This year, we saw seasonal donation trends disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted a swift shift toward support for human services and food security from March through May. Then, an exponential spike in support for social justice and racial equity came
Traditional, top-down corporate philanthropy has been largely
replaced with a more authentic and empowered approach in
recent years. And, we were already beginning to see a notable
rise in people-powered movements prior to 2020. But the recent
crises and events sparked unprecedented grassroots action and
2020 became the year fueled by the power of the individual —
backed by their employers and the brands they buy from —
to create impact from the bottom up.
In a year of isolation and uncertainty, when people craved connection, meaning and efficacy, companies met people where they were. They provided the means and impetus to be okay with not being okay, to take action, to feel part of something bigger than themselves and their own challenges, and to gain a personal sense of purpose and impact.
Key moments lead to movements
in June following news of the killing of George Floyd and other Black people. By the end of the year, the “giving season” was in full swing, dispelling any concerns about donor fatigue slowing down giving in the latter part of the year.
Notable changes in causes supported during peak of COVID response*
Racial Justice and Equity organization
Donation from May-Dec 2020
“Thank you, Abbott, for your generosity and kindness in helping those impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. With my donation and Abbott's match, the Houston Food Bank will be able to offer an additional 2,000 meals. Finally, thank you Abbott researchers and scientists for the amazing contributions you've made during this pandemic!”
— Abbott Laboratories Employee
What is Peer Matching?
Peer Matching is the next innovation in matching. It enables individuals to create their own giving opportunities, add a match from their own funds and then open it up to their co-workers to either donate (and receive the match) or join the match pool. In this way, Peer Matching is a feature that empowers individuals to create a movement with their own funds based on their own passions.
The Power of Payroll
In a year when finances may have been tight for some people, the ability to donate in small amounts was critical. For the first time, the number of companies offering payroll donations — which makes micro-donations easier for donors and more cost-effective for nonprofits — tipped over into the majority.
In 2020, 51% of companies offered payroll giving and 55% of all donations were made via payroll. Our data shows that when payroll giving is offered, companies see 53% higher average donation participation as it enables everyone to give in amounts and frequencies that are easily managed regardless of their personal banking situation or their desire or ability to donate using a credit card.
When crisis hit, content was queen
According to our client survey, corporate purpose professionals cited time and resource constraints as one of their biggest challenges in 2020. So, it’s unsurprising we saw a 50% year-over-year increase in the adoption of Benevity’s Content Streams, which serves up trending and popular cause recommendations as an easy way for people to join movements around newsworthy events.
Choice drove participation
In what was a particularly difficult year for nonprofits,
people continued to support personal and local causes they’re passionate about in categories not directly related to crisis
response, including education, animal welfare, the arts and others. Notably, religious organizations appeared second only to human services in the causes most supported through public giving campaigns run by companies. And according to the Giving USA 2020 Report, giving to religious organizations grew 2.3% last year, while support for education, the arts, animals and the environment all saw double-digit growth.
Future movements will be
powered by people, propelled
In 2020, best practices became common practices: offering the choice of which nonprofits to support, incentivizing giving through special matching and donation currency rewards, and making donating easier and more accessible through payroll. And many companies went further to make special matches more special and in empowering their people to create their own giving opportunities and even add their own matching.
This past year showed us that individuals are capable of great things when they are empowered with the tools, technology and support they need to move from inertia to action. When they are able to rally their networks, they build momentum around causes and that leads to movements. As we continue to collectively tackle issues around equity, climate, health and well-being, and more, we will see people-powered movements becoming the standard, and the companies backing them will lead on every business metric.
Tips for including religious organizations
Our data shows a significant demand and opportunity for more companies to consider making religious causes available to donors — either with or without a match — as a way to deepen engagement. In Benevity’s platform, matching can be limited to community projects sponsored by churches or other religious organizations (such as food pantry programs) where the funds are solely directed to the specific project rather than the organization itself. This allows companies to include more of the nonprofits that people are clearly passionate about without supporting evangelical activities.
The 2020 Benevity Impact Report
Purpose has been recognized as a key component of long-term business resilience and sustainability — and it's driven a significant increase in all aspects of corporate purpose. The Benevity client community created record-breaking impact in 2020 and we're sharing all the details as part of The State of Corporate Purpose report.