RESOURCES  |  December 14, 2020

The state of nonprofit supporters in 2020

Gracie Farese
Written by Gracie Farese

Top takeaways from our Community Check meta-analysis


FreeWill has facilitated Community Check surveys for 20 of our partners throughout the pandemic. This summary reflects an aggregated analysis of how nonprofit supporters are feeling, what support they need, and how they’re thinking about their giving.



This summary includes 10,341 responses from the 14 most representative of those 20 surveys sent between May and October, 2020. Of those who reported their gender, 52% were female, and 33% were male, and the average respondent age was 67. This summary includes surveys from organizations across multiple sectors, including religion, health, higher education, humanitarian, and animal welfare.


Supporter sentiment

Supporters are feeling fortunate — and anxious. Acknowledge and speak to these emotions when sending outreach.

how are you feeling

Newer donors are more likely to donate right now. 53% of donors who started giving within the past 5 years reported being more likely to donate cash gifts right now, as compared to 39% of donors who started giving over 5 years ago.

The pandemic was top of mind in the first half of the year, but was overtaken by the election in the second. The first word cloud shows respondents’ answers to “What are you thinking about most right now?” from May through July, and the second word cloud shows August to October.


word cloudword cloud


Younger supporters are slightly more likely to volunteer right now than older supporters.

supporters who volunteered


Non-cash giving

Charitable bequests are a huge opportunity right now. More nonprofit supporters self-report being likely to update their wills this year than unlikely. Your supporters are already making their plans — all you need to do is inform them about charitable giving options. supporters and will-planning

So are Qualified Charitable Distributions! 17% of respondents reported having IRAs, as compared to 8% with appreciated stocks and/or mutual funds and 1% with DAFs. Just like soliciting charitable bequests from those likely to create wills, consider that for IRA holders, the vessel for giving is already in place — it’s simply a matter of connecting the dots for donors.


Some donors are more likely to give non-cash assets right now. No matter their length of time giving, 27% of all donors report being more likely to give non-cash assets. 

donors who are likely to give non-cash

Everyone is more concerned for their economic security this year, younger supporters especially. Tax-savvy, non-cash giving and legacy gifts are more accessible options for donors facing a strain on their income.

concern for economic security

Communicating with your supporters

They want to hear from you! While many nonprofits may have hesitated to send outreach this year, supporters have found your outreach helpful amidst the ups and downs of 2020. 

organization communication

Supporters prefer email — by far. 70% of nonprofit supporters preferred email, compared to 6% for social media and 7% for physical mail.

Community Check helped partners identify a total of 8,955 prospects (note that some respondents are duplicated in this sum, since they appear on multiple lists). Clearly, surveys are extremely effective at uncovering prospects to follow up with, including: uncovered legacy donors; prospective bequest, IRA, and stock donors; those interested in more ways to support your mission; and those who have specifically requested a phone call.

Community Check also helped our partners identify 193 supporters that had already left gifts in their wills!

Supporters most want your COVID-19 updates, but they also want fun content. Be sensitive, but don’t sideline your lighter content completely in times of crisis.

organization helpfulness