The Burk Donor Survey
where Philanthropy is headed in 2021
Register as a 2021 Burk Donor Survey Partner
ABOUT THE BURK DONOR SURVEY
The Burk Donor Survey is a national research study investigating how American donors are managing their philanthropy today and what they need from the charitable causes they support. The annual Survey (since 2009) attracts thousands of donors of all ages and giving preferences. The Burk Donor Survey is especially popular with fundraising leaders because it reveals how donors expect to give in the coming year and what it will take for not-for-profits to inspire their loyalty and generous giving. The Burk Donor Survey is authored by Penelope Burk and published by Cygnus Applied Research, Inc.
The Burk Donor Survey is unique among fundraising research studies because it is a collaborative partnership between Cygnus Applied Research and prominent not-for-profits and institutions. While our partner group reflects the diversity of the third sector, all partners have one thing in common: a keen interest in using reliable evidence from donors to inform their decisions.
Special Research Theme for 2021
Charitable giving changed quite suddenly in 2020 due to COVID-19. Some donors became unable to give; others shifted some or all of their contributions to organizations working on the frontlines of the pandemic; still others remained steadfastly loyal to causes that were already on their priority list. The pandemic had an immediate impact on American life and on charitable giving. Then George Floyd was murdered and Black Lives Matter challenged donors and their priorities once again. History-making issues affect giving in the short term but they can also become catalysts to lasting change. For example, when The Burk Donor Survey studied giving in 2008 (during the depths of the recession), it found that donors supported fewer causes than before and that they started paying more attention to cost-per-dollar raised. Later editions of the Survey discovered that these changes had become permanent.
The 2021 edition of The Burk Donor Survey will chart how donors gave in 2020 and the extent to which COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and perhaps other issues were factors. It will then look ahead, asking donors about their giving plans for 2021 and whether their personal and giving experiences last year are causing them to manage their philanthropy differently going forward.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT WILL THE BURK DONOR SURVEY INVESTIGATE IN 2021?
- how donors gave in 2020 (how much they gave, number and types of causes they supported, how they transacted their gifts) compared with how they gave in 2019
- donors’ plans for giving in 2021, and how the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 will impact their giving choices and gift values
- how donors are managing their philanthropy today compared with five years ago
- what would unleash donors’ philanthropy at a new, higher level
WHAT HAS THE BURK DONOR SURVEY INVESTIGATED IN THE PAST?
Among many topics that are especially important to fundraisers and not-for-profits, The Burk Donor Survey has investigated subjects as diverse as:
- how gender, age and religious conviction impact philanthropy
- whether sustainer (recurring) giving programs could be more successful
- whether people who sponsor participants in athletic events like walk-a-thons are also good candidates as direct donors
- whether heavy users of social media are an asset to fundraising
- why some alumni give to their alma maters and others do not
- why donors do or do not include bequests in their wills and what the potential is for growth in this important fundraising program
WHAT IS EXPECTED FROM PARTNERS IN THE 2021 BURK DONOR SURVEY?
Between February 22 and March 31, 2021, Survey Partners will reach out to their donors via email, asking them to take part in Cygnus’ anonymous, online survey. (Partners choose a two to three-week period in which the survey is available to their donors.) The email request is drafted by Cygnus and tested prior to the survey’s launch. Partners send out an initial request and a reminder one or two weeks later.
This is the full extent of our partners’ responsibility but, of course, it is the essential contribution that ensures a volume of respondents sufficient to generate statistically reliable results by age, giving level and several other criteria.
Note that partners never have to share any donor information with Cygnus, including email addresses. Additionally, questions in the Survey ask about donors’ giving in general and never inquire about their relationship with the Partner that invites them into the survey.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BECOMING A BURK DONOR SURVEY PARTNER?
Our partners enjoy the following FREE benefits:
- the 2021 Burk Donor Survey National Report, authored by Penelope Burk
- a private webinar for partners only to discuss findings with Penelope
There are additional free benefits for partners who are able to reach out to 100,000 donors or more to invite them to participate in this survey. Please contact Kristen Hazell, Partner Coordinator for The Burk Donor Survey, for more information.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR BECOMING A SURVEY PARTNER?
- being able to reach out to as many donors as possible during a two week period within the designated survey period (February 22 to March 31, 2021).
- sending the initial email inviting donors to participate in The Burk Donor Survey.
- sending a reminder email towards the end of the survey period.
Registration is mandatory in order to become a Burk Donor Survey Partner. See the Registration Form below.
HOW MANY DONORS MUST PARTNERS INVITE INTO THE BURK DONOR SURVEY?
To qualify as a partner, you must invite a minimum of 5,000 donors to participate, but the more donors you include in your outreach, the more meaningful the results for your not-for-profit or institution.
Some national organizations and very large local not-for-profits have databases of tens or hundreds of thousands of donors. We eagerly welcome them into this project because of their ability to reach so many potential respondents. For any partner able to invite 100,000 or more donors into the survey, Cygnus provides a unique report comparing their donors’ results with those of all other donors in the survey. (Please contact Kristen Hazell at Cygnus for more information about this special offer.)
Partners never have to share any donor information, including email addresses, with Cygnus. In addition, the survey is open to Partners’ leadership volunteers, direct service volunteers, and staff.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS PROJECT?
Penelope Burk, President of Cygnus Applied Research, is the study’s author. Penelope is a researcher and fundraising expert with 45 years of experience in the not-for-profit sector. Penelope has authored four books and numerous training programs in fundraising and not-for-profit management. She is especially well known as the originator of Donor-Centered Fundraising, a proven strategy for keeping donors loyal longer and inspiring more generous contributions.
Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. specializes in conducting confidential research with donors and helping not-for-profits raise more money by adjusting their fundraising practices to reflect donors’ changing preferences and giving trends.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PARTICIPATING FOR DONORS?
Cygnus will provide the Executive Summary of The 2021 Burk Donor Survey Report to any participating donor who requests it. In order to be sure that their participation is anonymous, respondents will be redirected to Cygnus’ website after they complete the survey. Once there, they will be able to request a summary of findings when the Survey Report is published. This is an opt-in opportunity only. Donors who have participated in our surveys in the past say they appreciate the opportunity to learn what our research discovers while ensuring their privacy is simultaneously protected.
WHO CAN I CONTACT FOR MORE INFORMATION OR ASSISTANCE?
Project Manager, 2021 Burk Donor Survey