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Giving Across Generations: 5 Questions to Consider

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There’s no question that fundraising today is no longer “one size fits all.” In fact, it is quite the opposite.  Nonprofits now can easily access data and resources to ensure their efforts reach and resonate with different audiences.

In this post, I want to share what we take away from Blackbaud’s Next Generation of American Giving report. Here are just some of the highlights:

Matures (Born 1945 and earlier):

  • This group represents about 25% of total giving in the U.S.
  • Matures tend to support a few charities and remain loyal to them through their lifetimes.
  • Matures generally respond best to direct mail and in-person fundraising.

Boomers (Born 1946-1964)

  • Boomers make up 34% of donors and give 43% of all money contributed by individuals. This group represents the largest donor group for the foreseeable future.
  • Boomers enjoy serving in volunteer leadership roles.
  • Direct mail and online giving are Boomers’ preferred ways of supporting organizations. They also tend to like multi-year payment structures.

Generation X (Born 1965-1980)

  • This generation likes to give if it’s made easy for them. So, offering multi-channel fundraising opportunities is key.
  • Many donors in this generation also support organizations through workplace giving.
  • Generation X members want to see facts about the return on their gifts and an organization’s results.

Millennials (Born 1981-1995)

  • Millennials act impulsively both in determining to whom and how much to give and in ways to volunteer. According to the 2012 Millennial Impact Report, 42% chose to donate to “whatever inspired them at the moment.”
  • Their giving is generally focused on a cause or issue rather than a specific charity.
  • Technology is Millennials’ preferred communication method. They give via mobile devices or online giving sites and promote their support of and involvement with charities through social media.

If you are a small to mid-sized development office, the last thing you have the bandwidth to do is create specially tailored fundraising approaches for generation of donors.  But every development shop, no matter the size, can use this report’s findings to determine how they would address these five questions in their annual development plans:

  1. Do we know how our donors break down by generation? If you don’t, a good way to start is sending a donor survey that asks for their birthdays (including the year). While you’re at it, include some questions about their communications communication.
    • How would you like to hear from us?
    • What would you like our updates to include?
    • How often do you want to hear from us?

Once you’ve done this survey, you’ll hopefully have a good sense of your donors’ preferences and their birthdays so you can send them a card each year. Don’t forget to save this information in your donor management system and put it to use.

  1. Am I focused on cultivating Boomer donors? Since this group represents the largest donor pool with the biggest potential for giving in the foreseeable future, it’s wise to pay particular attention to them now.
  1. Is my fundraising multi-channel? We know each generation responds to and communicates with charities differently. Have you designed your donor communications plan to include a combination of print, electronic, and social media?
  1. Do we include planned giving or bequest intentions as an integral part of our giving options? This is especially important with the Boomers since many of them (especially on the younger end of that age spectrum) may be thinking about estate plans.
  1. Do we offer different ways for donors to be involved with our work? Volunteering tops the list of ways Millennials like to be engaged with a nonprofit.  Crowdfunding, or personal peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, also seem to be popular among most of the age groups.

Answering these questions is a great way to help you consider the role generational differences plays in donor communications and how you can offer the kind of engagement or giving opportunities that will increase different donors’ levels of support.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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