Since the COVID-19 pandemic began nearly a year ago, one of the central questions in the minds of nonprofit leaders and fundraisers has continually been can we raise money effectively in a virtual world?

The latest results from CCS’s Philanthropic Climate Survey—which encompass responses from more than 1,000 individuals representing nonprofits across sectors—help show that as we begin 2021, the answer is still yes.

Click here to download the full report.

CCS undertook the first installment of our Philanthropic Climate Survey series in spring 2020 to assess the immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis on nonprofit fundraising. Since then, subsequent installments have broadened beyond analyzing the effects of the pandemic to address the larger picture of nonprofit fundraising today.

Our new fourth-edition results provide a snapshot of the strategies many nonprofits have embraced to fundraise in 2020 and early 2021. The survey data also provide a window into how nonprofits are planning for the future of their fundraising programs, including looking ahead to a post-pandemic world. The newly released survey report covers topics including the utilization and success of online fundraising events, changes to cases for support, trends in remote work for fundraising staff, and more.

Success in Virtual Major Gift Solicitations

One particularly reassuring finding from our survey is that virtual major gift solicitations were mostly reported as successful.

As of January 2021, 56% of our survey participants reported holding a virtual major gift solicitation during the pandemic via phone, video conference, or both methods (up from 43% in our September 2020 survey). Of those respondents whose organizations had conducted a virtual major gift solicitation, 72% reported that their virtual requests were either as successful or more successful than their typical results from in-person solicitations.

Improving Fundraising Results

This news of successful virtual solicitations aligns with our survey’s broader findings on improving fundraising outcomes over the course of 2020.

In line with trends observed in previous Philanthropic Climate Survey editions, our fourth-edition results suggested that in aggregate, the COVID-19 pandemic had less of a negative effect on fundraising by the end of 2020 than at the beginning of the pandemic.


As of January 2021, 39% of respondents reported that their organization’s fundraising increased in calendar year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This proportion grew more than 2.7 times from our May 2020 survey results, in which only 14% of respondents reported an increase in 2020 to date. Similarly, the proportion of respondents reporting decreases in fundraising due to COVID-19 went down from a height of 63% in May to a low of 44% in January.

More Reasons for Optimism

Other encouraging findings from our latest survey results include:

  • Respondents reported a variety of positive changes at their organization in response to society’s renewed focus on racial equity and social justice. Just over half of respondents indicated that their organization took steps to make its workplace more diverse, equitable, and/or inclusive. Other respondents reported changes such as examining their board and volunteer management practices, modifying their case for support, and revisiting their donor pipeline strategies.
  • Most of our participants indicated that their organization would maintain or even increase their fundraising staff sizes in 2021. More than one in four respondents reported that their organization intended to add fundraising staff in 2021. The majority (59%) said that they expected their numbers to stay the same. Few respondents (5%) reported intentions to reduce their fundraising staff numbers this year.
  • Respondents seemed largely confident in their ability to move forward with major capital and comprehensive campaigns. A combined 55% of participants said they were launching, restarting, or continuing a campaign. Another 17% reported that a campaign was under consideration in 2021.

To see more results from our Philanthropic Climate Survey series, download our fourth-edition report today. If you have any questions about the report or CCS Fundraising, please contact us at marketing@ccsfundraising.com.

To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about how CCS Fundraising partners with nonprofits for transformational change, click here.

CCS Fundraising is a consulting firm that works with nonprofits. We provide campaign counsel, strategic planning, and other services to strengthen development efforts for charities.

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About the Author

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. As leading consulting experts in campaign and development strategy, we plan and implement fundraising initiatives to help nonprofit organizations make a bigger impact—locally, nationally, and globally. For over 70 years, CCS has empowered many of the world’s greatest organizations to advance some of the most important causes in history. While the results of our work are immediate, the impact of the strategies, tools, and tactics we develop with our clients are enduring.