With the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers accounting for over half of all philanthropic giving annually (69% according to Nonprofit Tech for Good) it is easy to focus our fundraising efforts in on them. After all, as the saying goes, make hay while the sun is shining. But the sun is already setting on the Silent Generation who now only make up 26% of that annual philanthropic giving statistic. Is your organization ready for when those Baby Boomers start to decline in their giving?
The next generation, Gen X, currently contributes 22% of all giving. Some suggest this generation will be the first in several decades to feel less financially stable than their parents. With rising costs of living combined with more than one recession during their career building years, this group may earn far more than their parents did, but they feel as if they have much less discretionary income. This is even more true for the next generation, Millennials.
I have heard it suggested that these later generations are also more entitled and consequently less philanthropic. Going to college, buying larger homes, driving nicer cars, and taking annual vacations to nice places are no longer seen as blessings, but rather as expectations that were worked for and earned.
We have no control over the economic status or perceptions of philanthropy these generations have, but I believe there is one factor that influences this giving trend we as fundraisers have contributed to and that we control- HOW we solicit these audiences.
The reality is for years annual giving programs have followed the cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to fundraising. Mail to them and they will give. It has been an amazing approach that has served us, and continues to serve us, well. Thanks to the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers, mail remains the lead revenue generator for most annual giving programs. However, donor numbers have been on the decline as these generous individuals start to age out.
Gen X and later generations are not inclined to give via mail. Most don’t use checks and can’t be bothered to find a stamp to mail them in even if they have them. I speak personally as a philanthropic-minded Gen Xer who has never made one gift via mail. If this is true for Gen X, then we can be sure it is true for Millennials, Gen Z and those who will come next. So, what do we do?
- Make sure our online giving sites are easy to use and engaging.
- Offer a wider range of payment options (Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, PayPal, etc.)
- Continue to integrate email appeals into your giving plans.
- Use social media platforms to amplify your giving messages.
- Be bold and test new things (text messaging, streaming and gaming, etc.)
We also must innovate our messages. Our competition for the attention of these younger generations is smaller grassroots organizations with clear causes. To compete with that, healthcare systems must eliminate what I like to call the institutional “blah, blah, blah”. Catch phases we all have that come across like Charlie Brown’s grandmother speaking on the other end of the phone. Instead, we need to sound more sincere and more human, and we need to make sure we are telling the stories that really show the impact of giving.
If we start communicating to these individuals with messaging that appeals to them, using the channels that they respond to, and making giving easy and accessible to them, the sun will continue to shine and we will make hay for years to come.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ann Fisher is a fundraising professional with more than 25 years of experience in annual giving. Ann began her career at Hospice of Michigan where she developed numerous skills from data base management to grant and appeals writing. From there she moved on to University of Detroit Mercy where she spend nearly 20 years in annual giving, eventually becoming their Executive Director of Annual Giving and Data Services. During her time at Detroit Mercy, Ann was instrumental in introducing new initiatives like online giving and crowdfunding while also improving the ROI in phone and mail and coordinating the University’s President’s Cabinet leadership giving program. Ann then spent two years at UC San Diego as Senior Director of Integrated Marketing, where she launched their first Day of Giving and restarted their grateful patient giving program. Ann currently works at Michigan Medicine where she serves as Director of Annual Giving, Leadership Annual Giving and Data Services. In 2021 Ann and her colleagues were selected as CASE Platinum Award Finalists in the Best Practices in Fundraising Award for their Nurses Week Campaign, which raised over $80,000 from 1,300 donors during the height of the pandemic. She has also served as a judge for the CASE Circle of Excellence Awards. In her spare time, Ann is an avid runner and has run several half and full marathons as a charity runner to raise money for various causes.
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