Engage Your Next Donor Generation: A Meaningful Connection Strategy

No matter what your organization’s mission is—community health, post-secondary access, art expansion, food distribution, whole child education, etc.—there is a shared challenge you and other organizations must solve: How to inspire and attract a new generation of donors to your cause.

For many of our nonprofit partners, their aging donor base is disappearing—and younger donors may have less interest in the mission. Our school partners are navigating the reality that young alumni are reluctant to give to their alma mater.

Fundraising has never been more complex, with the additional layer of attracting the next generation of donors.

Why is this a challenge?

The short answer is that younger generations believe they don’t matter to organizations’ fundraising efforts, and therefore their contributions don’t matter.

A recent poll from the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org found that nearly half of those who stopped donating over the past five years said they did so because they thought wealthier donors could (and should) afford to give more. This is because nonprofits that have traditionally engaged with very wealthy donors have dissuaded others to think their gifts aren’t needed.

In the same report, the youngest Americans surveyed said they didn’t give because they were simply not asked or outreached to, feeling unessential to these causes.

A separate report from RNL and the Schuler Education Foundation found that young alumni abstain from donating to their alma maters because they don’t see the direct impact of their contributions on their family, friends, or themselves. The perception many of them hold is that giving to their former institutions yields little change.

What’s the solution?

One of the most beneficial things you can do to attract your next generation of donors is to understand who they are and what they care about (not what your organization needs.)

If it’s that simple, why then do so many development and advancement professionals fail to lead with this approach?

In the rush to meet fundraising goals, donors’ interests and values often get overlooked. And the traditional fundraising models/pyramids that are heavily employed categorize donors solely by demographic data (and giving potential), providing little to no insight into what your donors actually value. Without that knowledge, attracting them to any fundraising campaign can’t be fully effective.

When you take the time to understand and articulate what both you and they value—instead of superficially categorizing donors by giving potentials and labels—you develop a powerful campaign strategy, messages, and outreach tools that all communicate how your interests coincide to meet their urgent goals.

With a clarified brand, you can better get to know your donors using values-based donor personas: lively characters that represent a donor type or group based on what they value most.

This personal donor approach both helps you understand the values of your next generation of donors and inspires current and past donors to engage in ways they haven’t historically, turning donations into relationships, not transactions.