Live From AFP: Getting the Younger Donor to Say Yes
Traditionally, the highest-value donors in terms of dollars lie within the 65-and-older range. But, with more ways than ever to reach prospects, fundraisers increasingly are looking to engage a younger crowd. In a presentation titled "Yeah, Yup, Right On — Getting the Younger Donor to Say 'Yes' to Your Nonprofit" at the 47th Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference on Fundraising going on in Baltimore right now discussed ways to do just that.
The session featured Blake Groves, online engagement evangelist at Convio; Joe Bartlett, assistant director of marketing at PETA; and Lindsey Twombly, online fundraising and advocacy manager at Human Rights Campaign.
The first step, Groves said, is to define what a younger donor is for your organization. That doesn't necessarily mean teens or young adults, though it could. For some organizations, a younger donor "could be 70 years old," while for others, such as PETA, it could mean children as young as 13. Again, it all depends on your organization, mission and donor demographics.
"The first step," Groves said, "is understanding who you want to reach."
Why bother with a younger crowd?
Considering the fact that older donors tend to donate larger amounts, an immediate question is what's the point of communicating with younger prospects and/or donors anyway?
For one thing, Groves said, baby boomers and Gen Xers make up a larger portion of the population than do folks 65 and older. That means that even though combined boomers and Gen X give less in terms of average gift, they give more actual dollars because there are more of them giving. In fact, they comprise the largest segment of donors out there. Ignoring them leaves valuable dollars on the table.
Secondly, as all three presenters pointed out, the younger you can engage donors, the longer you can cultivate them and the earlier your organization is top of mind. That helps breed loyalty and, eventually, dollars. Still, Groves and Bartlett agreed that the goal for engaging younger donors isn't necessarily to raise dollars right away, especially from teens and young adults. A better, more easily attained goal, they explained, is building relationships that can be fostered over time, resulting in loyal donors who provide a steady stream of funds over the course of their giving lifetime.
The Human Rights Campaign makes a conscious effort to push out one integrated brand message across all its mediums, communicating with its younger audience through the mediums it frequents — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. PETA takes a slightly different approach, repurposing its content to fit the specific audiences it engages. For example, PETA launched peta2, aimed exclusively at the 13- to 21-year-old crowd, which sends out very different messages than its PETA Prime network, which targets more of the baby boomer generation.