Statistically, older donors make larger and more numerous gifts to charity. So it makes sense to focus development efforts on baby boomers and “mature” donors. At the same time, your nonprofit can’t afford to ignore younger generations.
As a recent study found, Generations X (born from 1965 through 1980) and Y (born after 1980) now represent more than half of the pool of charitable donors. But their interests, communication preferences and giving methods may differ from those of your older supporters.
In 2012, technology provider Convio (using data collected by Edge Research) summarized its survey of 1,500 charitable donors from all age groups. Not surprisingly, The Next Generation of American Giving found that the majority of charities use their fundraising resources to target mature donors (born before 1945) and baby boomers (born from 1945 through 1964). Members of these groups make average annual charitable contributions of $1,066 and $901, respectively.
However, while Generations X and Y donate smaller total annual amounts ($796 and $341, respectively), the study found that, in many cases, their individual gifts are similar in size to those made by older generations. They simply donate to fewer charities. So, for example, a 30-year-old might give $200 to three charities for a total of $600 and his 60-year-old mother might give $200 to six charities, totaling $1,200.
Younger adults may be just as generous as their parents and grandparents, but they’re different in important ways, starting with how they give. Although older adults still primarily use the mail to make donations, fewer than half of Generation X — and only about a quarter of Generation Y — do so. These groups make many of their donations using websites and text messages, as well as by responding to direct appeals in supermarkets and other retail stores and at fundraising events.
If your not-for-profit’s website is the extent of your online presence, you probably aren’t doing enough to reach a younger audience. These days, having a Facebook page and Twitter account are de rigueur for charities. And given how quickly the social media landscape changes, you’ll also want to keep an eye on new platforms such as Tumblr and Google+ to see if your supporters are beginning to adopt them.
The key to using social media successfully is to offer something more than just office news or event notices. Give your followers items they’ll want to post on their own sites and forward to their friends — including photos, article links, interesting facts, even jokes (as long as they’re tasteful, of course). Or organize a cocktail party or other impromptu social event using Twitter or text messages.
Volunteer opportunities are also important to younger supporters — particularly when they’re just starting out and are short on cash. Consider establishing a program such as the United Way’s NextGen, which offers people in their 20s and 30s an opportunity to volunteer, get to know their community and meet like-minded peers.
Other ways to attract Generation X and Y support include:
• Using multiple channels to communicate, including snail mail, e-mail, social networks, your website, phone calls and text messages,
• Establishing a junior board of directors or reserving spots on your regular board for young professionals,
• Offering lower-priced event tickets and other discounts to encourage recent college graduates to participate, and
• Creating a young donors fund or fundraising pool with smaller minimum contributions.
Of course, even those within the same age demographic will have different interests and preferences. To ensure you’re using your resources effectively, conduct surveys and other research to learn as much as you can about your audience.
Moving on up
Younger donors are the future of your charity — don’t neglect them. Although you may need to change some of your practices to attract these groups, most changes will be simple and inexpensive.
For more information on this topic, please contact Tamara Johnson at [email protected].