, 2020).

This means that donors are pouring out contributions to their favorite nonprofits – right now. This also means that your steadfast supporters are feeling generous – and they want to help. 

And, there’s more good news in this report: 

Major gifts are up by 6.4% compared to this time last year. And mid-level gifts are up even more – by 8.1%! 

“the number of mid-level gifts ($250 – $999) and major gifts ($1,000 or more) saw year-over-year increases of 8.1% and 6.4%, respectively, compared to 2019 data.” (AFP, 2020)

Wow. That is wild. 

What Does This Mean?

The fact that giving increased 7.5% over 2019’s first half is a huge indicator that donors are motivated and feeling generous. The giving climate for the 2020 year-end giving season is projected to be robust. 

All of the signals indicate that giving is still quite solid as we move into autumn. And even with all the noise surrounding the election and the pandemic, loyal donors are stepping up for the nonprofits they support. 

This is certainly a great time to be out there, in front of your donors. Remind them about the impact your organization creates, and invite them to contribute

Why are we seeing so much generosity now?

For some time, we’ve thought that donors are simply more motivated these days, especially as we watch new gifts flowing into the capital campaigns we counsel. 

Our interviews and focus groups with donors have solidified this thought, and it seems data is now showing this trend as well.

1. Donors want to do something positive

With all the disruption of 2020, not least of all the pandemic, donors want to take action and do something positive for their community, and the world. 

They are motivated to bring forward kindness and compassion. When they are aware of the needs, especially regarding causes they care about – they want to respond.

While many have been terribly impacted, both physically and financially, many other major and mid-level donors were less affected and are still quite well-off financially. For many, they want to reach out and help others who have been less fortunate, through supporting nonprofits. 

2. The stock market is up, which is good for year-end

The US stock market took a hit, but now it continues to soar. Donors with investment portfolios are feeling flush. In our opinion, when donors feel financially secure, they tend to be more generous. TIP: remind your donors they can donate appreciated stocks! 

Even when the stock market was low, many major donors did not feel the hit and were still donating. On top of that – major donors may have more to donate in 2020 because any  traveling or larger outings were most likely cancelled. 

Bottom Line: 2020 has Shown To Be an Enormous Opportunity for Fundraising – Backed by Data

I hope you have been making the most of this generosity this year. And if you haven’t, it’s not too late to start!


As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If you are planning a capital campaign and would like to learn about our unique Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach, let us know. You can also join our INSIDERS community for more fundraising training and content. We would love to have you! 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.


Time to get ready for 2017!

Here’s my list of the top fundraising trends for 2017  – trends that you should be watching.

Let’s get prepared for the new year. Time to sharpen our skills and try out some new stuff.

To help you stay on top of the ever-changing world of fundraising —

Here’s my annual list of Top 10 Fundraising Trends for 2017:

1. Everything and everyone is social

Your donors and supporters are communicating with each other and their friends all the time through social platforms. They also use these social sites for talking about their favorite nonprofits – and taking action.

Your donors are even creating their very own independent fundraising campaigns for causes they support – right on these social platforms.

Word-of-mouth is king. People trust their own friends more than your newsletters and appeals. (Yes, it’s true!)

That means that each one of your lovely donors and supporters is a potential channel to spread the word, raise money or take action.

Social media is essential for marketing these days. I’ve just engaged a smart young social media team.

We’re doing all sorts of new creative things to spread my own message. If I can bite the bullet, so can you my friend!

Takeaway: It’s time to seriously invest in your social media presence – for lots of reasons. 

2. Investing in the basics

Across the board, nonprofits are investing in the building blocks of a diversified fundraising program.

They are investing in training and education for their staff to learn how to do it right. These strategies offer huge fundraising potential:

  • Donor loyalty – my top buzzword for 2016 last year has gained ground.  I’m seeing donor retention finally take its rightful place. Smart nonprofits are hiring donor relations staff and establishing vigorous new donor communications programs. They are now focusing on engaging their supporters, not just communicating with them. (Must read: The Agitator blog on Donor Loyalty.
  • Monthly giving is still a sleeper here in the US. It’s a huge gold mine that nonprofits here are just beginning to understand and tap. More and more nonprofits are starting to promote this easy and highly profitable strategy.
  • Mid-level donors are finally starting to get the attention they deserve.  Alas, they are usually lost in the cracks between annual giving and major gifts.  Smart nonprofits are starting to focus attention these lovely new major gift prospects.

Takeaway: Put your time, resources and energy in these key building blocks. You’ll raise much more money!

3. Disruptive donor platforms

The new fundraising platforms that keep coming up are practically reinventing fundraising.

If everyone and everything is social, then these platforms empower your donors to become activists.

Crowdfunding will become more and more powerful through these tools. Facebook is getting into the game, too – so watch out for the big kahuna!

Sites like or offer fundraising tools to everyone.

Takeaway: Be smart. Empower your donors and give them the tools to be activists for YOUR cause. 

4. Big data

Big data and predictive analytics are revolutionizing major gift fundraising.

Smart nonprofits are seeing their donor data bases as repositories of valuable information. And they are literally using data to predict who will be their next major donor.

Data can analyze a donor’s engagement and giving to you over time. Then add in publicly available data such as her social media postings, wealth screening, zip code analytics.

When you know more about their likes, interests and giving potential, you can tailor a completely personal approach to your potential major donor.

One that makes her feel special and happy.

Everybody wins.  Your donor is thrilled that you’ve discovered that she’s really interested in you. You win because she is quickly becoming a major donor.

Takeaway: Check out Steve MacLaughlin’s new book: Data Driven Nonprofits. 

5. Storytelling

The concept of storytelling is everywhere. Finally, nonprofits are focusing on the right communications issues – what we say and how we say it.

Storytelling has always been our favorite way to communicate.  The best stories bring you right into them. You feel the thrills, the pains, and the successes..

We are exploring storytelling from many angles these days: Donors’ stories of why they give. Board members’ stories of why they care.

And of course, the essential fundraising message of WHY we do the work we do.

Takeaway: Get busy crafting memorable stories that call donors to action.

6. From “fundraising” to “philanthropy”

More and more nonprofits are using the word philanthropy instead of fundraising.

It’s a softer word that is less offensive to people who are not familiar with our profession.

Philanthropy speaks to the love of humankind that is the basis for all giving.

This word focuses on the donor more than the ask.

Titles of fundraising staffers are even changing. Major gifts officers (what donor really wants to work with someone of that title?) are now “Philanthropy Advisors.”

Finally we are getting donor-centered in the major gifts area!

Takeaway: check out my post: from fundraising to philanthropy.  And listen to anything Kay Sprinkel Grace says!

7. Focusing on major gifts

Major gifts continue to be a higher and higher priority.

Nonprofits see the clear value of training for their boards and staffs. Wealth screening is much more common.

It’s clear that with the increasing concentration of wealth, giving potential from your wealthy donors continues to grow.

Fundraisers want more training in how to deal with high-wealth donors.

When I asked my followers what they most wanted help with in the coming year, major gifts was front and center. People asked for help in every single area of major gift fundraising.

Takeaway: Join my Major Gift Coaching group for 2017, and I’ll help you land the major gifts that are out there for your nonprofit.

8. Increasing concentration of wealth

As wealth becomes more and more concentrated in the hands of fewer people, we may see donations follow the values and interests of the very wealthy.

The kinds of nonprofits that wealthy donors favor, such as universities and arts organizations are already seeing  growth in their giving. 

Some studies are already suggesting that donations are coming from fewer and fewer numbers of people. Will the very wealthy push their own agendas via their favorite nonprofits?

Takeaway: Check out the New Yorker’s article: The Wealth Gap in Philanthropy.

9. Mobile is king

In 2016, 125 million US consumers use smartphones;  and 62% of them have made a purchase via their mobile device in the last six months.

Not only are your donors on mobile devices, but they are clicking to buy (and give!) via mobile.

Some studies say that up to 50% of emails are opened on mobile devices. Your donors are even watching your videos on their phones.

Takeaway:  It’s time to fix your emails, website, videos and everything you do – so that they all sing a lovely song on your donors’ mobile devices.

10. Political uncertainty

There is no avoiding it.  In the US, the new Trump administration has created uncertainty across the board, and that will continue.

All US-based nonprofits could be impacted by proposed changes in tax rates on the wealthy, and the possible reduction or elimination of the inheritance tax.

Proposed cuts to many social programs will slash funding to many nonprofits across our sector.

Fundraising calls to action will certainly strengthen – especially from human service organizations.

We can expect that donors who oppose the new administration’s policies will feel more generous than ever. Many new fundraising opportunities might arise.

Takeaway: If we’re certain of anything – it’s uncertainty here in the US when it comes to the new administration.

 Bottom Line: Fundraising Trends for 2017

Ok my friend, there’s a lot here. But it’s all stuff you know, and that you are already doing.

Your future success just might depend on one of these fundraising trends for 2017.

In 2017, I’ll be writing, creating videos and training all  in these important trend areas.

Hang with me and together we’ll make the year wildly successful and profitable for your wonderful nonprofit.

What did I miss in this list of fundraising trends for 2017? Write a comment and add it here!