3 Generational Giving Myths That Could Be Hurting Your Bottom Line

Ronnie Gomez

Each generation comes with their own set of unique quirks and habits: Boomers don’t understand why someone would text when they could call, millennials are all about their avocado toast, and Gen Z kids are born with the ability to use an iPad. Broad generalizations like these can be useful in your audience targeting strategy, but beware – if you find yourself relying on them too much, you may be missing out on quite a few fundraising opportunities.

Earlier this month, we used data to shed some light on the realities of generational giving during a webinar hosted by our very own Director of Business Development, Tim Sarrantonio. We also went over how you can leverage the facts to structure campaigns that excite audiences of all ages. Let’s get into it.

Myth #1: Boomers give more than any other generation, so they should be your primary focus when soliciting donors.

This one is partially true. According to 2013 study from Blackbaud Institute, Baby Boomers are responsible for over 40% of all charitable giving. That’s a pretty impressive statistic, but it shouldn’t cause you to devalue donors that belong to other generations. The reality is that the majority of Americans give, regardless of age.

The study also found that Gen X-ers make up 20% of all giving, with a donation average of $732. That number is only expected to go up as they continue to head into a more dedicated career route. The Matures (meaning Americans born before 1945) also give in impressive amounts. Their annual average gift totals out to a whopping $1,327. That’s well above the industry standard for what is defined as a major gift.

The truth is if a person is wants to give, they should be important to you and your organization. If you dedicate all your attention and resources to Boomers, you could be potentially be missing out on some huge fundraising opportunities with everyone else.

Myth #2: Millennials prefer to do everything online, so don’t bother them with direct mail.

Online donations may be rising in popularity, but they still only make up less than 8% of all charitable giving in total. Direct mail, on the other hand, makes up 60-80% of giving, and many of those gifts meet or exceed the major gift standard. Why is direct mail still so effective after all these years? Because it’s the most personalized method of communicating with your constituents, aside from hosting an in-person meeting.

Regardless of age, people like to be thanked and thanked again online and IRL. The key is to zero in on those that have shown they care about your organization by thanking them repeatedly, in every way you can. Tim advises going above and beyond a standard inline ‘Thank You!’ message with a multi-channel approach. Consider sending them a personalized thank you email or giving them their own personal shout-out video. If you have the bandwidth, a handwritten thank you note will always be the gold standard.

Myth #3: Segmenting your audience by generation is the most effective targeting method.

Yes – generally speaking, people from different generations do have different preferred methods of communication. It may sound wise to segment your audience based on these facts, but in reality, it’s time consuming and it doesn’t yield the highest possible return. Instead, segment your audience by recurring donors and major donors, with the goal of nurturing your casual donors into recurring donors and your recurring donors into major donors.

The rise of the subscription model business has made people of all ages more comfortable with signing up for recurring donations. On top of that, the American culture of philanthropy makes it so that people genuinely enjoy giving even if they can’t do it one large lump sum. If you’re trying to identify potential recurring donors, nurturing casual donors with personalized thank you’s can be a very powerful tactic.

Try acknowledging constituents by name, and mentioning when and how much they gave. Then share a bit about how you will be allocating those funds. It’s a lot of information to keep track of, so this is where a comprehensive database that tracks these specific pieces of donor information can come in handy. End your message with a call-to-action for your recurring donation program and watch your new donors roll in. Eventually, when they have the financial ability to make a larger donation, you’ll be the first organization on their mind.

Research has shown that there are definitely differences in generational giving, but they aren’t as stark as what you might think. If you’re trying to figure out how to segment your constituents for higher returns, we wouldn’t advise segmenting by generation. Instead, focus on identifying those that have given before and nurture them into repeating the action. It’s a proven, effective way to excite your audience regardless of their thoughts on avocado toast.

Tim Sarrantonio is Director of Business Development at Neon One, an exciting new venture from NeonCRM. Look out for more webinar announcements from Tim and the rest of the NeonCRM team on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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