3 Greatest Fundraising Challenges of 2021

With donors up in 2020 and donor retention holding steady, organizations can look to 2021 with important lessons learned. We checked in with Michael J. Buckley, CFRE, for his take on what animal welfare fundraising pros can be focusing on in 2021—and some upcoming opportunities (webinar, 2 online courses!) to dig into these issues with him. 

The Association: What are the greatest challenges of fundraising in 2021?

Michael J. Buckley, CFRE: Sustainability will be the biggest challenge for organizations this year, and ensuring sustainability must be every organization’s 2021 goal.  

If organizations were able to survive, or even thrive, in 2020, the challenge will be to keep those donors engaged when (hopefully) your organization and the world will not be in crisis mode. Donor stewardship will be vital in 2021 to continue to engage these donors. For organizations that were not successful in fundraising in 2020, the coming year will be very challenging for them. These organization have to enter back into people’s minds and ask for support. 

Good news in 2020–the challenge will be to sustain it

For many organizations, whether they survived, thrived or are close to dying, the limit on public gatherings will be a challenge in 2021. That means no special events, and for many organizations, special events were significant parts of their budgets.  Again, regardless of the status of your organization, moving these event donors to “regular” donors should be a priority.  

The Association: How will COVID-19 change fundraising this year, next year and beyond?

MJB: The lack of public gatherings will be a challenge for the foreseeable future. The challenge will be to move donors from special event sponsors, etc. to, for example, direct mail donors.  

There will also be a realistic amount of trauma that our organizations face for years to come.  A global pandemic of this magnitude is a once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully!) situation, and everyone will need to work through that in their own way, both leaders and donors. That said, it’s important for organizations to understand that COVID-19 will always be in the back of donors minds… the “What if?” I’ll be talking more about this in my webinar next Thursday at 3 ET, Beyond COVID: Planning and Forecasting Your 2021 Fundraising Revenue.

Mike breaks this chart down in his 1/21 webinar. (Note, it’s approved for CFRE CEs)

The Association: We are sooo excited about the two new certificate programs you developed for us—The Association Fundraising Professional Certificate Program and The Association Fundraising Executive Certificate Program. Why should FR professionals consider taking these courses? How will having these certificates under your belt help your career? 

MJB: Fundraising for an animal welfare organization is a unique challenge and opportunity. Since there are many national- and international-level animal welfare organizations competing with local organizations for the same philanthropic dollars, animal welfare fundraising professionals must educate donors and prospects about local needs. In addition, many professionals have responsibility for the entire range of giving, from lower-level annual fund dollars to major and bequest giving.  

Investing in these professional development opportunities will allow you to add or sharpen the tools in your toolbox. Whether you’re new in your animal welfare career or a seasoned professional, there’s an opportunity for you to increase your skills while looking at fundraising through the lens of animal welfare. Additionally, both courses are approved for CFRE CEs.

I believe there are significant philanthropic dollars left on the table that animal welfare should be working to get. You’ll learn tools to do so through the course, to better expose its true work and increase fundraising dollars. 


The Association is the only international society of leaders actively leading and managing community animal shelters/animal control agencies.


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