Why America Gives 2020: How the COVID-19 Pandemic and Social Justice Movement Have Changed Giving [REPORT]

5 min
giving trends 2020
profile picture of Classy blog contributor Will Schmidt
Will Schmidt

In previous years, Classy’s Why America Gives report has focused on consumer giving trends, what motivates donors to give, and their plans for Giving Tuesday and year-end giving. In our third-annual edition of Why America Gives, the 2020 report measures these year-over-year changes in giving sentiments and behaviors; in addition, it also analyzes how current events—specifically the COVID-19 pandemic and the social justice movement—have altered giving trends.

Most importantly, we wanted to pose the questions:

  • How have the events of this year affected donor behavior? 
  • Will supporters be giving more or less than last year? 
  • Have COVID-19 and the fight against social injustice changed the causes or organizations donors will give to? 

We sent out a survey in September 2020 to poll 1,000 individuals across the United States, all of whom were age 18 or older, to find out. 

Based on the results of our survey, we’re optimistic about what the giving season holds for nonprofits. Below, we explore some of the major key findings from the report, but make sure you download your free copy of Why America Gives now to get all the insights. 

Download Why America Gives 2020

Download Why America Gives 2020

The Outlook for the 2020 Giving Season Is Positive

The Giving Tuesday movement has grown to the point where over half of Americans have an awareness and understanding of the giving day. In 2020, 67% of our survey respondents who are familiar with Giving Tuesday donated last year, compared to 53% in 2019 and 57% in 2018.

Further, our survey results show that Americans still plan to give the same amount, or more, than they did in 2019. Among those who plan to give more, 33% say it’s because the societal need seems greater this year. Despite the economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, people still feel compelled to give, so don’t pass up an opportunity to engage your supporters with an ask. 

COVID-19 Fuels Charitable Giving

Despite the financial challenges many Americans are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 39% of our survey respondents said they definitely or probably will give more to nonprofits in 2020 than they did in 2019. The main driving factor behind this is that many see a greater societal need in 2020 than in previous years. 

When asked which causes Americans were most like to support, respondents chose healthcare as the top cause category ahead of disaster relief, the environment, and education. Still, whether your nonprofit is health-related or not, you can be confident that prospective donors are looking for ways to support relief efforts alleviating various challenges presented by the pandemic.

The Social Justice Movement Creates an Influx of New Donors 

Our survey results show that many Americans are actively looking for ways to support causes fighting for racial equality. In fact, 42% of respondents either donated, or planned to donate, to social justice causes in 2020. 

Interestingly, 58% of these donors claim this was their first gift ever made to the social justice cause sector, and 43% said this donation was made in addition to other contributions. This shows us that current events play a major role in creating new donors, but for nearly half of all people, it doesn’t replace their regular giving.

Virtual Fundraising Events Generate Attention and Donations

Countless nonprofits were forced to pivot their in-person events to virtual events after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but donors weren’t driven away by this change. Our survey results show that nearly 30% of respondents have supported or participated in a virtual fundraising event since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Of that 30%, the majority claim they have donated more in the virtual environment than they did at in-person events. This aligns with how many nonprofits have seen comparable or higher fundraising revenue generated from virtual events as well. Moving forward, the social sector will likely continue to host virtual events, even when in-person events make a return. 

Download Why America Gives 2020 for More Insights

These insights are only the tip of the iceberg for this year’s edition of Why America Gives. Download the full report now and explore:

  • Which causes Americans favor most
  • The role politics plays in giving
  • How donors prefer to give
  • Insights around Giving Tuesday and year-end

Download Why America Gives 2020


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