high-dollar donors

High-dollar donors are likely to give as much or more now than before the pandemic, according to a new donor confidence study sponsored by CampaignCounsel.org. We believe this means you should continue your fundraising efforts even though the landscape seems to have changed and even though you may be scared.

In the July survey of 200 U.S. high-dollar donors, 18 percent expect to give more this year than they did last year, while just 12 percent said they expected to give less. A strong majority of high-dollar donors (70 percent) are likely to give the same amount this year than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s 88 percent of high-dollar donors indicating they are still willing and able to give despite the pandemic, civil unrest, and economic downturn. 

The online study was conducted by Campbell Rinker among donors who gave at least $2,500 total to charities in 2019. 

Impact of Pandemic on High-Dollar Donors

Donors who give at higher levels remain confident and see the ongoing importance of their gifts. In response to the pandemic, just four percent of high-dollar donors expected to stop giving until it passes. 

More than a third say giving would be among the last of their expenses to get cut (34 percent). Three in ten say they would eliminate several other expenses before cutting back on giving (30 percent), and another third said they would give just a bit more sparingly than before (32 percent).  

Nonprofits rely on these generous donors, and it is encouraging to see they remain engaged with philanthropy.

The survey also showed that most high-dollar donors say the current situation does not present an economic challenge to them. Eight in ten say they are under no economic stress, and just 13 percent say their situation is mildly challenging. Twenty-two percent of higher-dollar donor households say their income increased over the past year, compared to 17 percent who saw it decline. A 62 percent majority say it stayed the same. 

Support Decisions Driven by Prior Involvement and Mission 

These donors also agree that their “prior involvement with an organization” and the “organization’s mission” share a near equal impact on their decision to provide support. Ranked below these factors were the “impact a project would have on the organization and its service area” and “a personal relationship with the organization’s leaders.” 

Millennial high-dollar donors were likelier to rate their personal relationships with leadership as an important gift decision factor compared to older donors. For their part, Gen-X donors saw a project’s impact as a more critical factor compared to other higher-dollar donors.  

Whether you are cultivating and soliciting donors through direct marketing for smaller gifts, or through relationship-building for larger gifts, the cycle to maintain a current donor is much easier and more cost effective that trying to re-acquire a lapsed donor

This data shows that sitting on the fundraising sidelines is not warranted. Nonprofits should keep donors involved, maintain the prevalence of their mission, share the impact they are having in their community, and, when applicable, connect with their donors on a meaningful level.

Donors Want to Connect in Multiple Ways

We also asked people how they’d like to be contacted these days, and it is clear that they still want to hear from you. Thirty-five percent said they’d like a phone call, 18 percent prefer video calls, and 13 percent are eager to meet with you in safe, masked, socially distant ways. So don’t hesitate to reach out to people for these kinds of interactions.

Mail and email communication, housed under the “other” category in our survey, are preferred by 34 percent of these donors. Within the “other” category, 41% prefer mail and 59% prefer email. 

This reinforces the need for you as the organization to not only try a variety of methods to connect with your prospects and donors, but also to know what your donors’ preferences are. The most important thing is that you’re still communicating with your donors, still making asks, and still doing great, meaningful cultivation and stewardship. Drilling into these, along with other tools like wealth screening for your higher-end donors, can make building these relationships right now more effective.  

Specific Programs see Strongest Gift Intent  

In terms of supporting charitable initiatives, high-dollar donors gave their highest support likelihood to “specific programs.” Following this leading initiative, unrestricted support for operations, improving infrastructure and funding endowments were significantly less popular among high-dollar donors.  

We’re glad to see that donors are passionate about giving to tangible programs that are vital during these challenging times. Findings like these keep us optimistic that pursuing solicitations right now is not only smart but can result in building better relationships with donors

We see this passion in the capital campaign planning process too. High level donors continue to engage with us because they want to help the charitable organizations that impact their communities. It’s wonderful to see that the individuals, corporations and foundations that account for the majority of philanthropic giving in the country remain engaged.

From the start of the pandemic, we’ve heard that many nonprofits have felt it is insensitive to ask for money right now. However, we’ve suggested that failing to ask a donor for support makes the choice for them. We feel – and these survey results show – that people will continue to give as much or more than they have before if they are asked. So please, keep asking.


This online poll of 200 High-Dollar donors was sponsored by CampaignCounsel.org and conducted by Campbell Rinker from Jul 21 – 29, 2020. Responding donors had given at least $2,500 to charitable causes in 2019. Margin of error is ±6.7% at the 95% confidence level.

Major gift fundraising

Kevin Wallace
Kevin Wallace is president of CampaignCounsel.org, specializing in capital campaign planning and management. Kevin has 17 years of fundraising experience, conducting more than 80 campaign planning studies and capital campaigns around the country that have raised more than $200 million. Reach him at kevin@campaigncounsel.org or visit www.campaigncounsel.org.