By Scot Chisholm, CEO and Co-founder of Classy––a social enterprise that creates world-class online fundraising software for nonprofits, modernizing the giving experience to accelerate social impact around the world.


If it seems like we’ve been talking about 2020 for decades, it’s because we have been. Over the last century, futurists and experts in nearly every field have made some kind of declarative prediction for 2020 and what the world would be like when it finally arrived.

While someone traveling to the future from the 1950s might be disappointed to realize we don’t send mail by rocket or have flying houses, what I am sure they’d be impressed by is the degree of social impact we’ve driven as a collective society and the steps we’re taking to continue to evolve.

In 2020, these steps will be a response to certain trends and conversations you’ve likely caught wind of over the last few years. We believe nonprofits and fundraisers who focus on these five topics and develop an overarching strategy that considers these subjects will set themselves up for long-term results as forward-minded individuals and organizations.

Without further ado, here are the top five trends we see impacting the nonprofit fundraising space in 2020. Dig in with us below.

  1. Big Results for Nonprofits That Embrace Flexible Work Environments
  2. A Resurgence of the “Election Effect” as the Political Climate Heats Up
  3. A Call for Greater Financial Transparency and Global Effectiveness
  4. The Concept of Integrated Giving Empowering Everyday Donors
  5. The Rise of Giving Experiences and Conversations About Sustainable Impact

1.  Big Results for Nonprofits That Embrace Flexible Work Environments

Bloomerang’s State of The Nonprofit Workplace revealed “a flexible work environment” to be the number one workplace quality desired by survey respondents. In the same report, respondents ranked paid time off and paid family leave above salary when considering the most important employee benefits.

Organizations that pay attention to the demands of the workforce stand to reap substantial rewards. Despite our own survey findings that 92% of nonprofit employees who are very involved in their organization’s fundraising efforts are satisfied in their current roles, other studies estimate the attrition rate of fundraising employees to be 19%, with most fundraisers leaving their positions every 16 to 18 months and costing nonprofits up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per lost team member. In fact, a recent survey for the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Association of Fundraising Professionals revealed some similarly concerning findings, such as:

  • 51% of fundraisers said they will leave their current nonprofit within the next two years
  • 30% said they planned to leave fundraising altogether
  • 55% reported often feeling unappreciated
  • 21% agreed that the negative things about their jobs outweighed the positive

With such concerning data surrounding fundraiser turnover and satisfaction, it seems clear that the organizations that place greater emphasis on what employees are asking for—flexibility—will be the organizations that rise to the top.

2. A Resurgence of the “Election Effect” as the Political Climate Heats Up

Philanthropy should expect to see a similar flood of donations to certain cause sectors, as was observed in 2016, in the fall of 2020 as the election nears.

Many nonprofits saw a surge in recurring subscription initiations following the 2016 election, particularly civil rights, social action, and advocacy organizations, according to Classy platform data. We also found that donors who signed up during the time surrounding the 2016 election were more valuable long-term than recurring donors who signed up during a typical week. These donors were more likely to stick around for the next 18 months, and within recurring donors to civil rights organizations, specifically, we found that the donors who signed up following the election were over 50% more likely to keep donating 18 months later.

Whether your cause is at the center of the conversation due to political conversations or otherwise, a well-established recurring giving program ensures you’re ready to capture surges in support that can occur in the way we saw during the last election year.

3. A Call for Greater Financial Transparency and Global Effectiveness

Part of staying privy to change and innovation across the space is keeping a pulse on trends still coming to fruition. To that effect, we believe the entire space should continue to have a watchful eye on two conversations in particular: donor-advised funds (DAFs) and “blockchain for good.”

Their common thread? The need for greater impact transparency and global effectiveness within fundraising and philanthropy.

Donor-Advised Funds

Despite their potential for large-scale impact, recent news and litigation around DAFs has many questioning their effectiveness and calling for greater transparency and regulation.

Thankfully, 2020 promises to be a year of closely examining and better understanding this high-growth vehicle for good. Recent reports of more funds being released to charities and DAFs’ ability to act as a “stabilizing force for philanthropy in times of economic uncertainty are promising reasons to continue the dialogue as champions of social impact, and the team at Classy is dedicated to actively contributing to this conversation.

Blockchain for Good

Though the notorious Pineapple Fund was a fleeting effort, blockchain is still very much a part of social good conversations. In 2020, I anticipate this conversation to resurface in bigger ways, especially as the public receives further details around Facebook’s GlobalCoin.

Eleven percent of total cataloged blockchain initiatives are categorized as philanthropy, aid, and donors. While many of the projects kicked off in the last five years are still in very initial stages, 55% of social-good blockchain initiatives were estimated to have a direct impact on their beneficiaries by early 2019.

In 2020, I expect the entire space, Classy included, to eagerly dive into results of early initiatives like these and continue to explore applications from across the globe.

4. The Concept of Integrated Giving Empowering Everyday Donors

In 2020, we will see a continued upward trend in the growth of third-party intermediaries working to better integrate giving into everyday life.

In light of Giving USA’s 2019 report revealing a decline in general and mid-level donors (defined by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project as donors who make gifts less than $250 and between $250 and $999 respectively), it’s more important than ever for nonprofits to engage and retain these donors in seamless and integrated ways, such as through partnerships with third-party intermediaries.

As technology continues to evolve—think things like “Alexa, make a donation,” and the advent of driverless cars and essentially a “second living room”—we’ll only see more opportunities and integrations crop up that allow nonprofits to interact with consumers through platforms like Uber, Venmo, Shopify, and Twitch. Part of portfolio diversification and integrated giving means meeting donors where they are and offering approachable, affordable ways for them to get involved. Made possible by new technology, all of these partnerships help to infuse the act of giving into typical consumer habits and experiences.

5. The Rise of Giving Experiences and Conversations About Sustainable Impact

At Classy, we’ve always worked to find ways to make the giving experience more personal and less transactional for donors. We believe in the years ahead that donors will only continue to look for experiences that provide authentic connections between donors and beneficiaries.

According to Ford’s recent trend report, Looking Further With Ford, consumers are craving more authentic, person-to-person experiences, and 45% said they envied people who disconnect from their device. However, devices might be one solution to further close the gap between donor and beneficiary, as organizations start to experiment with how virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) might better connect groups of people worlds apart.

Volunteerism and “voluntourism” are obvious avenues for supporters seeking authentic, person-to-person experiences as they look for ways to give back. Yet as consumers continue to look for ways to “turn back technology” and engage with others in more genuine ways in the form of volunteering and voluntourism, we may have cause for concern and see the resurfacing of a long-time social impact topic—”western savior complex.

As the pendulum swings back to person-to-person experiences, there will be a strong need in 2020 to continue an open dialogue around the best and most appropriate ways to drive long-term social impact.

It’s my hope that these trends help your organization as you map out your strategy for 2020 and the years to come. I know I speak for the entire team at Classy when I say we’re excited to see how things continue to unfold and to navigate the changing times together.


Classy is a social enterprise that creates world-class online fundraising software for nonprofits, modernizing the giving experience to accelerate social impact around the world. Based in San Diego, CA, Classy is trusted by organizations of all sizes, from the fastest-growing nonprofits like Team Rubicon and The Trevor Project, to some of the world’s largest social organizations, such as The Salvation Army, Robin Hood Foundation, and Shriners Hospitals for Children. Classy also hosts the Collaborative conference, a three-day immersive experience designed exclusively for nonprofit professionals and social impact leaders to learn, share, and get inspired.

The Top 5 Fundraising Trends in 2020