Report: Target Donors 40 and Older for Planned Gifts
Nonprofits interested in beefing up their planned-giving base should reach out to potential donors in their 40s, according to a recently released study dubbed “Discovering the Secret Giver.”
Conducted for The Stelter Company, a Des Moines, Iowa-based fundraising consultancy, the study examined how and why people age 40 and up make bequests to nonprofit groups. These “secret givers” aren’t generally on fundraisers’ radars, the report found.
Bev Hutney, creative director at Stelter, says the study shows that nonprofits should be reaching out to people in their 40s, which is at least 10 years earlier than the timing that is widely accepted as ideal in the fundraising sector. Traditionally, fundraisers have identified those 55 and older as the ideal pool of donors to approach with the idea of planned giving.
“Historically, we have targeted those who are older,” Hutney says. “This (study) blows open that theory. We’re not casting a wide enough net. It was a big ‘aha’ for us.”
This is an important group because they’re planning for their future much sooner than had been thought. About 66 percent of people 40 and older write their first wills before they turn 50, while they’re still raising their families, according to the study. Hutney says about 41 percent of people have a will before age 40. The percentage is even higher — 84 percent — among those 40 and younger with annual incomes greater than $100,000.
“The findings really show that we could be missing out on potential donors by not paying attention to this group,” Hutney says. “We should be approaching these people while they are making decisions about their future.”
The Stelter study also refutes the minimum income levels that fundraisers use as a guideline when targeting potential planned-giving candidates, claiming viable prospects may often have a lower income than the sector generally targets. Seventy percent of “secret givers,” for example, have annual household incomes of $99,999 or less, compared to 48 percent of people who currently have a bequest in their will.
“Many people are simply not on the radar of nonprofit development people because they are considered too young or their income is perceived as too low,” Stelter Company president and CEO Larry Stelter said in a press release. “Our research has shown the development people are misguided on both counts and are, therefore, missing many potential donors.”
Hutney says this research should really help nonprofits come up with a planned-gift strategy.
Based on this information, Hutney suggests nonprofits use 25 percent of their budgets to attract those between the ages of 40 and 54; 55 percent on those ages 55 to 69; and 15 percent on those 70 and older.
“The remaining 5 percent should be used as a placeholder for current givers,” Hutney says. “There is no one-size-fits-all strategy, but this is a good baseline.”
The scientific study was conducted in February and March 2008, and is based on interviews with adults age 40 and up throughout the United States. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.