The Quest for Younger Donors
I don't buy it. In the first place, it's cost-prohibitive from an ROI perspective to acquire 20- to 40-year-olds as donors, and while the second argument is tempting, there is no proof I've ever seen that engaging the youngsters makes them more likely to recall and support that same organization when they do become donors. Donor files are always aging. As they do, new generations take their place. Simply put, we need to stop targeting the people we wish would give and target the people who actually do give. Would McDonald's spend money targeting vegetarians because they are an under-represented audience in its stores?
Here are two questions to clarify the quest to find the elusive younger donors:
- What is the most important indicator of whether someone will give to a direct-response appeal? Answer: Whether they've given before. To any appeal. Or, better still, to you. People in their 20s and 30s likely haven't.
- What is the second most important indicator of whether someone will give to a direct-response appeal? Answer: Age. It's a better predictor than household income, ethnicity, education levels or religion. (Check out the chart from Russ Reid's "The Heart of the Donor Study," which confirms what we all should know from experience: Older donors give more, and are more generous and far more valuable to nonprofits than younger donors.)
What does this mean to you?
● Rejoice in your older donors. Cultivate them well.
● Invest in a strong planned-giving program. Don't leave it to chance. Take half of the next bequest you get and fund a couple years of planned-giving work. It'll be the best long-term ROI you'll see.
● Choose your media channels wisely. If your best donors are 55+ (they are), make sure you communicate with them via their preferred channels — not your staff's preferred channels.