As it marks its 20th anniversary, City Year finds itself in a happy state of flux when it comes to cultivating individual gifts. The organization is looking at professionalizing its development program, centralizing its fundraising efforts, cracking down on brand inconsistency and capitalizing on a built-in, though until recently overlooked, demographic — corps alums, their parents, grandparents, friends and other family members.
Those folks with the longest relationships to the organization — corps members from its first few years in existence — are in their mid-30s to mid-40s and most likely entrenched in their careers. Naturally, they skew younger than the national average for philanthropic givers, but many of the 10,000 alums consider their City Year experiences to have been life-altering and, perhaps, a precursor to the lives they’re leading now. And if that’s not a good reason to donate to City Year … what is?
While the alums aren’t traditionally aged givers, their parents and grandparents are — which just sweetens the pot. Plus, this demographic, because it’s younger, is more likely to respond to social networking, and Web and e-mail communications — which are much less expensive than direct mail.
“City Year has realized the richness — not necessarily just in terms of dollars, but richness in terms of commitment to the organization — from alumni and from parents,” Gordon says. “Some of the corps members who graduated during those early years today are very successful but might have not been asked to participate in the past. So some recent e-correspondence and e-outreach has really worked nicely to engage a whole group of alums who just haven’t been asked in recent years.
“A couple of years ago, if an alumnus gave, it was out of their own good will, or it was a real personalized effort,” he continues. “Having much more of an alumni affairs office and alumni outreach [and] a parents outreach is something that really has just sprouted up in the last couple years that we will continue to work more aggressively toward.”