317 posts categorized "Fundraising"

Spoiler Alert: It’s Not All About Fundraising

November 07, 2017

Spoiler-alertAs a nonprofit leader, you'll be delighted to learn that new research affirms what most of us knew: Americans are generous. In fact, this year’s edition of Giving USA found that charitable giving by individuals in the U.S. was up nearly 4 percent in 2016, hitting an all-time high.

But as The Chronicle of Philanthropy notes in How America Gives, a recently released analysis of American giving patterns, these gifts are coming from fewer people. In 2015, the Chronicle notes,

only 24 percent of taxpayers reported a charitable gift....That’s down from 2000 to 2006, years when that figure routinely reached 30 or 31 percent....

While the Chronicle suggests the drop off could be due to a decrease in the number of Americans itemizing deductions on their tax returns, they also point to other possibilities: the lingering after effects of the Great Recession, an increase in the number of struggling middle-class families, more competition for fewer dollars.

And then there's the millennial factor. The generation born between 1980 and 2000 is the largest in American history, and as the Chronicle notes, "it's well known that [millennials] aren't embracing traditional ideas of giving."

It's a trend that's reflected in our own research. Indeed, Phase 2 of our 2017 Millennial Impact Report found that the millennial generation doesn't rank giving — or volunteering — as all that meaningful in terms of effecting change. In the study, survey respondents were asked to rank their typical cause/social issue-related behaviors in order of how influential they believed each to be. Out of ten actions, volunteering for a cause or organization ranked sixth while giving ranked eighth — well behind other actions such as signing a petition, attending a march or rally, voting, or taking to social media to share one's views.

In other words, when it comes to creating change, millennials seem to favor what we call activist-type behaviors to more traditional forms of cause engagement (like donating and volunteering). And it isn't just millennials: NPR noted earlier this year that the election of Donald Trump ignited grassroots activism — on both the left and right — at a level "never seen before."

Whether politically motivated or not, a clear trend is emerging: People across the country are looking for more effective ways to bring about the kind of change they'd like to see, and the actions they're taking don't necessarily start with (or sometimes even include) giving or volunteering.

For nonprofits that rely on donations from individuals, this poses a problem. While it's good that people are passionate and want to get involved with issues they care deeply about, cash, for nonprofit organizations, still matters — and often is the most important factor in an organization's ability to do its work and advance its mission.

What's a nonprofit leader to do? And what can nonprofit organizations do to address this shift in behavior?

Here are three things to keep in mind as you look to activate a new generation of supporters:

1. Make it about the issue. In my previous post, I looked at some of the things nonprofits should be doing to turn one-time donors into loyal and engaged supporters. And one of those things is articulating how a small action by a supporter can connect with other small actions to create bigger impact with respect to an issue or cause.

The same is true when you are looking to cultivate and/or strengthen relationships with your existing supporters. People give and get involved with an issue through an organization, not because of an organization. Think about it: I'm more likely to become involved with Pencils of Promise not because someone told me that PoP was doing great work and its focus is on education but because I’m passionate about quality education for all kids and PoP does great work in that space.

2. Don't just run a campaign, build a movement. It's easy for nonprofit development professional and fundraisers to get hung up in the wash-rinse-repeat campaign cycle. At the start of the year, your fiscal calendar is already blocked out with various appeals, volunteer drives, and fundraising events — so many, in fact, that you barely have to time to think. But how are they connected? What are you doing between campaigns to maintain the engagement level of your supporters and continuously deepen their connection to your issue?

To truly make a difference, you need to activate your supporters and followers at every level of engagement, moving them along a continuum from having a more-than-passing interest in your issue to actually standing up and taking action on behalf of it. Campaigns have a role to play in that, but every campaign (and all your communications) should be designed to deepen an individual's engagement to the point where she feels herself to be an actual member of a movement and is willing to introduce others to the cause.

3. Update your organization's structure. Because of the resource constraints most nonprofits have to deal with, activism and advocacy often end up taking a back seat to core operating functions. If you're going to build a movement predicated on greater levels of supporter engagement, however, you're going to need a different kind of organizational structure.

Which means you should align that structure in ways that engage and support your audience today, rather than next month, next year, or at some happy point in the future. A good place to start is adding a director of advocacy or constituent engagement to your leadership team and giving them a set of responsibilities focused on movement building and donor cultivation, not just fundraising.

In this new era, it's vital that nonprofit leaders change their thinking to more closely align with where and how a rising generation of potential supporters wants to be involved with the issues and causes that matter to them. In other words, if you want to create lasting change, don't focus on your organization; focus on connecting people to your issue through your organization.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann is the president of Achieve, a research and marketing agency for causes, and the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Best Practices for Implementing New Software

October 16, 2017

Puzzle_cooperation_250If your foundation or charity is thinking about implementing new software, it's essential that it have a well-thought-out technology strategy in place before proceeding. Such a strategy should include a holistic view of the pros and cons of the software under consideration, buy-in from key stakeholders, and a focus on ROI as well as costs.

Of course, any software implementation should be a team effort that has been blessed by leadership and is conducted in real partnership with the software implementer. Settling on a software solution that solves one problem for a single department without thinking through the entire organization's technology needs and ecosystem can lead to more problems than it solves, including:

  • a fatal lack of buy-in from staff and management;
  • technology needs that go unaddressed;
  • duplication of effort; and
  • lack of systems integration.

Selecting a vendor based on a solution's cosmetic features while ignoring the implementer's competence and capacity can also cause problems. And because many foundations and nonprofits are laser-focused on initial costs and frequently ignore longer-term return-on-investment (ROI) calculations, especially when it comes to choosing a firm to implement a solution, organizations often end up with software that is inexpensive but does nothing to drive impact or improve their bottom lines.

Long story short? Software solutions that appear to be inexpensive at first glance can result in significant unaccounted-for costs during the implementation process. Which is why forward-thinking organizations look for solutions that can help them advance their mission and yield a better-than-average return on investment.

Here are five types of software that are useful for foundations and grantmaking charities:

  1. CRM: Provides a holistic view of the constituent experience across the entire organization.
  2. Fundraising: Gives a clear view of performance and yield (including data enrichment services), processes donations, and helps empower your organization's “evangelists” to raise money on your behalf.
  3. Financial: Provides in-depth record keeping and custom reports that allow you to drill down into your finances.
  4. Grants management and impact measurement: Identifies, tracks, and measures the impact of grants and gifts (both cash and in-kind) against concrete outcomes.
  5. Analytics: Is used to harness the power of data and connect with constituents, highlight areas of operational improvement, and generate insights into potential organizational investments.

So how can organizations set themselves up for long-term success once they've chosen one or more of the above solutions? Here are five best software implementation practices:

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The Secret to Motivating Donors

October 04, 2017

ActNowbuttonWith year-end fundraising season fast approaching, it's easy for development professionals to fall into the trap of focusing on a single project for which their organization really needs funding. Other nonprofit leaders are frantically crafting year-end appeals, checking and re-checking their donor lists, and trying to come up with creative new ways to engage donors.

No surprise, then, that this is the time of year when we're approached by nonprofits who want to know how they can develop a strategy for new donor acquisition and turn their one-time donors into loyal supporters.

The secret, we tell them, lies in connecting donors to the specific and general — in the same appeal.

Let me give you an example. Assume your organization is working to address a really big problem — say, eliminating hunger in the United States. Such a goal, and the language used to articulate it, can be hard for people to process. In our years of testing fundraising appeals, we've found that potential supporters often don’t understand or respond to messages asking them to support such an ambitious goal. Why? It's too big. What's the point of making a donation if you don't believe your donation will make a dent in the problem it's meant to address?

For a lot of nonprofits, a not atypical scenario looks like this:

  1. A donor — let's call her Margaret — receives a direct-mail appeal asking her to support Organization X, which is working to eliminate hunger in the United States: "Won't you help us end hunger?"
  2. Because she's a compassionate person, Margaret is a little overwhelmed. She isn't a celebrity activist or a deep-pocketed philanthropist, and she only has a couple of hundred dollars set aside for charitable giving. So many people in America struggle with hunger and food insecurity — how can her small donation possibly help?
  3. Margaret decides not to make a donation because she doesn't think it will make a difference.

Instead, we counsel our clients to tell the story of one individual who has been helped by their organization, in the belief that it's easier for a donor to grasp the specific rather than the general. Here's what that might look like:

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5 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Awareness Campaigns

August 29, 2017

Yell_at_earth_pc_1600_clrWith the busiest fundraising season fast approaching, nonprofit leaders everywhere should be spending much of their time thinking about their end-of-year fundraising campaigns. But when fundraising isn't top of mind, nonprofit leaders often turn their attention to another type of activity: the awareness campaign./p>

Awareness campaigns typically are defined as a sustained effort to educate individuals and boost public awareness about an organization's cause or issue. And in almost every instance they should:

  • target people who share your organization's beliefs and values;
  • educate those potential supporters about your issue or cause; and
  • generate new contacts for your donor database.

A well-executed awareness campaign will accomplish all three of those goals. But there's a caveat: awareness campaigns are easy to get wrong. And who needs that? So what should your organization be doing — and not doing — to raise awareness and acquire new donors? Read on to see whether you're making any of these common mistakes:

1. Your definition of success is too narrow; One of the most common misconceptions about awareness campaigns is that they should be mounted for the sole purpose of, well, raising awareness. But while an awareness campaign can be focused on awareness, there's actually a lot more involved: education (teaching the public about your issue or cause), explaining current events (and how they connect to your issue and efforts), and engagement (soliciting a low-level action on behalf of your organization or cause).

2. You didn't include an action in your materials. Regardless of your issue or cause, an awareness campaign should be designed to move potential supporters from interest to action — that is, from having a general interest in your issue to actually stepping up and doing something on behalf of the issue or cause. The thing to remember about actions in awareness campaigns is that they should be low level. While it's possible someone previously unfamiliar with your organization might be willing to sign up as a volunteer or donate on the spot, it's not usually the case (and shouldn't be something you count on). Instead, actions should be "stepped" like the rungs on a ladder: they should start small and increase in intensity/commitment over time, ultimately leading to concrete support (of time and/or money) for your organization or cause.

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Weekend Link Roundup (August 26-27, 2017)

August 28, 2017

Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Harvey-goes-82517_0Disaster Relief

Harvey has slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast and flooding from the rainfall accompanying the storm appears to be as bad, if not worse, than predicted. NPR has put together a very helpful list of sites and resources for those who would like to help.

Fundraising

The team behind the Fundly blog shares five tips aimed at helping your organization improve its crowdfunding goals. 

International Affairs/Development

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a framework for what might just be the most ambitious development effort ever. And if that effort is to succeed, every dollar contributed toward one of the goals needs to be spent effectively. On the Triple Pundit site, Mandy Ryan, managing director at Changing Our World, has some good tips for companies looking to align their citizenship work with the SDGs.

And what can we learn from UNLEASH, an "innovation lab" where a thousand young people from a hundred and twenty-nine countries spent ten days in Aarhus, Denmark, developing solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals?  Catherine Cheney reports for Devex.

Journalism/Media

Google News Lab, in partnership with ProPublica, is launching a new, machine learning-powered tool to track reported hate crimes across the country. Taylor Hatmaker reports for Tech Crunch.

We were saddened to learn of the death of Jack Rosenthal, the great  New York Timesman (and our UWS neighbor), at the age of 82. In a long career at the Times, Rosenthal served as urban affairs correspondent in Washington, deputy editorial page editor, editorial page editor, editor of The New York Times Magazine, and president of the New York Times Company Foundation. Eighteen months after 9/11, we had an opportunity to interview him as he was serving in that latter role  an interview that still has much to teach us.

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4 Questions to Help You Develop Your Year-End Messaging

July 31, 2017

"Movements are built by and for the people. The people generate the movement, spread the rallying cry of the message, and depend on one another to meet the collective’s goals in addressing the social issue at hand. The people, though, are bound by a common vision and a common narrative — to change the course of an issue that has affected so many people. But how is this possible? How can an individual turn his or her attention from the general issues present in so many communities to the importance of one issue affecting a group of people they may have never met before? Or take a stand for a concept that may never even affect them personally? It comes down to the message and a story. A story based on a vision for change for people or communities that need it most."

— excerpt from Social Movements for Good

Dec-31-calendarIf you're like a lot of our clients, you're starting to work on (or at least think about) your year-end fundraising appeals. Although successful year-end campaigns are driven by a strategic combination of factors, one above all others is both critical and often the most challenging to execute: messaging.

From the belief statement (also called the opening or donor statement) and opening sentence or two to pull quotes, calls to action, and the ever-important P.S. line, you have a limited amount of space (and time) in which to capture potential donors' attention, communicate your story, and, of course, persuade them to donate.

That's a lot of work!

When it comes to developing messaging for a fundraising appeal, I'm asked one question more than any other: How do I get started? Though it can be a challenge to get past writer's block and craft effective messages for a year-end campaign, I always suggest that you first ask yourself these four simple questions:

1. What makes your organization unique? Chances are yours isn't the only organization working to address or solve your particular issue. And that's okay! A fundraising appeal is your chance to call out — loudly and clearly — what’' unique or different about your organization.

Supplemental questions to consider: Why does your organization exist (i.e., why does it do the work it does)? Whom do you serve (demographically, geographically, etc.)? What's special or compelling about the population you serve? How does your organization approach its work? What's unusual or unique about that approach? How is it different from the approach employed by other organizations?

2. Why should a donor give to your organization now? Why the sense of urgency behind your organization's appeal? Sure, responses like "It's the last chance for you to claim a tax deduction" or "Matched funds are available for a limited time" are valid, but end-of-the-year appeals really are your chance to think big.

Still struggling? Think in reverse: What won't happen if you don't hit your fundraising targets? Who won't ;be helped? What might happen if they aren't served by your organization?

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Collaboration Is the New Competitive Edge

July 04, 2017

Successful-collaborationThere aren't many secrets among friends. At least not between DonorsChoose.org, Kiva, and GlobalGiving. For nearly half a decade, my GlobalGiving colleagues and I have been sharing intel with these peers (and a few others) via monthly phone calls and occasional meet-ups. Because we're all working to improve our giving communities, nearly every strategy and tactic is open for discussion. Especially when it comes to donor engagement and retention.

Most nonprofits work tirelessly to engage and retain donors, but there isn't much data about what works online. Much of the research on giving to date has been associated with donor acquisition rather than donor retention, as the latter requires nonprofits to collaborate with researchers. Recently, however, all three of our organizations teamed up with Harvard Business School's Michael Norton and Oliver Hauser to conduct the first known synchronized A/B field test involving three nonprofits. The experiment, aimed at driving repeat donations, was generously funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

The tactic we chose to explore? Pseudo-sets. Previous research by the HBS team suggested that individuals are motivated to complete tasks when they are framed as part of a "pseudo-set" — that is, rather than just performing a single action, individuals are asked to perform three or four actions to complete the "set." In fact, research has shown that task completion can jump five-fold when people are presented with wedges of a pie chart that fill in as each task is completed (compared to the control without a set). Inspired by that idea, my colleagues and our friends at DonorsChoose and Kiva ran a large-scale field experiment across our respective crowdfunding platforms (which together reach more than 200,000 donors) to test the effect on fundraising of "pseudo-set" framing. Could the approach inspire more giving?

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Weekend Link Roundup (June 3-4, 2017)

June 04, 2017

Pittsburgh office media carousel skyline triangle  700x476Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor in the department of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, television personality, and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, has some advice for the NAACP, which recently announced the departure of its president, Cornell William Brooks, and its intention to pursue an "organization-wide refresh."

Climate Change

Hours after Donald Trump claimed "to represent the voters of Pittsburgh in his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement," Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto announced his support for a goal of powering the city entirely with clean and renewable energy by 2035. Shane Levy reports for the Sierra Club. (And you can read Peduto's executive order to that effect here.)

Although there's no doubt that "President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Agreement on global warming is a short-sighted mistake," writes Nature Conservancy president Mark Tercek, the jury is still out as to whether "the decision [will] unravel the entire agreement."

Fundraising

We missed this post by Vu Le outlining the principles of community-centric fundraising when it was first published in the lead up to the Memorial Day weekend. But it is definitely worth your time.

Hey, Mr./Ms. Nonprofit Fundraiser, job got you down and almost out? Beth Kanter shares four warning signs of burnout — and easy ways to make yourself feel better.

On the GuideStar blog, BidPal's Joshua Meyer looks at five unexpected benefits of text-to-give software.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2017)

June 02, 2017

Like many of you, we're trying to make sense of all the tweets, charges/counter-charges, and executive orders emanating from the White House. One thing we do know, however: you found plenty to like here on the blog in May, including a stirring call to action from Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits; some excellent grantmaking advice from Peter Sloane, chair and CEO of the Heckscher Foundation for Children; a new post by everyone's favorite millennial fundraising expert, Derrick Feldmann; posts by first-time contributors Nona Evans and Jaylene Howard; and an oldie-but-goodie by fundraising consultant Richard Brewster. But don't take our word for it — pull up a chair, click off MSNBC, and treat yourself to some good reads!

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (May 27-28, 2017)

May 28, 2017

Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Frog-in-the-Rain

Climate Change

As the Trump administration prepares to exit the Paris climate agreement, a new Global Challenges Foundation poll finds that a majority of people in eight countries — the U.S., China, India, Britain, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Germany — say they are ready to change their lifestyles if it would prevent climate catastrophe — a survey result that suggests "a huge gap between what people expect from politicians and what politicians are doing."

Criminal Justice

On the Ford Foundation's Equal Change blog, Kamilah Duggins and William Kelley explain why and how they created a professional development program at the foundation for graduates of the Bard Prison Initiative, which creates the opportunity for incarcerated men and women to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentence.

Diversity

A new white paper (6 pages, PDF) from executive search firm Battalia Winston sheds light on the lack of diversity within the leadership ranks of the nation's foundations and nonprofit organizations.

Education

Does the DeVos education budget promote "choice" or segregation? That's the question the Poverty & Race Research Council's Kimberly Hall and Michael Hilton ask in a post here on PhilanTopic.

Fundraising

There are mistakes, and there are fundraising mistakes. Here are five of the latter that, according to experts on the Forbes Nonprofit Council, we all should try to avoid.

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Charities Stand to Benefit From Trillions in Mandated Retirement Distributions

May 23, 2017

61mitchmillerThe same generation that sang along with Elvis, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles will be singing a different tune as they pay taxes on trillions in 401(k) and IRA required minimum distributions (RMD) this year.

In January, Edward Shane, managing director at Bank of New York Mellon, told the Wall Street Journal that he estimates boomers have roughly $10 trillion stashed away in tax-deferred savings accounts. As the first generation with 401(k)s, boomers are in a unique position to call their own tune as they decide what to do with that money. How can charities join the chorus and benefit from this potential windfall?

HBO's recent documentary Becoming Warren Buffett highlighted the homespun billionaire's pledge to give away the bulk of his wealth during his lifetime. Buffett is setting a new standard for philanthropy and — more importantly — is encouraging others to do the same. Not everyone is Warren Buffett, of course, but we can all learn from his philosophy of giving.

Boomers can make "giving while living" the norm

My parents, who are among the oldest of the boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964), turned 70 last year. According to Pew Research, they are just two in a wave of 74.9 million boomers who will be reaching that milestone over the next decade and a half. Though only second in size (behind the millennials), the boomer generation is the wealthiest on record. That puts them in a position to give more than any previous generation.

My parents will mark another "first" this year when they hit the RMD age of 70½, meaning they will be required to withdraw monies from their retirement accounts (IRAs or other tax-deferred vehicles) or face steep penalties (50 percent of the amount not withdrawn). Of course, these distributions are taxable, and for some boomers they will represent unwanted income, which is where a proactive giving strategy comes in.

Boomers who want to establish a "giving-while-living" strategy (akin to Buffett's, in principle if not size) can take their RMD from their tax-deferred retirement savings plan and allocate those assets directly to a charity through a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). A QCD is a direct transfer of funds from the trustee of an IRA to a qualified 501(c)(3) organization. There are other requirements: $100,000 is the maximum allowed per year, and the IRA or 401(k) holder must be 70½ or older.

The benefits of this type of planned charitable giving strategy are threefold. First, QCDs can satisfy the required minimum distribution. Second, QCDs are excluded from taxable income. And third, studies show that giving back can make you happier and feel more connected with your community.

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3 Ways to Bring Your Work to Your Donors (Instead of Asking Them to Come to You)

May 19, 2017

Mobile_ExperiencesNearly every nonprofit organization I deal with is careful to include an "experiential" touch point somewhere along the donor journey. That is, once they've cultivated a new donor, they spend a considerable amount of time and effort attempting to persuade that donor to volunteer or participate in some kind of hands-on activity at their headquarters or at an off-site location where the donor can experience their work firsthand.

Sound familiar? If your organization does something similar, how often is it successful? (Be honest.)

As nonprofit and cause leaders, we wish every individual had the opportunity, interest, and time to meet the people we serve and see the impact of our work in real time. But let's face it, getting donors to visit your offices or to join you on a site visit usually isn't realistic. Why? Because people are busy.

After my colleagues and I figured that out (it took us a few years), we adopted a number of practices designed to bring our work online: posting photos and videos on social media, sending out a series of emails, and so on. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone else adopted the same practices at about the same time. Today, they are so commonplace — and people are so inundated with emails and status updates as a result — that it's hard, if not impossible, to get your message stand out amid all the noise.

What's an organization to do? How can organizations share with donors the important work they are doing in a way that's both meaningful and experiential?

Actually, all it takes is a shift in mindset: Instead of bringing the donor to your work, you have to bring your work to the donor.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2017)

May 03, 2017

For those in the Northeast, April was rainy, cool, and dreary. Here on the blog, though, things were hopping, with lots of new readers and contributors. The sun is back out, but before you head outside, check out the posts PhilanTopic readers especially liked over the last thirty days.

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

[Infographic] The State of Donor Retention 2017

April 29, 2017

The folks at nonprofit management and fundraising software company Bloomerang recently surveyed 775 nonprofit organizations (mostly) in the U.S. and Canada "to see where they stand on the issue of donor retention" — and are sharing some of the key findings in a nice little infographic on their website (and below):

Infographic_state-of-donor-retention-in-2017

No real surprises here. The vast majority (99 percent) of the surveyed respondents have heard the term "donor retention" (up from 98 percent in 2014, the last time Bloomerang conducted the survey), while two-thirds (67 percent) track their donor retention rate (up from 55 percent in 2014). Maybe more interesting are the reasons nonprofits give for NOT tracking donor retention:

  • don't have the tools (20 percent)
  • don't know how (16 percent)
  • aren't sure what they would do differently if they knew their rate (14 percent)
  • no one has ever asked to see it (13 percent)
  • don't care about the metric (1 percent)
  • "other”

What about your organization? Is donor retention something you and your colleagues think about and track? And if not, why not? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

To learn more about the importance of donor retention and why it's a critical metric for your nonprofit, check out our Sustainable Nonprofit archive, where you'll find any number of articles on the topic — and lots of material on other topics of interest!

Millennial vs. Boomer Strategies: Time to Move On?

April 17, 2017

Millennial-v-boomerIf you've ever talked to or heard from a consultant about how your organization can and should reach younger donors, I'd almost guarantee you were told something like, "Wait till they turn seventy-five," or, "Your young donors are fifty-five."

But is that right? Should you only focus your fundraising efforts on Silents and boomers? And is a millennial-focused strategy so bad?

Let's take a closer look.

No doubt about it, a millennial-focused fundraising strategy can be a challenge. (That's not an insult; it's supported by data.)

Then why would an organization even consider such a strategy? Typically, millennial-focused strategies are driven by two factors:

Media-driven generational comparisons. The media love to compare millennials and younger cohorts to their elders, especially boomers. But guess what? That's not a new storyline. The Silent Generation was compared to their parents, the so-called Greatest Generation; boomers were compared to their parents, the Silents; and Gen X-ers were compared to boomers. How long will it be before millennials are compared to the so-called centennials? The important thing for nonprofit organizations is to figure out ways to reach the rising generation as earlier generations move through and out of their peak giving years.

Board-driven pressure. Board members — older ones, especially — are beginning to notice that many of the prospective donors they see at fundraising events, industry meetings, and organizational activities don’t necessarily look like them. It's to be expected that older donors will continue to provide a significant amount of your organization's revenue for the foreseeable future. But Silent and boomer board members know they aren't getting any younger and, combined with all the media coverage of millennials, they are becoming increasingly interested in persuading leadership to shift some of their fundraising focus to younger generations.

Now, if you are an organizational leader, there isn't much you can do to control, or even shape, the media's obsession with generational comparisons. But you certainly can do something in response to pressure from your board — and I'm not talking about issuing a statement like, "We have lots of younger donors age fifty-five and over."

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