John Thompson, Chief Creative Officer  ●  2/10/2021

Donor Behavior in the Next Normal: 8 Insights for 2021

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According to McKinsey & Company’s recent consumer behavior study, “stickiness equals the duration of enforced behavior times satisfaction.” This led many of us at TrueSense to wonder how many forced behaviors our clients’ donors actually found satisfactory, and which ones will remain habits once the constraints that dominated us all in 2020 have passed.

And, equally important, how many of these behaviors will be discarded, and old habits resumed?

Our latest TrueSense Insight Report, entitled Donor Behavior in the Next Normal: 8 Insights for 2021, represents the conversations we are having about the lasting — or temporary — effects that a year of vastly changed behaviors will have on fundraising in 2021 and beyond.

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. New donor behavior, generated by new donor habits, will not be absolutely new. The crisis compressed the rate of adoption in digital behaviors (which had already been evolving) from years to weeks. However, contrary to wild predictions that describe entirely new fundraising practices, it’s unlikely that new, never-before-seen behaviors will suddenly appear.
  2. Donors responded in a big way to the initial crisis. Many were new to the organizations they supported. The greatest immediate challenge fundraisers face in 2021 is to engage these new donors, keeping them and growing them alongside their base of Longtime Loyals.
  3. Do not assume new donors acquired during the crisis are once-and-done emergency donors. The key is to understand the difference between Impulsives and Deliberates. The pandemic was unlike any crisis in recent memory. It stands to reason, therefore, that COVID donors, even if they’re as yet one-time-only donors, do not exist in the same context as traditional emergency donors.
  4. Given donors’ new-found comfort with live Zoom-style video chats, this type of engagement will be useful for information shares, impact presentations, and to provide access to subject matter experts in the future. But they won’t be a substitute for live events or for use in revenue generation.
  5. Surprisingly, COVID-acquired donors have had second-gift rates meeting and surpassing donors acquired in a typical year (25%–50%), according to our 2020 year-end research data. They also indicate a higher interest in recurring giving.
  6. For Boomers, the check-writing habit was shelved in 2020. Necessities, including grocery deliveries, pharmaceuticals, even monthly streaming entertainment, all required online credit card or EFT transactions, or even PayPal and Venmo. Given that Boomers represent the revenue engine for many nonprofits, if these behaviors become a new habit, they may be the most profound of all changes in the post-COVID era.
  7. Fundraisers will require more powerful data tools to read and meet customized donor expectations. RFM segmentation will become less and less effective. According to the AI4Giving report, published by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the level of donor insight and power-to-predict that artificial intelligence can generate will be critical to success in the Next Normal, because of its ability to customize engagement at the granular level.
  8. Don’t jump to conclusions. Donor platforms changed. Donor channel usage changed. Donor technology comfort levels changed. But, during the global pandemic, donor habits changed only when their user satisfaction — and comfort levels — improved with the forced behaviors they experienced. Use this as a litmus test for strategic fundraising decisions. Because one thing that did NOT change is human nature.

Want a deeper dive? Download your free copy of the full 2021 TrueSense Donor Insight Report for more conversations around opportunities and cautions for fundraising in 2021 and beyond.


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