What comes next: How COVID-19 will influence giving in 2021 and beyond

Woman helping a little girl put on her face mask

The COVID-19 pandemic brought constant challenge and change, moving many donors to increase their giving levels in 2020 in response to the year’s hardships. But as the recovery continues—and as the Delta variant threatens its progress—how are donors making giving decisions today?

Fidelity Charitable conducted a survey to check in on donors’ current attitudes toward giving in 2021 and beyond. What we found shows that significant shifts in giving behaviors and priorities endure for now. Conducted in July and early August, the study underscored the following key takeaways:

2021 COVID-19 Giving Plans
  • A year and a half into the pandemic, donors remain committed to philanthropy—with most planning to maintain or even further increase their donations in 2021.
    A significant portion of donors—27 percent—said they gave significantly more in 2020 than they did the previous year. And as they plan their giving this year, more than nine-in-ten say they will give the same or more in 2021 than they did in 2020. Donors’ commitment to giving remains high.
2021 COVID-19 Giving Cause Areas
  • The pandemic spotlighted issues related to curing diseases, addressing hunger and responding to local community needs—and donors will continue to support these causes.
    Many donors say that their experiences in 2020 made them more aware of certain issues in the world—particularly development of cures for diseases (42 percent), local community needs (34 percent) and hunger (32 percent). And that greater awareness is reflected in their 2021 giving plans. Roughly 30 percent of donors plan to give more to these issues than they did in 2020. 

  • Donors could also continue to embrace new channels and methods for giving in 2021.
    In addition to making adjustments to the causes they support due to their experiences during the pandemic, some donors also made changes to how they give. Increases in making socially responsible consumer decisions, supporting vulnerable individuals and embracing digital tools to give continue to endure. In fact, nearly three-in-ten say they will purchase more products from socially responsible businesses in 2021. Twenty-eight percent say they will make more donations online. And the same number say they will give more money directly to individuals, family or friends. 
2021 COVID-19 Giving Virtual Volunteerism
  • One-third of donors plan to volunteer more in the future—and many will do at least some of their volunteer activities virtually.
    After a difficult year for the many nonprofits that rely on volunteer labor to provide services, volunteers are looking to get back to work—and many are planning to increase their involvement. Thirty-five percent of donors would like to spend more time volunteering in the future.

    But volunteerism might not look quite the same. During the pandemic, 30 percent of donors say they volunteered virtually, compared to only 17 percent before the pandemic. While many are looking forward to returning to in-person opportunities, virtual volunteerism is here to stay. One-third of donors say they plan to participate in virtual volunteer activities moving forward.

  • Looking to the future, one-third of donors think that 2020 will have a long-term impact on their approach to charitable giving.
    The events of 2020 caused shifts in giving methods and attitudes that will endure for many donors. A third say the events of the past year—including the pandemic and social justice issues—will have a long-term influence on the amount they give to charity, the causes they support and the channels through which they donate.

For more on how donors are approaching giving in 2021 and beyond, read the detailed results from our survey.

How have donor attitudes evolved since the beginning of the pandemic? Read our previous study to see how donors were thinking about giving in March 2020. 




This report is based on a study conducted in July and August 2021 by Artemis Strategy Group, an independent research firm, on behalf of Fidelity Charitable. The study examined the effect of COVID-19 on giving behavior among 701 adults in the U.S. who donated at least $1,000 to charity in 2020.

How to help with COVID-19

We are continually monitoring the situation and will update our COVID-19 giving guidance as circumstances change and new information comes available. 

How Fidelity Charitable can help

Since 1991, we have been a leader in charitable planning and giving solutions, helping donors like you support their favorite charities in smart ways.

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