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Five Recommendations for Marketing Your Non-Profit Across the Generations

By Susan Fields, CFRE

Are you finding it increasingly difficult to acquire new donors and keep the ones you already have? Recent studies show that first-year donors retain at about 25% while donors that have given more than once renew at approximately 60%. Because acquisition is far more costly than retaining repeat donors, the processes of stewardship and cultivation have become increasingly important. With the advent of technology, the rules of the game have changed, with a 25% decline in direct mail appeals over the past eight years. The good news is that the number of channels through which your organization can communicate has increased to include email, social media, your organization’s website, and mobile devices. 

Five Recommendations for Marketing Your Non-Profit Across the Generations 

The Next Generation of Giving Research Series conducted by Blackbaud in 2010, 2013, and 2018 details the multichannel communication preferences and giving habits of individuals based upon their age cohorts. While not everyone fits into a generational mold, there is a lot to be learned from the research regarding how, when, and where to reach out to each group. Matures (born before 1945); Baby Boomers (1946 and 64); Generation X (1965-1980); Millennials (1981-1995); and Generation Z (1996 and beyond). 

1. Focus on the generations that will provide the biggest return on  investment.

Boomers have at least another decade at the top of the giving pyramid. With the average age of a donor at 64 years old, 78% of Boomers contribute a whopping $58 billion annually, representing 43% of all giving. Although the Matures group is dwindling in size, 78% of this cohort are responsible for an impressive $29 billion in annual giving. Keep this in mind when you are feeling pressured to spend a disproportionate amount of time and dollars cultivating younger groups.

2. Keep Generation X in mind when it comes to Bequests and Trusts.

While 55% of Generation X gives a total of $33 billion and $20 billion respectively, their cash gifts are still considerably smaller than that of previous generations. Statistics show, however, that 30% of this group has created an estate plan—with another 25% in the process of doing so. It is important to note that within the next decade this generation will be ready to take their place at the top of the giving pyramid—followed five to ten years later by Millennials.

3. Get back to basics.

Redouble your efforts around creating personalized relationships. Learn your donors’ interests, expectations and the channels where they are most apt to communicate. All generations engage in both online and offline communications and agree that direct mail is an acceptable way to be stewarded. Important to donors of all ages is personal responsibility to give back in a meaningful and personal way. Generation Z gives small gifts spontaneously and values recognition, while more seasoned donors budget for their gifts and are less interested in being outwardly awarded for their generosity.

4. Put your house in order.

The state of affairs in how your organization operates will determine the quality of your communication with donors. Unsupportive work environments, silos, limited resources, and the lack of ability to collect actionable data are all detrimental to relationship building. Although no environment is perfect, if you are in a leadership position, it will be necessary to examine your office culture and make the necessary adjustments. Generating change is often easier in smaller organizations due to less bureaucracy. Change in larger nonprofits often results from more organized planning with top administrators and possibly even a committee of the Board of Directors.

5. Commit to testing new ideas.

If you tried something that didn’t work in the past, it doesn’t mean it won’t work today. Possibly the consumer market has caught up with your ideas or you are more agile in adapting to donor needs in terms of preferred channels of communication. Social Media, moving at a slow and steady pace, is becoming viewed as an extension of philanthropic efforts. The older generations are likely to make a gift through a “peer to peer” online campaign—with younger donors both participating and contributing. Of course, members of younger generations tend to be more open to communicating and giving through mobile apps and text messages. 

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