Setting the Stage for a Shift in Higher Ed Donor Behaviors

January 27, 2021  |  Vince Kalt


With positive news regarding a vaccine action plan, a rallying stock market and donors who are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the time has come to revisit your capital campaign plans.



1. COVID has disrupted the economy exponentially. Amid a pandemic-induced global shutdown, unemployment peaked, the markets crashed and 2020 ended with… record stock performances?
2. Non-profits have been hit hard between slow recovery to job loss, declining rates of volunteer engagement and limited options for replacing in-person events.
3. Expectations of donors have been reset. While many are dealing with life-threatening illness and financial despair, others are thriving and want to help.
4. This is affecting universities all over the world, who are already dealing with dried up revenue and litigation as the result of COVID.
5. Students, both current and prospective, are dealing with their own finance issues. The CARES Act made Emergency Cash Grants available to students, and federal student loan interest rates were lowered to 0%.
6. Seemingly the most impacted population in higher ed is the first gen student, for whom the obstacles to attaining higher ed were already significant. “Persistent trends of decline among these key subgroups across the 2020-21 cycle signal a need for additional support in the months leading up to enrollment in fall 2021,” according to Common App.


7. The new year is proving to spur some optimism. Younger generations*, in particular, are planning to increase their donations in 2021, in response to COVID.
8. Topics of equity and access are what resonate most among donors.
9. Those donors who are doing well right now are compelled to give, and they’ll give quickly. Those universities who can act with a sense of urgency and close the loop quickly will win. Donors want to see their gifts distributed quickly and meaningfully.

Yes, COVID is complicating literally everything, but students, particularly those who are most vulnerable to disruptions in their education, can’t afford a pause in your fundraising efforts that make degree-earning possible for them.

With positive news regarding a vaccine action plan, a rallying stock market and donors who are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the time has come to revisit your capital campaign plans. Or if you’re not there yet, let’s chat. At BVK, we’ve helped universities get the ball rolling with a mini-campaign approach supported by crowdfunding.

*Young people, you say? Don’t forget those affinity groups and young alumni communities on your social accounts. A common complaint from donors in a COVID world is they don’t know how to help. Community engagement is a prime opportunity to connect brand advocates to your university’s purpose.



is a Senior Vice President at BVK

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