The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

“Old” donors give more – so do we stick to the same “old” fundraising?

That’s what everyone is saying at the Direct Marketing Association conference here in New York, where I spoke this morning with fellow bloggers Jeff Brooks, Sarah Durham of Big Duck, Roger Craver of the Agitator and Karen Zapp. Jeff Brooks says people under 50 don’t give enough to merit much cultivation at all. Then the authors of the report, Heart of the Donor, Insights into Donor Motivation and Behavior for the 21st Century, said older donors are the most generous – and they give primarily through the mail.

So should you write off anyone remotely youthful? Forget the Internet for the next two decades? Errr…. no.

The Heart of the Donor study said those in the 25-54 age range tended to give both online and through the mail. Lisa McIntyre says:

“One thing we find interesting is this nexus in the 25-54 year old group — the donors who will be most important to us in the coming decade seem equally facile with both mail and online. The point is this: if the goal of a nonprofit is to effectively target today’s best donors, then they should focus significant and smart attention on the donors giving the most money – seniors and boomers. For example, the number of donors in the 18-24 group and 70-plus are comparable, but the 70-plus donor gives three times as much. Does that mean nonprofits should turn a blind eye to the younger segments? Of course not. Their value will likely increase as they age. But fundraising expenditures must be weighted according to a strategy that maximizes those who are giving now.”

Here’s what I think: focusing only the oldest donors is short-sighted, and we definitely can’t assume what has worked in the past will work in the future. The fact that “older” donors give more does not mean we should do the same old fundraising. Even the crowd here agrees on that: Boomers (who are not so ‘old’ for goodness sake) – and everyone younger – have a whole new set of expectations from their charities, from greater tranparency and accountability to a greater sense of engagement. We have to start changing how we fundraise now or we’re going to be irrelevant very soon – and for generations to come.

More on that here.

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Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

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

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