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Marlin Communications - Blog Articles - State Fundraising

State of Fundraising: A review of 2020 and prediction for 2021

We were asked by F&P Magazine to write an article about the State of Fundraising in 2020 and our predictions for 2021.

Our digital strategist, Jason Ruffell Smith, shares his views here:

If 2020 has shown us anything it is that, as a sector, we can be resilient and we can adapt. 

2020 is a year that many of us, whether it be personally or professionally, would like to leave behind us, lost in a trail of dust in our rear view mirror. 

Many organisations with a reliance on physical events and in-person community fundraising activities have seen revenue dry up or seen a significant decrease as they try to pivot to virtual events. 

Even some of Australia’s most prominent P2P campaigns struggled as the economy faltered, job insecurity increased and the Australian public moved indoors. 

However as Australia lost its sense of physical community it went in search for a virtual one. This year has also been a time of notable innovation in the community fundraising space and the successful entry of newcomers into the market.  

As we look to the future it is important to reflect on some of the strategic factors that will influence the success of community fundraising in 2021 and beyond. 


Over the past few years we have seen significant growth in the number of community fundraising events entering the market. To the point where there can be 10+ running/walking/riding challenges in the market at any given time.

These events raise anywhere from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars in their inaugural years, but what makes one event more successful than another? 

A large contributor to success is ‘Community’. Before developing an idea or plowing ahead with a new campaign, charities need to be asking themselves do they have a community that they can activate? 

An organisation should be looking at the demographics and engagement levels of their supporter and beneficiary databases as well as their social media channels. This information will provide some indication of ‘audience readiness’ to take part in a virtual P2P event. 

Charities that have been successful in building communities have used the power of social media to create brand and cause awareness through consistent posting of positive, useful and fun content that creates a genuine connection between their followers and the organisation. This has subsequently enabled them to tap into a warm and engaged audience when the time comes to launch a community fundraising campaign. 


The power of a great concept should never be underestimated or, for those with existing events, a concept refresh aligned with the socioeconomic environment.

With social media and fundraising platforms accessible to pretty much every-and-anyone, it is now easier than ever to create a virtual event. 

But the mantra of ‘build it and they will come’ is a falsehood and a solid concept is still key. Especially with the increasing saturation of the P2P space and many campaigns competing for the attention, engagement and related income of a relatively small market. 

The key to a good concept is;

  • Be unique
  • Have a clear causal connection 
  • Be simple and easy to understand
  • Be achievable (from the fundraiser perspective)
  • Include a call to action
  • Be relatively easy to engage with 
  • Encourage ‘social proof and share-ability’
  • Have a challenge worth recognising, and worth dedicating time to (from the donor perspective)

When considering the creation of a new event in the future or pivoting an existing campaign, it is important to analyse what will make your event standout and research whether it resonates with your community. We have seen the difference of a slightly engaged audience, versus a very engaged fundraiser base be the difference of tens of thousands of dollars for smaller organisations and hundreds of thousands for larger organisations. 


Community fundraising events require buy in and investment from the organisation. This includes support of the idea through to the monetary investment in media, platform and suppliers. Creating a case for support within the organisation when budgets are much leaner can be difficult, but use data and insights from your audience and concept analysis to inform your request for investment. 

From our own experiences we have seen how a successful community fundraising event can provide much more than just revenue but also work as a vehicle for inspiring cultural change and rejuvenating a brand with your supporters and beneficiaries. 

Thanks to the availability of new technologies to enable the facilitation of virtual events, there are ways for organisations to work smarter and reduce budget spend in some areas. However a commitment to media spend will be required to have the reach and market penetration required.

If you are considering the creation of a new community fundraising event or the pivoting of an existing physical event to a virtual event the essentials of community, concept and investment are fundamental in ensuring an engaging and successful experience for your supporters. 

2021 will be the year of virtual events where other revenue streams may continue to see a decline. This offers organisations an opportunity to activate their existing base, attract new supporters and build communities of like minded people with a strong affinity to the cause for years to come. 

It may only be 2020, but next year is virtually here already. 

Let’s be brave, embrace change and help a new generation of Australians engage with the causes they believe in. If you need any assistance with your fundraising, please contact us.