Engaging Younger Donors

17 May

I recently came across a brief article by Bill Jacobs called ‘Want to Attract Young Donors? Hire Younger People’, and felt like sharing it with my readers. I usually focus on volunteering, but I think that this article raises a really good point about the merits of using younger people to accomplish bigger goals within a large company or organization. Jacobs, who has years of experience in the area of direct response analytics pertaining to fundraising, describes that in discussions of acquiring new donors, especially young ones, the round-table usually consists of middle-aged white men. In thinking about new donors, this is not the target demographic; it’s that 20-something who’s probably shuffling papers in the copy room or doing some other type of administrative work. So how do you reach this audience? Jacobs suggests hiring them:

“Newsflash! Us old-timers aren’t going to crack the code for acquiring younger donors. Our playbook is too old and we do not speak the native language. Hire a sharp 20-something, give her a goal and a budget, and turn her loose.”

The current generation of 20-somethings is readily active in today’s non-profit world. We’re volunteering more hours now than ever before, and our numbers continue to grow. A lot of us participating in this movement towards a service nation are open to contributing to efforts larger than the typical Saturday afternoon commitment, planting in a community garden. It’s at the juncture where the simple volunteer realizes their potential to grow into a more integral part of an organization, where a donor is born. There are young people throughout the country hoping to make a difference, and it goes beyond volunteering. We may not have as much money as our philanthropic, elderly counterparts, but what we lack in our savings accounts is made up for in our numbers and willingness to help. If we’re not donating as often as we should be, it’s probably because we’re not being tapped into enough or being reached effectively.

This is where I feel Jacobs brings up a great point: us young people are more than just a volunteer pool. We know about the current technology available for connecting people to your organization, because we use it every day; social media is not a veteran sport- it was born in a college dorm around the same time we were getting our degrees. We are resourceful and smart, and have probably already thought about how to further the mission of your non-profit while we were volunteering on the frontlines or helping with the necessary legwork to get things done. We might already be in your office, waiting to be asked for our opinion.

So, my thanks to Bill Jacobs for writing this piece and taking the bold step of admitting that us 20-somethings may have the advantage when it comes to knowing how to reach younger donors.

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