Nonprofits are currently in a unique position, interacting with as many as five different generations at any given point (from the Silent Generation to Gen Z). Each generation is as different as the next, meaning your organization requires a strategic fundraising approach to effectively engage with supporters from all demographics.

It’s not enough to create a one-size-fits-all fundraising and marketing strategy to use for all supporters. With careful planning and research, your nonprofit can craft a targeted strategy that engages each generation using messages that resonate with them. 

This guide will explore the following tips to boost supporter engagement and fundraise more successfully across generations:

  1. Research your target demographics.
  2. Stay up-to-date on current events.
  3. Recruit ambassadors from all generations. 
  4. Use a variety of communication methods.
  5. Offer multiple giving methods.

Societal changes mean each generation was raised in a drastically different atmosphere and as a result, has unique motivations and interests. Keep this in mind as you work to incorporate the following tips into your fundraising strategy. 

1. Research your target demographics.

It’s critical to start any major fundraising initiative with research, whether you’re conducting a planning and feasibility study ahead of a capital campaign or creating a plan for marketing to different generations. 

By researching your target market, you can understand what your largest demographics are and create a plan based on your organization’s unique audience. 

In this process, you’ll use a variety of internal and external data sources. Your internal sources will help you identify your largest demographics. Then, you can use external sources to discover the best ways to market to those demographics. 

Your internal data resources might include: 

  • Your donor database. Use this tool to identify the largest age groups within your donor base based on birthday data. 
  • Social media engagement metrics. Explore these statistics to learn more about the demographics of your social media audience. 
  • Website demographics. You can identify these metrics through Google Analytics and use them to understand your website user demographics on a deeper level. 

Once you understand the general makeup of your audience, you can use external studies and data resources to learn more about each demographic. Start with these resources: 

Look over these resources and incorporate the insights into your fundraising strategy. For example, you may discover that your primary audience is composed of Millennials and Gen X. Then, you can use a few external resources to determine the types of causes each demographic tends to support the most, what drives them to give, and other insightful information about your audience members.

2. Stay up-to-date on current events.

All generations appreciate when their favorite nonprofits are actively following current events. Keeping up with current events and trends shows supporters that your nonprofit isn’t out of touch.

This is especially true whenever you’re fundraising in uncertain times, such as an economic recession or a global pandemic. Charitable giving likely isn’t the first thing on supporters’ minds when they’re worried about these types of external factors. 

Being aware of current events allows you to approach your supporter communications with empathy and understanding, showing supporters of all ages that you care about them as individuals. 

Stay up to date on the political and societal issues that matter the most to each generation and how recent events will shape their philanthropic attitudes. 

3. Recruit ambassadors from all generations. 

Ambassadors are highly engaged and well-connected supporters that your nonprofit recruits to spread awareness and support for your mission. These individuals can expand your organization’s reach by tapping into their personal networks and spreading the word to new audiences. 

Younger generations might refer to these ambassadors as “influencers” — people they follow to learn about what’s trending and popular. 

By recruiting ambassadors or influencers from all generations, your nonprofit can reach each demographic in your target audience more effectively. Your ambassadors can engage with their own age group and even promote opportunities that appeal to each generation. 

For instance, here are a few types of ambassadors you might recruit: 

  • Peer-to-peer fundraisers
  • Volunteer group leaders
  • Social media ambassadors

Equip your ambassadors with training to help them get comfortable with their roles. Provide fundraising training for your peer-to-peer fundraisers, leadership training for your volunteer leaders, and advocacy training for your social media ambassadors. 

NXUnite offers a comprehensive list of training resources you can explore. Many of these resources are free and available online, making training more accessible for your organization’s ambassadors.  

4. Use a variety of communication methods.

Each generation has different communication preferences, so using a multi-channel strategy is your best bet to reach them all. 

However, don’t assume only young people use digital communication platforms, and only older people prefer direct mail. Many young people value nostalgic or throwback experiences. Millennials and Gen Z are bringing back previous trends, like vinyl and 80s jeans. 

In a tech-obsessed world, younger generations are expressing appreciation for tangible things. That means that sending a letter or postcard could be an engaging way for your nonprofit to break outside the digital noise and make an impact on young donors. 

On the other hand, younger generations aren’t the only ones using digital platforms like social media. 68% of Baby Boomers (those aged 58-67) are on Facebook. Plus, members of this generation have around five social media accounts each, on average. 

Therefore, it’s helpful to use a variety of communication methods to reach each demographic in your supporter base. To maximize engagement with different generations, it’s well worth it to expand your reach to multiple channels, like social media, direct phone and mail, and digital ads. 

5. Offer multiple giving methods.

Along with using a variety of communication channels, offering multiple ways to give helps appeal to different audiences. 

Some older audiences, especially older Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation (those aged 77-94), aren’t as tech-savvy as your younger supporters. These individuals would likely prefer to give using direct mail. Those aged 66 and older are part of the age group that uses checks more than any other. Offering a way for supporters to give via direct mail allows you to appeal to this generation. 

For younger generations, especially Millennials and Gen Z, optimizing your online giving is critical. The future of nonprofit giving is guaranteed to be almost fully online, and studies show that Millennials and Gen Z overwhelmingly prefer online giving

For younger supporters who are still in school or just starting their careers and don’t have a high giving capacity, indirect giving methods might be appealing. For example, volunteer grants can be a great way for younger supporters to help your cause. Instead of donating funds, they can volunteer their time and have their employer give on their behalf. 

The more flexible giving options you can offer supporters, the better you’ll be able to appeal to multiple generations. 

Wrapping Up

If you’re struggling to understand your nonprofit’s unique audience, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. There are plenty of free resources to explore that can provide insight into how to research your audience and strategize your multi-generational marketing approach. It can also be helpful to work with a fundraising coach or consultant who can offer expertise and customized advice. 

Philanthropic attitudes are common across generations, whether your main audience trends younger or older. Engaging with each demographic using a personalized approach will increase your nonprofit’s chances of earning and retaining loyal supporters. 

About the Author

Bob Happy

Bob Happy brings nearly 35 years of experience providing expert leadership and direction to clients across the not-for-profit sector to his current role as President of Averill Solutions. Before forming Averill Solutions, Bob served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the nation’s largest fundraising firm. He has mentored hundreds of professional fundraising practitioners and many have joined him at Averill Fundraising Solutions.

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