3 Key Insights for Marketing to Young Charitable Donors
Today’s donors expect charities to deliver the same personalized, seamless cross-channel experiences that they receive from their favorite brands. That’s a daunting undertaking — especially when you consider younger consumers and the high bar to which they hold their customer experiences.
According to the findings of a recent Data Axle survey of more than 1,200 donors, there are a number of unique facets of younger donors that, when compared to their older counterparts, have significant implications for how organizations can best foster their relationships and loyalty. Let’s take a look at a few preferences and behaviors that show nonprofits how to tap into the growing philanthropic enthusiasm of youth.
Young Donors Favor Monthly Contributions
Younger donors have come of age in a world where a monthly autopay option for recurring financial obligations is not only welcome, but expected. This inclination has translated to their attitudes toward donating. Overall, 36% of survey respondents said they have set up monthly contributions to one or more charities. This behavior was prevalent among younger donors, with 48% of respondents aged 18 to 29 and 41% aged 30 to 44 reporting monthly recurring donations. As such, today’s nonprofits need to not only offer easy options for automatic monthly donations, but also actively market these opportunities to potential donors.
Insight in action: Greenpeace
Greenpeace activists have long been known for their ability to capture headlines. When they do, the task at hand for the organization itself is to move quickly to convert those headlines and the buzz they drive into meaningful actions and donations to further the group’s cause. Such was the case in 2017, when seven Greenpeace activists climbed a 300-foot crane near the White House to hang a mammoth “Resist” banner, in response to the past administration's stance on environmental, social, economic and educational issues.
This moment in time provided an opportunity for Greenpeace to engage its donors, but it also generated a significant amount of awareness among potential new supporters. Rather than immediately soliciting donations, the organization began a process of relationship-building by providing information to people and acquiring their email addresses.
Over the following weeks, Greenpeace sought to deepen the involvement of new contacts with a survey asking them how they’d like to become involved and, eventually, a donations appeal. Through this process, the goal of the organization was to gain as many monthly donors as possible, ultimately translating a high-profile media moment into long-term recurring revenue.
Young Donors Boast High Engagement With Charities
Younger donors tend to have less disposable income to donate to their charities of choice. But what they lack in funds, they make up with enthusiasm and participating in meaningful ways with nonprofits. In fact, survey respondents aged 18 to 29 reported the highest level of activity across the board, with 60% telling friends and families about causes, 50% volunteering with charities, 36% attending functions and events hosted by charities and even 20% saying they serve on the board of a charity they support.
Nonprofits should embrace the higher activity common among younger donors by helping them spread the word about their organization via digital channels. Consider hosting virtual events and functions, as younger, digitally savvy donors want to stay engaged, even in the pandemic. Help them feel connected, even if they’re not able to open their wallets right now.
Insight in action: Artificial intelligence and nonprofits in the 2020 election cycle
Artificial intelligence is a game-changer in the world of targeted data. Simply put, it allows databases to take complete advantage of their vast assets in ways unimaginable in the world of regression modeling. AI is tailor-made for the thousands upon thousands of variables residing within cooperative database solutions. This allows the models AI produces to be more accurate and predictive than those of predecessor methodologies. During the 2020 election cycle, a number of nonprofits were able to convert younger, more politically charged activists into first-time donors by developing channel-specific, machine-learning AI models. By reaching beyond traditional data tactics, fundraisers were able to properly engage younger donors and, in many cases, convert their engagement into donations through a deeper understanding of these audiences.
Young Donors Appreciate a Wide Variety of Avenues for Donating
Not surprisingly, the likelihood that a donor will mail a donation envelope from a direct mail piece increases with age, while the likelihood of donating through most digital channels does the opposite. That said, when it comes to how people like to contribute to their favorite charities, it’s not that certain channels are becoming irrelevant or fading away. It’s simply that donors are embracing more and more options. Nonprofits shouldn’t be abandoning certain channels in favor of others. Rather, they should be getting smarter and more data-driven in how they leverage each channel by itself and in combination with others.
Insight in action: Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders drives a significant amount of its donations through traditional channels, like direct mail, but the organization is always looking to diversify its efforts to ensure a strong pipeline and connections for the future. In recent years, the organization has seen tremendous success with livestream fundraising, an activity that has tapped into a large new base of younger donors for the nonprofit.
In particular, MSF’s Summer Games Done Quick livestream gaming event has grown significantly in recent years, with revenue from the event up 30% to $3 million in 2019. The livestreamers and their fans tend to be significantly younger than MSF’s typical donor base, allowing the organization to build relationships with young gamers that will continue to yield opportunities for decades to come.
In 2021 and beyond, treating all donors the same is a path to irrelevance for nonprofits. Donor preferences, particularly as they relate to how charities interact with them and vice versa, vary greatly according to age and other factors. Current donor relationships cannot and should not be taken for granted. Today’s charities must be armed with comprehensive insights into their donors and prospects if they are to communicate efficiently, and in a way that builds loyalty for the years to come.
As EVP of data strategy at Data Axle, Heather Philpot is responsible for the growth and strategic development of both practices, as well as working with nonprofit charities. Her vision of helping marketers acquire high value donors, advocates, and raise awareness to issues through data driven solutions has enabled her to aid some of the biggest brands in the industry. Most recently, Heather built the Infogroup Public Affairs division working with associations and corporations to educate and mobilize advocates to weigh in on various area of public policy.
Prior to joining Data Axle in 2015, Heather was a VP at Wiland, a leading cooperative database provider of business intelligence and targeted donation data. Under her direction, Wiland became known as the go-to data provider for campaigns, political organizations, and political committees. With nearly two decades of experience in data/analytics, major donor fundraising, direct mail, and campaign management, Heather understands all facets of the process.
A graduate of the University of New Mexico, Heather was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM, and currently lives in Washington, DC. She enjoys, cooking, traveling, and any outdoor activity with her husband, Michael.