Each generation has unique life experiences that influence their giving habits and preferences. Knowing these preferences is critical to developing your fundraising strategy, nonprofit marketing plan, and cultivation and stewardship practices.
One of the biggest mistakes we often make as fundraisers is to fail to see how our donors want to be asked, engaged, and recognized. It is not about what we would connect with; it's about what different donors would connect with.
Generational marketing defines each generation and how their values, preferences, and shared experiences influence how they think, act… and donate!
Generation Z Fundraising
Generation Zers were born 1996-present and make up about 20.4% of the US population.
Gen Zers grew up watching their parents struggle with an unstable economy and a highly charged political environment around social issues (insert Trump here). This has defined their beliefs and has pushed many of them to be activists for change. They're often referred to as "Philanthroteens," meaning they're motivated to support nonprofits and drive social change.
While many Gen Zers are not yet old enough to be working and making their own donations, they are becoming one of the most socially conscious generations.
They are one of the largest potential donor bases, so learning to engage and communicate with them can make a significant difference for charities in the years to come.
Most interest in environmental concerns
30% have donated to charity
59% were motivated to make that donation from something they saw on social media
10 % want to start their own nonprofit organization
Social media is the best way to connect with Gen Zers. 98% have a smartphone and are on social media an average of 15 hrs a week.
The best way to attract them is with video content or social media influencers. Influencers play a huge role in defining the organizations that Gen Zers trust. You need to be savvy and authentic with your social media because Gen Z is also savvy. They have become adept at collecting and analyzing online information.
They are comfortable with technology and prefer virtual experiences and ways of communicating. As such, they have a strong preference for mobile giving.
Innovation, convenience, security, and escapism are top trends among Gen Z. I have covered many of these topics like fundraising in the Metaverse, using QR codes, and tapping into new platforms in past videos/articles. It is essential to stay updated on technology and media to keep up with these young potential donors.
Finally, accountability and transparency are crucial for this generation because they value honesty and integrity from the organizations they support.
Millennials (aka Gen Y) were born in 1981-1995, and they make up about 25.9% of the US population.
Millennials grew up in an age where they saw huge increases in technology and were introduced to social media platforms.
While these young supporters may not have the giving capacity as older generations, they are the most active demographic donating to charity. They may not give money as much or as often as other generations, but they donate their time and material goods. They are also the most involved in advocacy.
Top supporters of human rights, victim abuse, and child development
84% give to charity
40% are enrolled in monthly giving programs
46% donate to crowdfunding campaigns
11% of total US giving
25 % of donors use their phones to find nonprofits
25 % also use their phones to complete donations
22% volunteer rate
Millennials and Gen Z have the highest social media response rates. Still, this generation is more likely to engage with digital fundraising strategies like email campaigns and peer-to-peer campaigns. Millennials also have the highest response rates to text messages.
They are also tech-savvy, so it is vital to make sure communications and websites are optimized and mobile-friendly. Millennials want to engage with nonprofits online. The best way to keep them engaged online is to use responsive designs for emails, websites, and donation pages.
This generation is very connected to their peers and is more likely to participate in Peer-to-Peer Fundraising. They raise money for walk/run/cycling events. They are also most likely to be influenced to donate by recommendations from friends, so user-generated content is perfect for attracting millennials. Finally, Millennials are more likely to ask friends and family to replace physical birthday gifts with donations to a specific nonprofit. Donating more to causes that someone in their network has already contributed to.
Generation X Fundraising
Generation X was born in 1965-1980 and is the smallest generation, sitting at about 20% of the US population.
Gen Xers grew up with rising divorce rates, a decline in the economy, and ‘latch-key’ parenting. These events influenced them to prioritize self-sufficiency and individuality.
Top supporters of human rights, environmental issues, and health services
20% of total giving
49% are enrolled in monthly giving programs
31% gave because of emails
59 % of Generation X is inspired to donate to charity by a message or image they saw on social media
29% volunteer rate
This is the group to call on if you need volunteers for your organization's events. They love to give their time, talents, and money to worthy charities. They also donate more frequently than other age groups.
This generation is also comfortable with technology. Gen Xers value donating and connecting with nonprofits online, primarily through mobile devices and social media. More than 88% of Generation X is on Facebook, and they respond well to peer-to-peer fundraisers hosted on Facebook.
This demographic also responds well to email campaigns that detail your organization's mission and give them the option of monthly giving.
Once again, transparency is vital with Gen X, so be clear about your goals and where their donations will be going to build trust and credibility. Translate their donation amounts into tangible results, and show them the impact of their support through visual content like photos and videos.
Gen Xers also tend to partake in workplace philanthropy. Both Gen X and Millennial donors are four to five times more likely to participate in corporately sponsored fundraisers.
Finally, tap into the Gen X love of volunteering. Tie volunteering to giving.
Baby Boomer Fundraising
Baby Boomers were born 1946-1964 and account for 23.6% of the US population.
Baby Boomers grew up fighting for Women's Liberation and Civil Rights. They are often characterized by their strong work ethic and propensity to value relationships. As such, they tend to be the most loyal supporters.
They make up the majority of overall donations to charity at 43%. Most of this generation regularly gives to charity and is heavily involved in monthly giving programs.
Top supporters of first responder organizations
72% give to charity
35% give to crowdfunding campaigns
49 % are enrolled in monthly giving campaigns
24% gave in response to direct mail
49% want to know about nonprofit finances before they donate
27.5% volunteer rate
Boomers have begun to embrace online in increasing numbers. Where Boomers used to give primarily through direct mail appeals, they now tend to donate online more. Make sure online donation forms are highly visible and easy to use. Also, add a monthly giving option and promote your recurring giving program.
Baby Boomers are still the largest consumers of traditional media, but they also use social and digital channels. Facebook is the most-used platform for this demographic.
An email newsletter is likely to be read by this generation. They like to receive updates and donation asks via email. Baby Boomers are very particular about how you address them, so make sure your emails are personalized.
Millennials and Gen X donors aren’t the only ones who like peer-to-peer.
Boomers do need to be given the right tools, resources, and encouragement to get started. Provide all the materials they need, like email templates, and sample social media posts.
Boomers love a story! Create a story around your giving strategy to help attract more donors to your cause.
Finally, all donors like to be thanked, which is especially important for Baby Boomers. They are loyal, but they can also change loyalties depending on who stewards them best.
Silent Generation Fundraising
Silent Generation was born in 1945 or earlier. This generation, also known as the "Matures" or the "Civics," represents 26 percent of overall giving.
They lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War.
While they are a shrinking generation, members give the most per capita each year and donate to the largest number of charities.
Top supporters of emergency relief, veterans, politics & the arts
Represent 26% of total giving
24% volunteer rate
Mature donors rely the most on direct mail to support and engage with the causes they care about. Even though they prefer to send an old-fashioned cheque in the mail, 35% have made an online gift.
While most younger generations prefer not to interact via phone calls, this generation is still responsive to this means of communication and fundraising.
Planned giving is a donation method ideally suited to Mature donors because they appreciate it when charities develop solid one-on-one relationships with them.
As you can see, not all generations are created equal. Growing up during different eras with different technological advancements, politics, and economies has made unique preferences within the ages on how they connect with causes they’re passionate about.
References: "How to Engage Different Generations of Donors." Community Funded. https://www.communityfunded.com/blog/engage-generations-donors/
Punn, Elizabeth. "How to Engage Different Generations of Donors". Classy Blog. December 21, 2018. https://www.classy.org/blog/how-to-engage-different-generations-of-donors/