51 posts categorized "author-Derrick Feldmann"

Giving Voice to Your Supporters

June 03, 2019

Giving_voiceIn their desire to give voice to the vulnerable and underserved in society, most cause-driven organizations fail to include their supporters in the equation. By failing to do so, they are denying others a golden opportunity to see themselves in the same light.

A few years ago, an agency for pregnant women/healthy newborns came to us for help with a fundraising campaign. The agency's volunteers visit pregnant women in their homes to teach them about prenatal care and how to take care of a newborn. The agency's typical supporter is someone who wants to give babies a healthy, safe start in life.

At the same time, the agency was committed to a program focused on fathers-to-be. Nowhere in the program materials was there recognition or an acknowledgment of how invested the agency's volunteers were in giving babies a healthy, safe start in life or, indeed, any mention of the volunteers who were lending their time and experience to reassure and help pregnant women who often have no one they can turn to for help.

Not surprisingly, the overall campaign was not as successful as it could have been. Potential supporters who might have seen themselves as "people who think every baby deserves a chance at a healthy beginning" instead heard "we are an organization that wants to help men be good fathers." Both sentiments are laudable, but only one truly resonated with the agency’s most important constituency.

If you've been reading my articles here on PhilanTopic, you know how important I think it is for supporters and potential supporters of a cause to know that others believe in the same cause and are actively doing something to advance it. The reinforcement of belief is a powerful factor in deepening an individual's involvement in a cause or issue and in creating a powerful sense of identity among a group of like-minded people.

One organization that is especially good at acknowledging the shared identity of its supporters is the Surfrider Foundation. Surfrider refers to its supporters as "Champions of Surf and Sand" and praises them as "a community of everyday people who passionately protect our playground the ocean, waves and beaches that provide us with so much enjoyment."

Consider this recent message from the organization:

Over 30 Surfrider Chapters participated in #HandsAcrossTheSand events — joining thousands of activists around the world in saying ‘NO’ to offshore drilling and ‘YES’ to clean energy.

The identity of the Surfrider community is unambiguous and empowering:

We're people who love and want to actively protect the oceans and beaches. When we band together and fight, we win. We are stronger together.

The appeal of such language is irresistible to someone who is passionate about the issue of ocean conservation. And it's effective because it comes directly out of the experience of the organization’s supporters, rather than from the organization's CEO or development director.

I've said many times that sharing authentic, compelling stories about the people who benefit from the actions we take is at the heart of every successful movement. I stand by that statement. However, most organizations focus their energies on telling stories as a lead-up to an ask or financial transaction and neglect to include messaging around supporter identity.

Your messaging should play a dual role: articulate purpose and give voice. Purpose in narrative makes it clear what supporters can do and why they should do it. Voice captures who and what they believe in, in stories that resonate because they see themselves in those stories.

In taking such an approach, we put supporters at the heart of our cause or issue. We show them that they are not alone in their passion and enthusiasm. We enable them to talk to each other about what they have done as a collective (as in the Surfrider example). Such an approach reinforces the beliefs of like-minded people, encourages them to openly share those beliefs, and gives them opportunities and the tools to connect with others.

Calls to action are necessary, of course. But in between appeals, your need to help your supporters maintain their enthusiasm for your cause or issue by speaking to and highlighting those who support it. They're the people who build movements.

Here some examples:

  • "Volunteers registered more than 5,000 new voters in April. This is what we do: We give people a voice to fight for change."
  • "The oceans and beaches are where we live and play, but plastic has pushed us into crisis. We give 10,000 hours each year to cleaning them up."
  • "Each one of us has signed the pledge to change the way we eat and shop for food."

This is how supporters, not your cause or organization, become identified with a cause. Here are a few other tips:

1. Listen to your supporters and then share with them what they told you. You'll never be as effective as you can be if you don't know what motivates your supporters. Listen to what they have to say and then create personas that capture the different motivations of the people who believe in and support your cause (and not just financially). Using those personas, you can then engage them to serve as storytellers on your behalf.

2. Capture and share images of your supporters in all your messaging. Marketing, calls to action, social media activity, and any other type of communications activity should include photos and (when possible) video of a diverse cross-section of your supporters.

3. When you don't have anything new to share, share stories of people engaged in the cause. As you're creating your organization's narrative and voice, be sure to tap into and share the stories of those most deeply committed to and engaged in the cause. You can even combine them with a call to action, but do so sparingly.

By sharing the stories of supporters of the broader cause, you'll be helping to build and sustain the movement even as you're recruiting new people to it. First-person messages from committed individuals that communicate their support for your cause mixed in with stories of the people who have benefited from your work create a powerful connection between what supporters of the cause do, why they do it, and how much change they're making in society. And at the end of the day, that's the bottom line.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

3 Ways to Educate Donors About Movement Building

March 26, 2019

DownloadAt your most recent meeting with donors, you probably discussed the impact of your programs and perhaps even asked for commitments for the upcoming fiscal year. Did you also talk to them about funding the movement itself to ensure its future viability and success?

Donors typically give for two reasons: 1) to leverage gifts from other donors; and/or 2) in response to short-term needs. In both cases, the impact of their gifts plays out across two dimensions: helping bring others to the cause, and helping the people or cause served by your organization.

So while it's common for nonprofits to pitch donors in terms of the tangible difference their gifts will make for intended beneficiaries or the cause, organizations also need to learn how to demonstrate to donors the value of supporting the broader movement itself.

How to build a movement

Over the years I've been involved in movement building, clients often have shared with me the names of donors they believe are open to taking a broader view of the movement. On occasion, clients even have asked me to speak with certain individuals to gauge their interest in funding movement-building activities and to share any thoughts I might have about the approach they should take in subsequent conversations with those donors.

Below, I share some of what I've learned from my interactions with donors in the belief it will give you something new you can use in your conversations with donors to educate them about the importance of movement building.

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My Way, Your Way, and the Highway

February 14, 2019

My way orWorking on a cause or leading a movement today means managing a team of people whose ages, backgrounds, work styles, expertise levels, and personality traits can be all over the place. And the backgrounds of your donors and stakeholders can be just as varied. Sooner or later, it raises the question: Are you prepared to manage the inevitable (though often hidden) tension that arises between young and old, new and experienced, impetuous and measured?

I've heard lots of stories in which a seasoned nonprofit veteran sees a new recruit to the cause begin to get attention for her ideas and becomes disgruntled, even resentful, while the new hire just thinks the more experienced colleague is being unreasonable and stubborn. Meanwhile, the tension between them mounts, with each wishing the other would just go away.

The same kind of tension can occur between organizations, creating a monumental stumbling block to significant, sustainable change as donors and supporters sort themselves into opposing camps.

That's more than a shame. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2019, "The world faced a growing number of complex and interconnected challenges in 2018. From climate change and slowing global growth to economic inequality, we will struggle if we do not work together in the face of these simultaneous challenges."

In other words, if we expect to make any progress on the urgent challenges at hand, it's imperative that we all do what we can to minimize this kind of tension.

I know, it sounds difficult. But it's not; it just requires a shift in mindset. You could, for example:

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Be Bold, Take Risks

January 10, 2019

Take_the_leapEvery year for the last decade or so, organizations have shared their ideas for engaging millennials with me and then asked for my feedback. Thinking about it over the holidays, I realized I received about the same number of approaches in 2018 as in previous years.

I've been studying millennial cause engagement with the Case Foundation for most of that time and have shared all kinds of research findings and insights through the Millennial Impact Project and the newer Cause and Social Influence initiative. Organizations seek me out for advice about their own particular situation, especially as it relates to what is now the largest generation in America. Typically, they do so for one of the following reasons:

  1. they have not been able to cultivate a younger donor base;
  2. their past success is being challenged by new ways of looking at their issue, new technologies, or both;
  3. their donor engagement levels have plateaued; and/or
  4. their revenues have been trending downward and the future looks grim.

After a decade of fielding such approaches, I can usually sniff out whether an organization has what it takes to change — and by that, I mean the kind of change needed not only to attract a new and younger audience, but to engage any person, regardless of age, with an interest in their cause.

Change is hard. It demands a willingness on the part of leadership and staff to leave the status quo behind and push in the direction of a new guiding vision. In other words, it requires people to be fearless.

This kind of approach to change is detailed beautifully by Jean Case in her new book, Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose.

In her book, Jean describes a set of five principles that can be used by any individual or organization to become more relevant and valued in today's fast-changing world. The five principles are:

1. Make a Big Bet. To build a movement or drive real change, organizations (or individuals) need to step outside their comfort zone and make an audacious bet on something they ordinarily would reject as too ambitious or difficult. And the risks associated with a big bet, says Jean, can be mitigated, if organizations are willing to learn and course correct along the way.

If you want to target a younger demographic, go ahead and do it in a big but measurable way that will teach you something. A/B testing one line in an email campaign to a purchased list is a small bet involving little risk and with little potential for changing anything. Building a canvassing team to collect emails at, say, a popular music festival and then tracking engagement after the event is over is a bigger bet involving more time and expense for an unknown return. Creating a mobile unit to travel to locales around the country where younger people tend to live, work, and play and then identifying influencers, micro-influencers, and potential supporters is a much bigger, more expensive bet and thus a much bigger risk. But it's big bets like that which lead to new discoveries and have the potential to propel your cause or movement forward.

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How We Actually Show Our Support

November 16, 2018

ActNowbuttonRecently, after a conference panel discussion, a young woman approached me as I was leaving the stage with a request I hear often from nonprofit professionals:

"Derrick, it would be great if you could show your support by tweeting and liking what we're doing."

Now, I happened to know she was part of a good cause and genuinely cared about the people her organization was serving. But the request was a little unsettling. Did she want me to show my support for her organization? Or for the people the organization was trying to help?

Let's examine the distinction.

We can show support for a cause in any number of ways. We can quietly make a donation through Facebook or an organization's website, create a scholarship in honor of a favorite teacher, or go big and make a lead gift for a building that will have our name on it. We can sign a petition, write our representatives in Congress, share an image or post on social media, or boycott a company or product. We can even walk, run, or bike for a cause or grow a mustache for a month.

All of these are tangible displays of how we, as an individual, feel about an issue — or, more accurately, about the people affected by that issue.

What these actions are not are displays of how we feel about an organization.

Someone who wears a pink hat or shaves her head is not doing it to say, "OMG, this organization is so great!" By putting her beliefs and personal experience out there for others to see, she is standing up and proclaiming, unequivocally, "I care, and I want everyone to know I care. And I hope you'll care, too."

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The Importance of Listening for and Sharing Stories

October 10, 2018

Share_your_story­When leaders of today's most vibrant social movements gather in a ballroom for a day to share advice and lessons learned, we ought to listen — and not just because as leaders of nonprofits competing for people's attention, dollars, and time, we should welcome opportunities to learn as much as we can about how best to apply our efforts to bring about change.

In September, leaders from the Ad Council, the Born This Way Foundation, Young Invincibles, the Transgender Law Center, the MBK Alliance, the National Geographic Society, and other organizations and causes gathered in Washington, D.C., at the Influence Nation Summit to talk about the tactics they've used in the past to move large numbers of people to take action.

Running through their remarks were two critical points that many nonprofits struggle to operationalize: 1) Listening is more important than talking; and 2) Sharing authentic stories with a compelling message is at the heart of every successful movement.

Listening is more important than talking

If you're a professional fundraiser, you've heard the admonition to focus on your donors and establish them as the "hero" of the narratives you share with supporters and stakeholders. You've been told to use "you" in your messaging instead of "we," to evoke donors' empathy by appealing to their emotions, and to assure them that whatever your organization has accomplished is due to their generosity and passion for the cause.

Imogen Napper, one of the speakers at the Influence Nation Summit, is a marine biologist and a National Geographic Sky Ocean Rescue Scholar who is focused on ridding the oceans of plastic, including plastic fibers found in clothing. Without listening to the online conversation around the topic, however, you might think Napper supports a ban on synthetic fibers in apparel. Not so. As she told attendees at the summit, "Plastic is a fantastic material as it is so versatile....Seventy percent of clothes are made of plastic. Therefore, it would be difficult and often expensive to completely avoid it." What people want instead, she said, is access to information that allows them to make informed decisions about the clothing they buy.

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Are You Too Predictable?

May 28, 2018

Yes-n-maybeEarlier this month, I got the kind of call that so many donors get from the organizations they support.

"Derrick, great to hear your voice. It's been a while. I'd like to sit down and share an update on our work, get your thoughts on our progress, and see if you’d be interested in talking about ongoing support."

This from an organization that calls me once a year. Like clockwork. The first week of May — just in time for the organization's fiscal-year-end close.

I know what you're thinking. Shame on them for calling just once a year. But actually, the decision to call annually was at my request. Before I made the request, they would send someone to visit with me over coffee two or three times a year, and we would always have the same conversation:

  • How is my family
  • How is work, and have I traveled to any new destinations lately
  • Quick update on his or her family
  • Quick update on what's new at the organization
  • Update on my last gift and how my dollars were used
  • Earnest request for a gift renewal

Not that there's anything wrong with that kind of exchange or the topics we covered. It's just that it's the same each and every time. As in: predictable. 

It's not really a surprise, because the organization itself is stable, efficient, and reliable. I expect a certain level of impact no matter what I do or how much I give. If I give X, I'll get Y 99 percent of the time.

Which is wonderful for donors who are looking to back sure things — and donors who want their donations to result in predictable programmatic impact. I honor and wholeheartedly support that position. I want that, too.

But the problem with being a predictable organization is that you may wind up being taken for granted. And let's face it, not all donors are looking for predictable. Some donors are attracted to new, different, and out-of-the-box. It's the way they're wired.

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What Is That Noise?

April 19, 2018

NoiseHow many times have you been startled by a noise and thought: What in the world?

You try to ignore it, but it won't stop, so you decide to take action. You go looking for the source, find and disable it, and sigh as you walk back to your chair.

I know the feeling. It's a feeling of exasperation, the feeling you get when someone or something absolutely insists you pay attention, whether you want to or not.

It's the feeling many of us have after we've been exposed to nonprofit marketing.

Hey, I get it. Marketing is noise to some and the stuff of life for others. It can inspire, persuade, and make us fall in love. It can move us to action or dissuade us from taking a stand. It can be something we welcome into our world — or something that intrudes on us when we least expect it.

The question you need to ask is: Is our marketing something our supporters want, or is it the noise in the background they wish would stop. Based on my experience, there's too much of the latter happening in our space.

Let me explain.

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Labels…Do They Matter?

February 22, 2018

I-am-what-you-label-mePhilanthropy researchers have spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to understand the donor's point of view, and they've taken much of what they've learned and condensed it into a sector-specific typology: Donor. Volunteer. Activist. Advocate. Maybe it's time, however, for a more sophisticated approach to how we classify these types of constituent relationships — and how we structure our organizations around them.

In many nonprofits, departments and staff are organized according to the nature of their constituent involvement. You have volunteer coordinators, corporate donor managers, major gift directors, membership managers, and so on. What's more, many nonprofits still keep their development functions separate from their marketing and communications teams.

The most effective nonprofits don't operate this way.

Ask yourself this: Do the labels we attach to people influence how we relate to them, or how they view their relationship to us?

What do we really mean when we say things like, "She's a key donor." "He's a great volunteer." "She's a real advocate."

Do the people we talk about in those terms see themselves in the same way? Does she see herself as a "donor," or a "volunteer," or an "advocate"? And does it matter if she doesn't?

From donor engagement studies and the research on millennials we have done, we know that most nonprofit supporters don't think of themselves in terms of their transactional relationship with the organizations they support. They don't give or volunteer out of loyalty to an organization. More often than not, their willingness to give or volunteer is rooted in the idea that their support for an organization or cause will improve the lives of others.

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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.

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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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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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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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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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