Finding Engaged Donors in Our Post-Pandemic World

It’s safe to say every non-profit organization in the world was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether they are the mightiest Ivy League university with a massive endowment or a local organization with reserves covering six months of operations. Understanding how philanthropy changed during the crisis and how to find a community of fully engaged donors as the economy enters its post-pandemic phase matters to the future of every non-profit organization—regardless of size, mission, or geographic location.

At the height of the pandemic in September 2020, CNBC reported on a study of charitable giving completed by Indiana University’s Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI). It found more than half of U.S. households donated to help their neighbors and communities. While this is a typical response to a crisis, more unique ways of giving emerged during the pandemic.

Positive’s and Negatives of Charitable Giving During Covid-19 Pandemic


One such example is indirectly giving in the form of ordering takeout lunches from local restaurants to feed frontline medical staff. As director of WPI, Jeannie Sager, explains, “People became more aware of the needs of their community members, and they wanted to help their neighbors and local businesses through the downturn.” (More than 48% of American households practiced this “two birds with one stone” type of philanthropy.) 


Although many Americans stepped up to face the COVID-19 challenge, the picture wasn’t entirely positive for a range of other non-profits.’s annual “Profiles in Charity Trust and Giving” survey found charitable donations to many types of non-profit organizations fell in 2020. According to the Associated Press, “Fewer donors in 2020 reported giving to religious, animal welfare, veterans, education, international relief, youth development, and police and firefighter organizations, as well as non-profit hospitals than in 2019.”

This drop-in giving was exacerbated by decreases in income and, of course, widespread job loss. A survey commissioned by Fast Company shows about 20% of Americans gave less to charity in 2020. This figure jumps to an alarming 36% for families reporting a negative impact on household income. 

Strain On In-Person Contact

As might be expected, funding for non-profits relying on in-person contact was also particularly strained. Organizations in the arts struggled throughout much of the past two years to keep the lights on because their donations are uniquely tied to the events they host. Many of these organizations stayed alive by pivoting to virtual events, utilizing DonorSearch data to keep in contact with their most engaged supporters. 

Virtual Events

Of note, the Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, successfully pivoted to virtual events, leveraging DonorSearch data to stay in close contact with its engaged community, those people most interested in a post-pandemic return to live stage events. Likewise, the Des Moines Performing Art Center employed similar winning tactics by running a summer program via Zoom for kids, soliciting gifts from participating families. One Zoom seminar boasted more than 1,000 participants, ensuring a strong, engaged community of supporters remained in place. 

Yes, these organizations weathered the pandemic storm, but the question remains: how should non-profits prepare for the post-pandemic economy? As the world shifts to normalcy, some charity will ebb as Americans sense their neighbors and community are no longer in crisis. At the same time, programs like the IRS’s additional deductions for charitable giving may be revoked. 

How Should non-profits Prepare for the Post-Pandemic Economy?

Ultimately, non-profits able to accurately pinpoint their community’s engagement are poised to succeed in the new economy. On the other hand, those maintaining the legacy practice of focusing strictly on wealth data will fall behind in their goals. Why? The pandemic has made it more obvious than ever the social bonds formed between organizations and individuals and the emotional attachment between a donor and a non-profit’s mission are what enable future donations—not wealth alone.

Luckily, many non-profits still benefit from a wealthy community, even in these challenging times. For example, high-end private schools with a helipad on the roof needn’t be concerned about the income level of those families that send their kids to elite programs, beginning with kindergarten. Yet even these organizations must recognize even affluent families may face strains related to the pandemic. Also, more organizations than ever are asking for charitable gifts, especially those that recently experienced a donation downturn. Such groups must focus on finding families in their community that is most engaged with the school. This valuable information can never be found in mere wealth data but can be located with DonorSearch’s advanced algorithms powered by AI and machine learning. 

How DonorSearch Can Help

At the end of the day, every non-profit wishes to be nimble in its fundraising and development activities, reacting to societal and economic changes quickly to maintain funding while building relationships with tomorrow’s donors. With the added complexity of the post-pandemic world, a partner that works closely with each client to find their most engaged prospective donors is a true difference-maker. DonorSearch is that partner, and the time to improve how your organization identifies prospects is now. 

Contact our team of experts to arrange your demo of DonorSearch Products today.

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