Quit Searching for the Fundraising Fountain of Youth

In this post I’d like to address a growing pet peeve of mine…

It seems that every time I go to a fundraising conference these days there is always a session on ‘engaging millenials,’ or ‘generational changes in giving.’ At first, that sounds great. Yes … we should probably adjust or tactics over time and adjust to changing donor preferences.

But then it goes a step further, and there are sessions on ‘how to get a younger donor base,’ or my all time favorite ‘my donors are getting older, what do I do?’

This is where I pause andsay “that’s always going to be the case!” Our donors are always going to be older. At what stage of life do you have the capacity and the ability to really make major gifts to charities? It’s going to be when you’re at the peak of your career or just past. Our major donors are typically going to be in their sixties and seventies. It’s just how it is. Yes, they will change over time with the generations and new preferences. But this whole idea of trying to get a younger donor base … I don’t think it’s really that worthwhile.

So, I don’t spend a lot of time doing that. Yes, we want to incorporate new technologies, be multi-channel, and adapt to the times. But doing that specifically to target a much younger donor base, one that’s really not going to have the capacity to make major gifts for another 40+ years? No.

Do we still do some things like monthly donor programs and social media engagement to try to get them involved? Yes. But really trying to target that group at the full engagement level, I don’t think so. It’s a lot of wasted effort that’s not going to pay off anytime soon.

So, what do we do? We know who our major donors are. We know what generation are they a part of and we know how to speak their language. Let’s focus on that. And then yes, let’s try to talk to everybody else as well. But, our donors will always be older. It’s just how it is. It’s how our economy works and how philanthropy is going to be, at least for the foreseeable future.

So fundraisers, give that some thought. Think about what you are spending too much time worrying about. And maybe instead you need to get out there and meet with some of those older donors who make a big difference to your organization.

Sandy Rees: How to Start a Monthly Giving Program for Your Small Nonprofit

One of my most common recommendations to clients is to start a monthly giving program.

Often times the response that I receive is “we already have a monthly giving program.” To which I reply, “simply having a checkbox on your online donation page (to make the donation a recurring gift) does not qualify as a monthly giving program.”

You need to do more. Create a program and a system to actively market it and you’ll build the momentum you need to make it something that your supporters want to be a part of.

To help you out, here’s great article by fundraising guru Sandy Rees on “How to Start a Monthly Giving Program for Your Small Nonprofit.” Because, even if you already have a program (meaning more than just a checkbox), there are still some great tips on growing support for this important part of your fundraising program.

READ THE ARTICLE

Steven Screen: When to Attempt to Innovate

I talk a lot about the need for innovation in fundraising. I include a photo of a grumpy committee member with a speech bubble saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” followed by a chart showing the law of diminishing returns in several of my presentations. My honest belief is that if we don’t innovate our fundraising will eventually turn in the wrong direction.

However, not every nonprofit organization is ready to innovate. If an organization is just getting started, hasn’t implemented best practices or is an organizational train wreck it might not be the right time. So when is the right time?

Fundraising guru Steven Screen does a great job talking through that in his article “When to Attempt to Innovate.” The “Stabilize, Optimize, Expand, Innovate” framework is a great way to approach fundraising innovation. Where is your organization at on that framework? Are you ready to innovate or do you need to address some other issues first?

READ THE ARTICLE

Have a Fundraising Plan. Period.

Have a Fundraising Plan. Period.

You really need a fundraising plan. You can’t just fly by the seat of your pants and take opportunities as they come along. That’s reactive fundraising. You need to be proactive.

A structured fundraising plan is the key to success. It’s actually been proven to be the number one indicator of fundraising success. Fundraising shops that simply have a plan, regardless of what is in it, perform a lot better than organizations without a fundraising plan.

It goes back to the old Ben Franklin quote, “If you fail to plan, then you’re really planning to fail.” So please, invest the time to put together a simple fundraising plan which will take your fundraising operation to the next level.