Michael Tomlinson

QUICK SHOT: Get the facts on Donor Advised Funds in 2021!

Here in 2021, generosity continues to abound. Hearts are still committed to partnering with nonprofit organizations to extend their vital work, and donors are still looking for opportunities and ways to give. Now is not the time to lighten up on communications or start making uninformed guesses about your giving strategy.

Especially because the pandemic recovery looks to be an extended season ahead, we should prepare to build upon 2020’s crisis giving patterns.

The global coronavirus pandemic has spurred charitable contributions among donor-advised fund (DAF) participants, with nearly half – 46% – of those surveyed by Fidelity Investments having upped their giving. Only four percent reported scaling back their contributions.

Nearly one-quarter – 24% – of donors said the pandemic had a strong amount of influence on their giving this year. Surprisingly, an equal amount indicated the COVID-19 crisis had little or no influence.

Among donors, 61% wanted to help individuals suffering from the economic impact of the pandemic, while 54% wanted to help nonprofit organizations. Four in 10 took a local approach, noting their communities were suffering. Fidelity surveyed the 491 Fidelity Charitable DAF participants during this past August.

Regardless of why, more than one-third – 37% – donated to nonprofits different than those to which they usually contribute because of COVID-19. Just more than one-quarter did not factor COVID-19 into their support choices. But more than nine in 10 plan to give, or have given, to most of the organizations they traditionally support before the end of the year.

Asked about the nonprofit sectors most likely to be affected by the pandemic, almost two-thirds were very concerned about small or community-based nonprofits, while 60% feared for the viability of human service organizations such as homeless shelters and food banks. Another 45% cited arts organizations as likely to have a rough go due to the pandemic and four in ten mentioned education organizations as those potentially facing tough times.

For the most part, respondents viewed large or national nonprofits as sound. Only 13% had a great deal of concern for their viability, while 57% had little or no concern.

DAF donors see their own economic circumstances as relatively stable, with only 10% indicating they were very concerned about their personal long-term financial security. Another 23% were somewhat concerned. The picture changed, however, when they were asked about risks to themselves. Nearly half – 46% – were very concerned about risks to their physical health, and another 26% were somewhat concerned.

The impact of the pandemic on donations will linger beyond the end of the year. More than two in 10 – 22% – said the pandemic would continue to influence their giving in 2021, a figure that held steady when donors were asked to consider the next five years.

But another 37% believed COVID-19 would have little or no influence over their giving during the next five years. Many said they didn’t want to change their giving plans or that COVID-19 had little impact on giving. And others said they expect a return to normal.

  • Michael Tomlinson, BDI CEO and President

    Michael J. Tomlinson, CEO and President

    Michael J. Tomlinson, better known as “MT,” is an accomplished marketing and media executive who has developed highly successful fundraising programs for faith-first charities and organizations across the U.S. and abroad. He brings more than 30 years of executive leadership in business and holds a master’s degree in Organizational Management and Marketing.

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