Older People Still Give More
It happens at least once a month: Jeff and I are in a meeting discussing major gifts, donors and building caseloads, and someone in the room will ask: “What do you suggest we do about those young people? Shouldn’t we talk to them and have them on caseloads?”
And I ask: “Are those young people — those Millennials — supporting your organization now?”
“No, but they are an important group, Richard. We should be spending money on them now because they are our future.”
And I ask: “And what budget are you going to use to market to this group? The donor acquisition budget? Cultivation of donors' budget? Are you going to delay hiring a new major gift officer who can work with the donors you currently have?”
And the conversation often goes on with some pretty strong positions being taken on why this is an important agenda, and it must be done now. And even when I say that older people are giving most of the money, that doesn’t convince the Millennial advocate to agree that it may not be worth spending a lot of money and effort on them.
Don’t get me wrong.
I know there are a lot of Millennials in our country — 83.1 million of them as of the 2015 census, surpassing the baby boomers at 75.4 million. And they may eventually be a force to contend with. But the facts are they do not give like older people do. And with limited resources to spare, every nonprofit must focus on those age segments that are and will continue to give the most to fund the programs of the organization.
This topic came into sharp focus when I was in Minneapolis once with Salvation Army folks. Their super sharp data analysts had produced a report showing that 76% of the money given over the last two and a half years was given by donors 61+ years of age. This was not surprising to me. Nor was it surprising that these same folks gave 79% of the funds that came in via direct mail. We all know that direct mail is a traditional fundraising medium.
But what was surprising is that 48% of all the money raised via the internet came from people 61 years of age and older, including a nice group of 80- and 90-year-olds and some who were even older! Imagine that.
These progressive fundraisers had produced this report to (a) remind themselves about who is giving the money and (b) to see if age appropriate messaging could be used for some or all of the segments.
It was comforting to see that everyone in the room had a clear understanding and positive acceptance that older givers were a very important and valued segment of their donor base.
Which brings me to the main point of this blog: When constructing a caseload for your major gift efforts don’t, for one second, make any decisions about who you will add based on age and certainly don’t allow any bias or preference you might have on this subject influence your thinking. Stick with what is known and true. Older people give more.
Now there will be some exceptions in which a younger donor has capacity, inclination and a proven track record of giving. But when you are interacting with that exception, don’t think you can extrapolate that out to your entire active donor file. Instead, just stay with the tried-and-true selection criteria: recency, gift amount, capacity and relationship. Then qualify them.
The result will be a caseload, which most likely contains a majority of older donors. And that will be good.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.