Why We Predict 2021 Will Be the Year of the Transformational Gift

Written by Jessica Browning, Principal and Executive Vice President KPIs

Giving during the pandemic has surprised us—in a good way.  From the beginning, we predicted that donors would be generous in response to the crisis, but we weren’t prepared for the levels of generosity we’ve witnessed.

AFP’s Fundraising Effectiveness Project, which tracks quarterly giving in America, found a 7.6% increase in the third quarter of 2020 over 2019.[1] While their fourth quarter findings have yet to be released, there is reason to be optimistic.  The amount raised on Giving Tuesday (December 1) was 25% higher than in 2019.


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We’ve watched with pride as many of our clients received six- and seven-figure gifts in the last few months of 2020. These gifts crossed sectors, from higher education to community service organizations, but the similarities between them are striking. 

It’s because of these similarities that we fully expect to see the trend of transformational gifts continue well into 2021. 


First, these gifts were made to organizations and institutions that kept fundraising throughout the pandemic.  These gifts underscore the importance of regular donor communication, and more cultivation than solicitation.  As the number of COVID cases surges, keep this in mind. 

Gifts were made across all sectors, not only to front-line organizations fighting the impacts of COVID-19.

These gifts were made by donors who are tired of the pandemic.  Donors are ready for what’s next and they’re giving to organizations that have a clear strategy for the future and a plan to get there.

Donors are consolidating the number of organizations they’re giving to.  Giving USA has highlighted this trend since the 2008 Great Recession.  The pandemic of 2020 has made the consolidation more pronounced.

The stimulus bill just passed by Congress extends some benefits for major gifts.  Donors can elect to deduct up to 100% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) limit for cash contributions—this was increased from 60%.  This applies to contributions made in 2020, but we expect to see similar incentives in 2021.  

Donors will continue making transformational gifts in 2021.   Are you making your case to your donors—or will their gifts go elsewhere?  We can give you a free, customized assessment that will position you for the transformational gift.

[1] https://afpglobal.org/charitable-giving-continues-significant-growth-third-quarter-despite-pandemic

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