Due to the recommended social distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place orders during the last year, many people found themselves “stuck” at home—including donors. While many continued to consume news from national and international outlets, they focused more squarely on their local communities. When would the virus enter their region? Their county? Their hometown? And what could they do to strengthen the local efforts to combat COVID-19 and help those who were struggling in its wake?

Our 2021 Donor Insights report was compiled from research conducted through in-depth, qualitative interviews with 27 major donors from January to March of 2021. Our aim was to gain better understanding of how the events of 2020 might affect the charitable giving and philanthropic values of donors.

One of the key findings from the research conducted for the 2021 Donor Insights report was that donors overwhelmingly contributed to their communities during the pandemic. They demonstrated their love and concern for humankind with infusions of philanthropic support for local organizations, especially those providing healthcare and social services.

“One of the major grants I made was to our council on aging to support their efforts in delivering to the home-bound seniors. Another was home repair for seniors. What else do they do? Another one was supporting our domestic violence agency, because of the increase in that as a result of COVID.”


Many donors that we interviewed for the report indicated that they learned about the needs of their communities through news from local media outlets and through marketing from local organizations.

“[These organizations] just connected to us. How did they come to us? Well—I hate to say it—but probably to some extent almost [all] through media attention.”


Even before this past year, the “support local” movement was gaining strength. COVID-19 acted as a catalyst for wider awareness of this movement among consumers and donors alike. And many of the donors we interviewed indicated that now they are aware of local philanthropic opportunities, they intend to continue their support.

“With COVID this year, we’ve added a number of more local people-based things in the communities that we live in…and as we get more confident in the amount of money that we have to give away, we will be adding more to those sectors but still maintaining the other ones—at the same level—or perhaps more.”


How can your organization leverage this heightened community awareness among its donors?

First, consider creating or strengthening local marketing efforts. How might you utilize local broadcast media, newspapers, and social media channels to create awareness of your initiatives?

 In crafting your message, remember that donors can experience “donor fatigue” when asked to contribute to too many needs. Instead, formulate a marketing plan that presents your initiatives as compelling philanthropic opportunities to make a difference. How will people in your area benefit? What does that future look like? Why is your organization the best choice for shepherding this initiative?

Make sure your story reaches a variety of local media outlets. Reporters love a compelling story; contact your hometown newspaper and TV and radio stations. Submit press releases. Post regularly on social media.

Remember, too, that the best advertising is often through word-of-mouth. Consider training your board members and your best volunteers to effectively share your organization’s story, philanthropic opportunities, and impact at community-based events and in personal interactions.

“I would say [spread your mission through] newspapers, speaking to community groups—because many have community groups like the Rotary or women’s groups. I belong to a women’s group, and we have speakers come in and do Zoom™ talks for us every month. Seek things out like that.”


Local nonprofits have a definite advantage when it comes to demonstrating impact. You can invite your donors to see first-hand how their philanthropic investments are being put to work. They can walk the halls of the building they helped construct. They can observe programs in action that they helped bring to life or strengthen. Most importantly, now that quarantine restrictions are being lifted, they can personally meet the people whose lives have been impacted and changed for the better.

Donors stepped up in record numbers to alleviate suffering and improve lives during 2020. Many indicate that they will continue to monitor and support local initiatives. Leverage your organization’s success by leveraging donors’ heightened awareness of and concern for community.


Download your copy of 2021 Donor Insights to better understand changes in donors’ mindsets during 2020—including actions your organization can take to leverage these changes moving forward.

2021 Donor Insights 

Interested in learning more about training your board and other dedicated volunteers to help communicate your funding priorities in a compelling way? Contact us to explore the options.