As far as supporters, nonprofits are experiencing an unprecedented generation span. The sheer number and variety of generous givers is amazing, but only if your nonprofit can access them.
While engaging supporters across generations is crucial during even normal operations, it’s especially important during uncertain times.
Turning to current events, we can see that the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc across the globe, and nonprofits are more essential than ever to fill in gaps in the pandemic response. During this time, many nonprofits find themselves faced with a constituency in need and unsure about their fundraising abilities during a time of economic downturn.
Engaging the full breadth of your supporter base, each and every potential giver, is more necessary than ever before. This guide will explore the following tips to boost supporter engagement across generations:
- Stay up-to-date on current events.
- Research your target demographics
- Use a variety of communication methods.
- Offer multiple giving methods.
- Bring in outside assistance.
Stay up-to-date on current events.
There’s no denying that the world around us is undergoing massive changes, and will continue doing so. 2020 was already set to be a super-charged year for nonprofits— with the Election Effect in full swing— and now the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the nation. Your organization is likely feeling the effect whether through increased needs in your community, a temporary decrease in fundraising capacity, or even an increased difficulty with communications.
It goes without saying that your supporters are feeling the pressure, as well. With the economic downturn and general unease, saving is a natural inclination across all generations. It’s up to your organization to keep a hand on the pulse of your constituents, from Boomers to Gen Z, and assess their ability to give in light of current events.
When fundraising in the age of COVID-19, understand that your focus will have to shift. However, while events will be halted (or moved online) and the economy will slow— your supporters’ philanthropic nature will still be there.
Research your target demographics.
When you’re trying to reach any specific subset of supporters, whether it’s to increase your major gifts or engage the younger generations, it’s important to begin with research.
Nonprofits are in a unique position lately, interacting with as many as 5 different generations at any given point (from the Silent Generation to Gen Z)— each as different as the one preceding it. Innovations in technology mean each generation was raised in a drastically different atmosphere and as a result, has unique motivations and interests.
Understand that expanding engagement across generations is more than just sending out a new, “hip” marketing campaign. In fact, you should research the motivations and preferences of each generation (check out this graphic for a quick overview) and personalize your efforts over the coming years.
You could even build multi-generational engagement into your nonprofit strategic planning and reframe your entire strategy going forward with the effort in mind. After all, modern fundraising is built on multi-generational engagement.
Use a variety of communication methods.
Once you’ve researched your target demographics, begin adjusting your methods to target specific groups. Let’s start with communication.
Each generation has different preferences when it comes to communication, so using a multi-channel strategy is your best bet to reach them all. Consider leveraging the following communication platforms:
- Direct mail. Don’t neglect direct mail in the tech-saturated world. A compelling gift request letter can still go a long way with your less tech-savvy supporters.
- Your website. This is often the first resource givers check when looking for information. Make sure it’s up-to-date with your latest initiatives and opportunities to get involved.
- Social networks. Social networks are a powerful tool to reach your younger supporters. As far as best practices, choose a few platforms (such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter) and aim to create a two-way conversation.
- Email newsletter. Email is a great way to give a lot of information to supporters in one communication effort. Make sure your newsletter is concise, scannable, and links out to your other online resources.
Communicating across multiple platforms can get confusing, especially if you’re juggling more platforms than you ever have before. Here are two key tips for making sense of the busy communication schedule:
- Only use methods proven to work for your supporters. Use your research to understand which platforms have the highest response rate for generations within your supporters. For example, you may discover that certain social networks have a higher reach while your email newsletter isn’t quite as popular.
- Create a plan for how these platforms will work together. Avoid sharing the same content, at the same time on every platform. Ensure that supporters receiving information through multiple platforms aren’t deterred by repetitive communications.
Offer digital giving methods.
Just as supporters across generations prefer to communicate through different methods, they approach giving in a similar manner. Ensure that supporters can give when and how they want by accepting digital gifts.
This is especially crucial in a time like now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as social distancing has become a necessity and in-person check writing has taken the backseat.
This isn’t to say that personal conversations are no longer the most effective method of donor stewardship, but rather that you can use tech to improve those efforts during this time. Set up an online giving page if you don’t yet have one, and begin directing supporters to that resource. Generations spanning the ages will appreciate the opportunity to give in a safe and efficient manner.
Get started by exploring a few giving page best practices in this guide.
Bring in outside assistance.
Navigating multi-generational giving can be overwhelming in itself, even before the current worldwide pandemic is factored in.
If your organization is feeling overwhelmed navigating this time, it might be helpful to bring in outside assistance. This could mean consulting peers in your field, those who are likely confronting the same challenges as you are. Or, it could mean bringing in a fundraising consultant.
To learn more about fundraising coaching, check out this page on executive coaching and the Ask Without Fear! program. Further, explore this guide to fundraising consulting fees and other associated costs.
It’s important to realize that your nonprofit isn’t alone in this time— there are generations of supporters understanding the necessity of nonprofit work now more than ever. By engaging those supporters across generational lines, your nonprofit will survive and do great work even in the most uncertain times.