Tag Archives: trends

Young Donors are Different: What the Latest Research Means for Fundraisers

Young donors differ from other donors in many ways, and new research on their interests, preferences, and behaviors suggests several ways you can engage them more effectively. Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Applied Research and the “Burk” in the annual Burk Donor Survey, talked to me about findings in her 2013 research that relate to young donors.

What Young Donors Support
Burk’s research shows that many young donors support human services (54%) and arts/culture (47%). Many people think of the environment as a favored cause for young people, but research doesn’t back that up. Only 21% of donors under the age of 35 supported environmental organizations, compared with 34% of middle-age donors and 45% of donors 65 and older.

What Appeals are Appealing
Young donors are far less likely to respond to direct mail appeals (31%) than donors age 35-64 (50%) and donors 65 and older (68%). They are much more likely to respond to online appeals and give electronically (49%) than middle-age donors (37%) or older donors (32%). Events are appealing to all age groups, Burk said. “Young donors are as interested in giving through fundraising events as older donors in the study. Events in which they can actively participate, rather than simply being guests, tend to be more popular with younger donors.”

Implications for Communications
Burk says the biggest difference between older and younger donors is their preferences for communications. “The youngest donors (under 35) appear to be less patient and they make decisions about what they will and will not read more quickly,” she said. “Young donors are more sensitive to getting too many emails and they are less forgiving of charities that send communications that appear to be uninteresting.”

Burk’s advice for fundraising appeals to young people: Get to the point. They say they are too busy to read a lot of text, so “make communications content (especially the first sentence) compelling enough to persuade young donors to take the time.”

Young donors have a decided preference for electronic over print communication. Only 3% of those receiving information online would have preferred to get a print piece in the mail, but 45% of those getting print currently say they would much prefer electronic communication. “Not-for-profits should make every effort offer their donors the opportunity to transition into electronic communication with every communication they send,” Burk said.

The Giving Potential of Young Donors
While some organizations overlook younger donors because of they currently give less than other donors, Burk’s research shows that young people can give more. In fact, 58% said they definitely or probably could have given more to charitable causes last year, a figure considerably higher than for older donors (42%).

“While the average gift value of young donors is much less than their middle-age or older counterparts,” Burk said, “it appears that either the tactics fundraisers use to acquire donors and renew their support are not reaching people under 35, or fundraisers are under-asking, assuming that young people cannot give more generously.”

Do these findings match up with what you’re seeing in your organization? How do you tailor your communications to younger donors?

Download a free executive summary of the 2013 Burk Donor Survey or purchase the full survey.


Millennials and the Future of Your Nonprofit: Q&A with Derrick Feldmann

If you’re not paying attention to the influence and power of Millennials (people born in 1980 and later), you’re not paying attention to the future of your nonprofit and your cause(s). The 2013 Millennial Impact Report details how Millennials give, connect, and involve themselves with causes — and contains specific tips about how to engage young people.

I recently caught up with Derrick Feldmann, CEO of Achieve and the head of research for the Millennial Engagement Survey, and asked him about what his research means for old people like me.

Q: Many organizations like mine have an established donor base of Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. If non-Millennials make up the majority of current donors, how do you recommend that nonprofits balance the needs of Millennials with the more traditional needs of older donors?

A: I think the needs of older donors and Millennials are merging. For instance, the movement for more transparency in fundraising is not specific to Millennials but becoming a trend across all generations. Millennials are helping our causes understand how to better communicate the direct impact of gifts, how to report information on the cause issue, and how to create better relationships. This is how philanthropy is changing and in time, other generations will not only ask for these type of relationships but demand them.

Q: How can nonprofit professionals make a case for engaging Millennials, when their bosses see that most fundraising dollars are coming from other age groups?

A: I always say that if your organization is strapped for cash, you have other things to worry about — i.e., your business model and how to generate dollars for programs. For those not in that position, the case is simple and it stretches beyond giving. Millennials are the best marketers for the organization. In terms of outreach, a Millennial, within their own words, can spread an idea better and faster than any other demographic. Use this talent and skill to share the most relevant information about the cause. In addition, Millennials spend discretionary dollars on things that matter to them. Take this opportunity to engage a first time donors in micro ways in order to generate brand ambassadors for the organization.

Q: As you talk to people about your research, what are the biggest misperceptions about Millennials?

A: Millennials don’t give. It is not true. They give in micro ways — time and dollars — and it tends to be impulsive at times but giving is occurring. Another common misperceptions is around the workplace. Millennials demonstrate work life blending and at times this can be confused as work life imbalance or even disengagement. Millennials merge their professional and social lives and for some that is a challenge when their generation was focused on work life balance.

Q: Are Millennials unique in their attitudes and behaviors, or do they simply reflect the changing world around them? In terms of their social activism, how do they differ from other generations?

A: It goes back to the blending concept we have been talking about. Millennials are blending their interests in social activism in everything that they do — especially in consumer spending. Millennials seek to understand how products are produced and how they have an impact on the world. This is a unique characteristic we see in Millennials.

Q: Your research shows that a pet peeve of Millennials is getting too much email. How does a nonprofit know how much is too much?

A: We have watched international development and environmental causes send emails once a week and their Millennial followings enjoy the content and continue to subscribe. Why? Because the content is brand new each time. It is relevant, contains images, personal, and draws you in as a reader. The complaints about too much email comes from Millennials who receive the same content every other week from an organization. Frequency should be based on your organization’s ability to produce content about your cause — not your organization. Information about what is happening related to the work – not about your organization doing the work. In the examples I gave, the organizations that send information every week have something to report on the issue and Millennials enjoy reading the content.

Q: The Millennial Impact Report has lots of specific recommendations for nonprofits that want to connect with Millennials, in terms of calls to action, websites, social media, and volunteer opportunities. But nonprofit professionals have so many competing priorities. If they want to improve their engagement with Millennials, where should they start?

A: First, ensure you are not turning Millennials away. Organizations should examine the way they present themselves to external audiences. How they use human voice and show the people they help. Redevelop communications that speak to the manner in which Millennials like to receive such messages. Second, create micro volunteer opportunities. Develop small bursts of volunteer engagement for Millennials to perform anywhere. Third, talk with Millennials in social media. Seek out those that care about the issue and talk with them. Do not post — talk and describe something new every day that they may not know about.

Q. I know you’re optimistic about how Millennials will help shape philanthropy and social activism. What are some specific ways this generation will change social activism and the way nonprofits operate?

A: I addressed that question in a recent piece I wrote for the Case Foundation blog, “The Future of Your Nonprofit Organization and Why You Need to Join This Conversation.” In it I said I care about Millennials getting involved in causes, but I care more about the state of the organizations that are trying to make a difference in our communities. I worry they are not prepared to engage Millennials who want to be involved and have not adapted to the growing business changes this generation and others are demanding, such as transparency, real-time reporting, digital connectedness, and collaborative leadership. Rather than perpetuate the ongoing development of more organizations, why not find better ways to get Millennials and organizations working together?

What it’s going to take is getting organizations interested in operating differently — more openly, creating more collaborative work and constituent environments, and refining how external audiences can communicate with, involve, and give so it is easier, faster, and more trustworthy.

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Derrick is also co-author (with Kari Dunn Saratovsky) of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement, which I highly recommend. For more information, download the 2013 Millennial Impact Report and follow Derrick and Kari on Twitter.

Why Donors Give, and How Communications Can Help

New research on donor motivations underscores the important role communications can play in helping nonprofits attract and retain donors. Based on interviews with more than 6,200 nonprofit leaders and major donors, CCS Fundraising found that donors are most motivated by:

  • the impact of their gift (84%)
  • their ability to give (66%)
  • religious/moral obligation (54%)
  • their commitment to their community (52%)
  • being asked (47%)
  • the ability to get a tax deduction (22%)

CCS also lists 12 factors that influence donors to give (and how much they give). Collectively, this information provides valuable insights about how nonprofits can improve their communication to better engage and inspire donors and prospects. Here are some tips based on the CCS findings:

1. Give your supporters ways to share your mission and your needs. CCS’s research shows that people give to other people, most often their peers. It takes more than professional fundraisers to attract donors — you’ll be most successful if board members, donors, and recipients of your services spread the word to their friends and colleagues. Peer fundraising is having a major influence on the success of online fundraising, but peer-to-peer communication is key for all levels and all types of giving. Make it easy for your supporters to share content through printed materials, success stories, and easy sharing functionality on your website, emails, and social media channels.

2. Ask. This may sound simplistic, but when asked why they give, many people say “because I was asked.” As obvious as that may sound, nonprofits miss many opportunities to communicate the need to give. I bet you’ve heard of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — and you know they need financial support, right? That’s no accident. St. Jude does a great job of integrating philanthropy messaging into everything they say and do. Do you let people know about the need and opportunity to give on your website’s homepage, in your annual report, in your marketing materials, and at your events? Does your CEO have a compelling way to talk about the need for support in speeches, letters, and conversations?

3. Be specific. Donors like their gifts to support a specific need or project. What are your needs? How do they match up with what is compelling and meaningful to your potential donors? Think about how you can package giving opportunities so people understand where their money will go. In addition to identifying specific needs — like the dollar amount needed for a piece of equipment — you can also offer representative examples. One organization that does this well is charity:water, which brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. At one level, they say, “$20 could provide one person with clean drinking water.” At higher levels, they offer the opportunity to sponsor a drilled well for $10,000 or a school project for $20,000.

4. Show results. Donors respond to successful and beneficial programs. They want to know that their contributions will be used wisely, and that you have a track record for results. Focus on the human impact of your work.

5. Be positive! CCS’s research shows that people are more likely to give to positive, enthusiastic solicitors. That’s not surprising, but it’s not something you find in most studies about fundraising. Are you, your team, and your executives enthusiastic when you talk about your work? Do you share your personal story about how you got involved, and why you care about your organization’s mission?

For more information about what motivates donors, and national trends in giving, download an advance copy of CCS’s “Snapshot of Today’s Philanthropic Landscape.”

Don’t Miss: A Snapshot of U.S. Philanthropy

Would you like to read a dozen reports on fundraising trends? Of course not. Instead, you can download an advance copy of CCS Fundraising’s “Snapshot of Today’s Philanthropic Landscape,” which summaries the latest data from a bunch of sources in a clear, easy-to-read format — with lots of charts and graphics.

Giving in America in 2012 reached $316.23 billion — a 3.5 percent increase from 2011. The CCS report, scheduled to be released later this month, provides an comprehensive overview of philanthropic trends in America, with details about the largest donors, corporate and foundation giving, bequests, online and social media giving, millennial donors, and an analysis of the top 400 charities. It’s not just a collection of data — CCS does a great job identifying trends and analyzing their significance for nonprofits.

In addition to its own research, based on interviews with more than 6,200 major donors and nonprofit leaders, CCS highlights the latest findings from sources like the Giving USA Foundation, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, the Foundation Center, the eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, and more. Download the advance copy.

One-Third of Americans Own iPads or Other Tablets

More than a third of American adults own a tablet, and in households with an income of at least $75,000, it’s 56 percent, according to a recent report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Imagephoto by Veronica Belmont
Just a year ago, only 18 percent of Americans age 18 or older owned a tablet computer like an iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, or Kindle Fire. The recent study, released in June, shows that number at 34 percent. Marketers must be interested to see that the figure is about 50 percent or higher among wealthier households, people age 35 to 44, and college graduates. Read the full report.

Marilyn and Me

By Adam Fagen
photo by Adam Fagen

This blog and this first post were inspired by Marilyn Monroe. Under the influence of nitrous oxide at the dentist’s office the other day, I was sure I saw Marilyn’s image in the ceiling tiles. That hallucination reminded of this mural of Marilyn in Woodley Park in downtown Washington, D.C.

In the mid-1990s, I had a job I loved and a fun part-time gig as a freelance writer for the Washington Post (mostly covering reggae concerts and CDs). I also contributed articles to the Washingtonian and other local and national publications. Around that time, I recall being curious about the origins of the Marilyn Monroe mural, which I had seen so often in my neighborhood but had never read anything about.

Back then, I would come up with a story idea like this and pitch publications to see if they’d be willing to publish it. The way I saw it, if my story wouldn’t be published, there was no reason to research and write it, because I had no audience. That wasn’t all that long ago, but communications has changed so much since then. Now, we can share ideas, news, and opinions to potential audiences much larger — and at the same time more focused — than what I relied on print publications to do.

My perception was that the Post, Washingtonian, City Paper, and other publications were the only real way to reach people. These publications held all the power, and the only connection to a potential reading audience. (I never pitched the story and kicked myself years later when I read the detailed story in some newspaper or magazine. Today, if you Google “mural marilyn monroe dc,” you’ll find about 600,000 results.)

Some would say we have too many ways to communicate now. Who really wants to read and see every detail of our lives on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram (photos and video now), Vine, Pinterest, YouTube, blogs, and more? But it’s up to us how we use these tools. The point is, the power has shifted, and communications is in your hands now. For those of us who remember a time when this wasn’t true, that’s as amazing as a nitrous-induced hallucination.

So this blog is a place for me to share some thoughts and commentary instead of waiting for someone to ask, and in a little more depth than I can on other platforms. Please comment, follow, and let me know what you’d like to read about.