What Have We Learned as Fundraisers? Tell Us in Our New Survey

Brian GaworVice President of ResearchJanuary 14, 2021

We’ve been conducting Advancement Leaders Speak surveys for the past four years, collecting and reporting on more than 5,000 responses from fundraisers. In 2020, the pandemic hit right as we were about to kick off our annual survey, so we shifted to a series of surveys that focused on the emerging trends and needs as we had to rapidly tackle the new realities of fundraising. In this challenging time, we know it’s helpful to hear about what others are doing to engage donors and meet goals.

You can read an overview of what those advancement leaders said in 2020 in this comprehensive report.

This year, we’re kicking off the series with a focus on how priorities have shifted for the close of the FY21 fiscal year and what we’ve all learned from the challenges of the past year. We’ve just launched the first 2021 survey, with topics including:

  • The impact remote working has had on contact with donors as well staff morale.
  • What’s receiving the most attention right now in advancement shops: donors, dollars, participation, campaigns?
  • How diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice have shaped the focus of advancement.
  • Which changes that we made in 2020 will likely last after the pandemic?

Here are a few early insights from the first 75 respondents:

  • Over half of fundraisers say some new remote working option will be available after the pandemic
  • 3/4 of fundraisers say talking about their diversity impact or marketing DEI and social justice giving opportunities is receiving more focus
  • The majority of fundraisers say that either more dollars in the door or dollars for special projects are receiving more emphasis, and that donor count and participation are less of a priority
  • Common words used to describe what fundraisers need to accomplish in 2021: overwhelming, focus, excitement, pride


I invite you to take the brief, 10-minute survey. We have included a number of open responses on key challenges and lessons from 2020, and these questions allow you to share your specific insights with your fellow fundraisers. As always, your response is private and all questions are optional.

The results will be released at the upcoming CASE All Districts Conference February 16-18 in a panel discussion with advancement leaders. We’ll also share the results on the RNL blog. We’ll continue more surveys in 2021, and I’d love to hear about questions you’re interested in seeing added. Drop me a line and we’ll chat. Thanks for adding your voice as an advancement leader.

Survey: Advancement Leaders Speak 2021

Share your fundraising insights in our 10-minute Advancement Leaders Speak 2021 survey about the challenges and strategies for the upcoming year.


About the Author

Brian Gawor

Brian Gawor’s focus is research and strategy to help propel both alumni engagement and fundraising results of RNL clients. Brian has 20 years of higher education experience in student affairs, enrollment management, alumni engagement and...

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