Webinar Recap and Q&A with CCS Fundraising: 2021 Trends in Fundraising

In early March, we were excited to welcome Jose Barquin and Sarah Schmall from CCS Fundraising to present a webinar as part of our Nonprofit Thought Leadership Series. 2021 Trends in Fundraising: What Does the Data Say and What Does it Mean for Fundraisers? incorporated new data from CCS’s fourth-edition Philanthropic Climate Survey, which includes January 2021 responses from 1,000+ nonprofit leaders and fundraisers on topics including:

  • Expectations for 2021 fundraising outcomes
  • Success rates for virtual fundraising events and virtual major gift solicitations
  • How society’s renewed focus on racial equity has changed nonprofit operations and fundraising

If you missed the webinar, you can now watch the recording here. 


Check out some of the Q&A from the webinar below:


Q: Any tips on getting an increase in responses to donor feedback right after a virtual event?

A: While donor feedback can be so helpful for taking your virtual events to the next level, it can also be hard to get! These tactics may help:

  • Create a survey that is as short as possible. 
    • Make the questions multiple choice wherever possible and limit the number of free-response answers.
    • Ensure the survey is compatible with mobile devices, as many people may take the survey on their phone.
  • Send the survey promptly after the event when people’s memories are fresh.
  • Set a deadline for the feedback survey to create a sense of urgency. Provide an email reminder in advance of that deadline.
  • Beyond a survey, sprinkle questions about the event into other touchpoints you have with event attendees: donor meetings, board meetings, etc.

Q: Do you recommend specific resources for DEI, especially for governance and development to be considering when formulating a plan for the organization?

A: Kudos for making this an area of focus for your organization! We have found these resource libraries to be helpful as we advise our clients and as we work on advancing DEI within CCS:

Q: Has the nature of mixed requests for donors been affected by COVID and the increased online engagement or is it more important to focus on the impact these new transitions have on major gifts?

In our work with nonprofits of all types during the pandemic, we have found that major donors are eager to help the organizations that are close to their heart. Encouragingly, we’re finding that virtual meetings with major donors can be a formidable substitute for in-person meetings. When CCS surveyed nonprofits in January 2021, of the roughly 500 respondents who had conducted virtual major gift solicitations, almost three-quarters said that the virtual solicitations were either as successful or more successful than the results they’d expect from a typical in-person solicitation at their organization.

We have also found that “mixed” or “blended” gift proposals—meaning proposals that mix cash gifts with non-cash or deferred gifts like bequests or gifts of stock—have felt especially relevant during the pandemic when many have felt uncertainty about their economic situation.  Non-cash gifts can help donors to support a mission in a more cost-effective way. Fundraising should always be done from a position for what we want for people, not from people. Through gift planning, we can come bearing solutions for our donors—for example, ways to access income streams or give in ways that are cheaper through solutions like charitable remainder trusts.


Q: We are lucky to have a robust set of donors who have relationships with our founders well.  We want to start integrating others into the asks, but lots of these donors don’t know them well yet.  What are some tips around doing this?

We think it is a great idea to begin integrating others into your meetings with these donors. As you are likely sensing, it’s best to do it sooner rather than later. It is ideal if you can get others involved in earlier cultivation meetings before moving into briefing and the eventual ask. 

Start off by having new individuals introduced by the founders to the donor, and have new members join the founders in conversations side-by-side. Clearly define why the new staff members are joining—what knowledge and perspectives do they bring to the table? Empower your founders to be champions for these new team members. Their endorsement matters! 

As you begin to invite other staff members into the donor meetings, it’s a good idea to make a clear plan for the role that the new attendees will play in the meeting. Especially in a virtual setting, it can be hard to anticipate when to jump into conversations, so it’s best to have a strategy for everyone’s contributions and plan for when the founders can naturally invite others into the discussion.

Q: Are there any resources or tools on how to engage or make an ask with a major gift donor?

For general considerations on major gift strategy, The Ask by Laura Fredericks has some great theory around how to approach these discussions. For advice specific to soliciting gifts via video calls, you may find our colleague Courtney Labetti’s recent article “Asking for Major Gifts in a Virtual World: A Practical Guide to Virtual Solicitation” of assistance.

Additionally, consider sources of information beyond books, webinars, articles, etc.:

  • Consider gaining insights from your peer networks on this topic—it can be incredibly valuable to invite their perspectives and experiences in major gifts. 
  • You can also gather information directly from your donor constituency. Think about a shortlist of donors you can have informational conversations with to ask them about their experience being invited to contemplate a major gift. We have a bias as fundraisers to think about our side of the table in the conversation, so it’s important to think about who’s on the other side and how communications are received from their end.


Watch the full webinar recording here. 

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