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.