A Powerful List of Nonprofit Fundraising Trends in 2021

Trends in fundraising change every year, but in 2021 we are still dealing with the Covid pandemic and occasional quarantine. These lockdowns have limited options for fundraising. The annual events nonprofits have come to depend on are no longer possible, and organizations have had to look outside the box for new ways to fundraise. Many…

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A Powerful List of Nonprofit Fundraising Trends in 2021

Trends in fundraising change every year, but in 2021 we are still dealing with the Covid pandemic and occasional quarantine. These lockdowns have limited options for fundraising. The annual events nonprofits have come to depend on are no longer possible, and organizations have had to look outside the box for new ways to fundraise.

Many of the trends this year rely on new technology and marketing tools. Social media has given nonprofits the chance to reach a larger audience and build partnerships with groups they may not otherwise have. The addition of these tools has allowed nonprofits to find new ways to fundraise and develop connections with their donors.

In this article, we discuss some of these trends and the technology nonprofits can use to help their bottom line.

  1. Ways of Fundraising
  2. Trends in Marketing
  3. Trends in Technology
  4. Trends in Partnerships

1. Ways of Fundraising                                                        

Some nonprofits’ reliance on events in the past has put them in a risky position. In 2021, fundraising must include more than just events. Fundraising campaigns that target specific donor types and use new technology can help nonprofits raise more funds this year.

1.1 Recurring Donations

Recurring donations are the best way to increase contributions without too much effort. Even if you do not currently keep track of them, you may have a group of donors who give regularly. If you are not keeping track, you are missing out on a big opportunity.

Recurring donations are when your donors give a certain amount every month, quarter, or year. These donations can be counted on and included in your budget at the beginning of each fiscal year. A quality database will allow you to easily track these gifts and create a recurring donor campaign.

If your strategic plan already includes a recurring donor campaign, you are ahead of the game, but there may still be a few ways to increase your campaign revenue. Does your database allow you to segment your donors? Donors can be split into large, medium, and small donors. After segmenting your donors, you can send targeted emails and social media posts to your donors. You can also create different donor forms for each segment with donation amounts that fit their budget.

For example, the below donation form by Donorbox pops up on the screen and offers multiple prefilled donation amounts with suitable descriptions. The design inspires recurring donations.

The pop-up donation form requires a donate button on your website, upon clicking of which, the form will pop. Alternatively, you can embed the recurring donation form on your dedicated donation page with a powerful CTA and image to go with it, similar to the example below.

Donorbox’s database allows you to sort your donors by name, date, and annual donation amount. It also includes the ability to add notes to each donor profile.

1.2 Virtual Fundraising

Virtual fundraising is not only trendy but also a lifeline for many nonprofits in 2021. In-person events are difficult, if not impossible, to hold right now, so nonprofits are looking for any way to make up those campaign funds.

Virtual fundraising has become a way for nonprofits to reach out to their donors and spread their mission without spending too much of their budget. While some are holding large events online, others are looking at adding peer-to-peer or crowdfunding campaigns to their repertoire.

The success of these events relies on the work organizations put into them. Planning for these events can take as much work as an in-person event, but with a strong team and plan in place, nonprofits can raise funds, spread the word about their mission, and thank donors and volunteers. We have created a list of 20 virtual fundraising ideas to help you start your next virtual fundraiser.

1.3 Text Giving

Your nonprofit has likely used mail, email, and social media to reach out to donors in the past, but have you tried a text-giving campaign? If you have a younger group of donors, this may be the best way to collect donations.

With your donors spread around the community, state, or even the country, a text-to-give campaign can quicken your donors’ response time and increase the chance of recurring donations.

Donors appreciate the convenience of Text-to-Give campaigns. Anyone with a smartphone can easily donate to your campaign through a single link. Typically, the process is triggered with a keyword (in most cases, it’s the campaign number/code). Once your donors text the keyword to a given phone number (of your vendor), they’re provided with a simple, mobile-friendly donation link. Through this link, the donation can be made by using the internet.

With Donorbox’s ‘Quick-Donate’ feature, recurring donations become even easier, with no link or form involved. If they want to give again later that day, month, or even year, they can donate the same amount with a simple text.

Text-to-give fundraising can be used at your events, as part of a larger campaign, or on their own. It is a simple and convenient way for your donors to engage with your cause. Since no hassle is involved and the process is intuitive, donors are likely to respond to their initial urge and donate quickly.

1.4 Birthday Fundraising

The popularity of social media has increased the number of birthday fundraisers. Most Facebook timelines include at least one or two fundraisers from family and friends. These fundraisers work because of social proof.

According to Dr. Robert Cialdini, social proof is the “tendency to see an action as more acceptable when others are doing it.” A recommendation from a friend has more strength than any ad.

Your nonprofit should not ignore the popularity of these fundraisers. Encouraging donors to create birthday campaigns on Facebook and other social media is a great start.

For that, you need to keep a track of your donors’ birthdays and send an email in advance. A birthday is a very special day in one’s life. And inspiring ideas such as ‘Donate Your Birthday’,  ‘Pledge Your Birthday’, etc. prompt them to step up to make a difference.

For example, the whole idea behind ‘Donate Your Birthday’ is to impel donors to dedicate their special day toward social good. Since people are emotionally connected with their birthday, a campaign like this is sure to grab their attention. You may also want to include personal stories of fundraisers in the email, who created successful campaigns for your cause in the past.

Other ways to entice donors include wishing them a happy birthday and sending them a link to a webpage created for them. In this case, they aren’t creating the campaign themselves but only raising funds through them. You should remember to thank these donors with personal messages and by including them on a unique birthday donor wall.

1.5 Gifts and In-kind Donations

Cash donations are ideal, but nonprofits should not ignore the increase in in-kind contributions that may come your way this year. Our current pandemic may have limited people’s ability to give cash donations, but it has not reduced their generosity.

In-kind donations are a donation of goods or services that can help your organization. Anything that can be used in the office is a great way to cut costs. While you may appreciate these gifts, there may be other in-kind donations you see as more of an inconvenience.

Are you at a loss of what to do with that box of ornaments or small toys? Instead of hiding them in a closet, you can offer them as thank you gifts for your donors.

There are several ways you can use in-kind donations this year. If you are holding an event this year, in-kind gifts may be easier to collect from local businesses. Check out our article on how to get the most from in-kind donations for tips and tricks.

2. Trends in Marketing

Marketing trends have also changed this year thanks to our current pandemic. More people are working from home and spending more time online. Instead of hearing office gossip at the water cooler, people connect via Zoom and listen to YouTube influencers for the latest news.

2.1 Social Media Donations

Social media has become a go-to source of information, connection, and advertisement. Everyone from your local bank to your grandmother has a Facebook page or Twitter account. Your donation campaign should have at least one or two social media accounts to speak directly with your donors.

As our reliance on social media has grown, so have the options these accounts offer. Most social media accounts now offer a simple way for people to donate through their apps.

The best way to collect social media donations is with a clear social media campaign. Like other campaigns, you will need a clear purpose and goal. Learn more about how to get the most out of your social media accounts here.

2.2 Influencer marketing and YouTube Donations

You can find a video for everything on YouTube. You can also find an audience.

Regardless of your interest, there are probably several channels that speak directly to you. The people who run each of these channels are called influencers. Their influence depends on the size of their audience and the niche they have decided to target.

Influencer marketing has become very popular. Influencers advocate for causes they believe in and encourage their followers to purchase a product or donate to an organization they support. In 2021, as highlighted by socialmediatoday.com, 90% of marketers have admitted that influencer marketing results have been as good or even better than the pre-COVID time.

If your organization is interested in reaching a large audience or even a specific audience, building a relationship with a YouTube influencer can be a great option. Search by topic on YouTube or Google to see who the successful influencers are in your niche.

You may already have influencers that follow your organization or live in your community. Ask around to see if any of your volunteers or staff know a local influencer. Keep track of these individuals and their channels by adding notes to your database.  

Once you have one or two influencers who fit, reach out to them. Message them directly and tell them what is going on. Keep them updated on any exciting new event or successful campaign. Influencers will appreciate your help in keeping their followers informed about areas they find appealing.

2.3 Live Streaming

Many people have started working from home at least a few days a week, and this trend is likely not going away after the pandemic. Tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Facebook Meetings have become necessary for work meetings, family and friend get-togethers, and nonprofit outreach.

nonprofit trends 2021

While in-person events are impossible to hold, there is an increase in virtual fundraising. Organizations are moving their annual galas online temporarily or creating new online events or campaigns to encourage their donors’ involvement. Such events are live-streamed through online platforms to make a bigger impact.

These virtual fundraisers can help nonprofits tell their stories more effectively and reach a larger audience in some cases. They are also less expensive than in-person events, which is essential for many nonprofits. Live Streaming may have started because of the Covid pandemic, but nonprofits may continue this trend because of these reasons.  

2.4 Stories to showcase the impact

Storytelling is not a trend, but its popularity has only grown in 2021. Nonprofits that successfully promote their mission through storytelling can have a significant influence on donors’ actions. Stories about your beneficiaries add a personal touch that increases your donors’ interest and gift size.

Mission-focused stories can be used in your organization’s events to remind people why they are there. They can also be added to online campaigns. Adding pictures or videos makes that response even greater. Social media apps have made it easy to spread your organization’s story and increase your supporters’ activity. Facebook and Instagram allow nonprofits and their donors to raise funds through donate buttons and donate stickers. These tools enable nonprofits to raise more funds online than ever before.

3. Trends in Technology

Many of the marketing trends in 2021 are possible because of the advancement of technology. We are living in a virtual world right now. While the pandemic has kept us indoors, technology gives us a door to the outside world.

3.1 Accept from various streaming channels

Nonprofit fundraising has been hit hard by the current pandemic in many ways. Not only have in-person events become impossible to hold, but problems with the post office are also making mail campaigns troublesome.

While email is still viable, many donors have switched to social media apps for deeper connections with their friends, families, and companies. Apps like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch capitalize on this trend. Your nonprofit can benefit from it too.

As we mentioned, Facebook offers options for nonprofits to raise funds through their donate button and donate sticker. Apps like YouTube and Twitch have also jumped on this trend. People are more likely to donate after seeing a video of your mission if they can give it right away. YouTube has added YouTube Giving to help influencers encourage their followers to give to your cause.

Video game culture has also increased during the pandemic. Twitch is another popular streaming channel that allows gamers to reach an audience and raise funds. Gamers who use this channel can add donation buttons through a variety of third-party services. Donorbox has developed a donation button your organization can add to its Twitch account with only a few easy steps.

3.2 Optimized and Highly easy donation form

Your organization does not have to stream videos to benefit from advancements in technology. Online donor forms have advanced in use and ability over the last few years.

Your organization can benefit from increased online donations in 2021 with a quality donor form but be careful. Donor forms must be easy to use and understand, or they can work against your organization. 

The following image example should help you understand how an optimized and intuitive donation form looks like on a nonprofit website.

  • Simple design
  • Prefilled amount
  • Justified description for the suggested amounts to the right
  • Options for recurring donations
  • Catchy call-to-action on the donation page

3.3 Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has become a popular fundraising tool thanks to social media. Families have raised funds for their children’s healthcare needs, people have spread the word about problems their friends face, and organizations are raising funds to protect animals that need rescuing.

These crowdfunding campaigns are successful because of the stories they tell and because it is so easy for people to help. Giving to these campaigns makes people feel good. People also feel like they are making a difference just by sharing a link.

Nonprofits can jump on this trend with their donors by creating crowdfunding campaigns. Do you have a specific program that needs help? By creating a crowdfunding campaign for this program, you can turn your donors into advocates.

Donors can create their own campaign pages online and spread the word about your organization to friends and family. Your nonprofit can encourage donors with updates and success stories that happen in real-time.

With Donorbox’s crowdfunding feature, nonprofits can customize their crowdfunding page, send emails and social media messages. You can even add a goal meter to your organization’s page and each donor’s page to show how close you are to your goal.  


4. Trends in Partnerships

Nonprofits know that spending time building strong partnerships with donors, other nonprofits, corporations, and media will bring a powerful return on their investment. That is why so many nonprofits are taking the time to work on these partnerships in 2021.

4.1 Virtual partnerships

With virtual partnerships, nonprofits can increase their impact by offering their programs online. The New Victory Theater is an excellent example of this. They provide virtual programs, interactive classrooms, and online lesson plans and videos to teachers across the United States.

Your organization can offer similar programs and reach out to other organizations that can help spread your mission.

4.2 Cross-sector partnerships

Building partnerships with other nonprofits in your community is another way to fulfill your mission. In many towns, there are different nonprofits with the same overall mission. These organizations often do not know about each other, but they can have a greater impact on their community by working together.

Grant foundations have spent a lot of effort trying to get nonprofits to work together. Grant funding can even depend on these partnerships. In an Urban Institute survey of 1,192 foundations, sixty-nine percent of them encouraged collaboration.

Grant funding is not the only way these partnerships can help. Some nonprofits have found great success in partnering with other nonprofits for events or other activities. The American Cancer Society is a great example of this. Through their Relay for a Life event, community groups can raise funds for cancer while spreading the word about their own group.  

4.3 Virtual volunteering

fundraising trends

Volunteers are essential to nonprofits, yet many organizations do not know the best ways to use them. Current lockdowns have made the use of volunteers even more difficult. Luckily, technology can help with these partnerships as well.

Nonprofits should build volunteer programs that mirror their employee programs. Volunteers should be interviewed and onboarded in the same way as any newcomer. Online streaming services like Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams have made this easier during the pandemic.

Volunteer opportunities can also be hard for volunteers to find. Your organization may need help with your database, social media, fundraising, or other services during the current pandemic. Make sure your organization provides detailed opportunities on your website and uses apps like Facebook and Instagram to reach out to new volunteers with these skills.

DoSomething.org encourages young people to drive social change through virtual volunteering. For example, their volunteers have successfully urged Apple to add 5 skin tones to all of its emojis by signing a petition, creating an online campaign, and using social media to promote their cause. During COVID-19 lockdown, they ran another campaign to encourage volunteers to have a conversation with old adults stuck at home to help them deal with loneliness. 

These ideas should help you tweak your own online campaigns or fundraisers to leverage virtual volunteering to the fullest. 

Virtual events are a great way to attract new volunteers and show them how people are making a difference by volunteering virtually. Spend the time to create a thank you page on your website with pictures and details of your volunteers, add posts to your social media pages about specific volunteers and what they are doing to help, and hold an online thank you event to show your appreciation.

4.4 Celebrity partnerships

Celebrities have connections and influence over large groups of people. Finding a celebrity to advocate for your organization can be a big win. The problem many organizations face is in how to reach these celebrities.

Many well-known celebrities have publicists and managers, so you need to know these people to reach them. Local celebrities will be easier to contact and reach out to, so they may be a better option for most nonprofits.

Autism Speaks, a US-based nonprofit that helps individuals with autism has collaborated with celebrities like Jon Stewart and Whitney Port, popular television personalities, to spread the word. In fact, in 2015, Jon Stewart helped raise $2.2 million for an autism charity called ‘New York Collaborates for Autism’.

Hence, it should be a good practice to locate celebrities who resonate with your cause. They’ll try to the best of their ability to benefit your nonprofit, either through their social media handles or in-person participation.

Other ways to connect with celebrities are through fundraising events. Celebrity attendance can help the organization and the celebrity by showing their softer side. If the celebrity you are interested in is a performer or speaker, an event may be a great way to start your partnership.

These partnerships can increase your appeal to the celebrity’s followers, but make sure your mission does not get lost in the process.


As you can see, nonprofit trends in 2021 run the gamut. Regardless of the size of your organization, your organization can benefit from trends in technology and marketing. In the end, relationships with your donors and community will matter most.

If your nonprofit is looking for new ways to fundraise and increase your impact, visit our blog for more fundraising tips and tricks. If you are looking for an affordable online donation system, learn more about our features here.

Avatar photo

Raviraj heads the sales and marketing team at Donorbox. His growth-hacking abilities have helped Donorbox boost fundraising efforts for thousands of nonprofit organizations.

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