Yada, Yada, Yada
I hear them say recruitment efforts should be targeted toward younger donors, to help bridge the age gap. In the end, most of these efforts quickly fail for financial reasons. That’s because most such strategies are akin to Apple Computer Inc. spending more of its iPod advertising budget on 80-year-old prospects, since they account for such a small segment of the MP3 player market.
Even if an organization wishes to dramatically reduce its donor base’s average age through aggressive recruitment efforts, it’s difficult to achieve.
In the 1990s, I worked with one organization that had an average donor age in the low 70s. My firm instituted a successful donor-recruitment campaign that brought in more than 1 million new supporters. Our targeting wasn’t based on age; we simply targeted every mailing list that could generate an acceptable response.
After such an aggressive effort, in which we pulled in every donor we could find, we lowered the donor base’s average age by only five or six years.
There are exceptions to any rule. Not all donor bases have such high average ages. AIDS organizations usually have a younger donor base. Women’s rights groups often have younger donors. Organizations that have major, short-term successes on the Internet — such as those that raked in a lot of money after Hurricane Katrina — also might demonstrate at least brief downward trends in their donor bases’ average ages.
None of these cases are due to targeted efforts based on age. So why waste breath on the issue?
Jim Hussey is president of Adams Hussey & Associates. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.