Branching out: Raising more dollars by understanding donors’ differences

With so many worthy non-profit causes nationwide all competing for donations, how can your organization reach and engage philanthropists?

The answer is twofold: broaden your fundraising tactics to be more inclusive of multigenerational giving while employing technology to the fullest to save on organizational time and resources.

Fundraising through the Ages

Millennials or individuals born roughly between 1977 and 1995 enjoy volunteer work and sharing creative experiential fundraising activities with friends via social media (think ALS ice bucket challenge). Millennials are more responsive to issues than they are to institutions. Attract this generation by demonstrating your organization's connection with your social cause and the individuals you serve.

Generation X or individuals born roughly between 1965 and 1976 share some fundraising traits with Millennials and others with Baby Boomers. They tend to donate more than once per year and are responsive to multiple solicitations. They give most often to religious congregations, then to social service organizations, next to children's charities and animal welfare groups. Although they prefer to donate online, they still respond to mailed appeals.

Baby Boomers or individuals born roughly between 1946 and 1964 may take more time to research a charity before opening their hearts and wallets. However, they are at the age where they are beginning to contemplate where to send a bequest. Once they align with a particular charity, they can become fiercely loyal supporters. They like to donate when it is a part of a workplace giving program and enjoy buying products when a portion of sales go to a nonprofit.

Mature seniors in their late 60s to late 80s appreciate more traditional donor engagement and retention methods, such as direct mail appeals, appreciation letters, neighborhood event posters, newspaper calendar listings and RSVP phone calls. However, this cohort is naturally declining - elder donors are expiring at the rate of 15 thousand per day or 5.4 million annually.

Saving Time and Money with Technology

Although your mature senior donors might not need it, make sure it is possible to donate to your nonprofit via smartphone. In 2015, Blackbaud reported that 17 percent of the Giving Tuesday donations it processed came from mobile devices.

Volunteers can be a nonprofit's most valuable resource. Don't waste their time on telephone outreach or tracking mailed RSVPs. Transfer event invitations and registrations to an online platform so event volunteers can focus their energy on building relationships with backers. You can also enlist social media savvy volunteers to share content online.

Much of the work involved in fundraising events can be streamlined with mobile devices. Instead of asking event attendees to wait on long registration lines, opening event registration in advance with a mobile option offers convenience to donors as well as volunteers.

Additionally, you can increase bids on key auction items by allowing patrons to bid in advance of an auction. This also allows donors who don't live nearby to participate virtually (and potentially have their item/s shipped), even if they cannot attend. This can also be a lifesaver if a fundraising event gets hit with inclement weather.

It can be annoying to large donors to wait in long lines at the end of an event to determine who earned which auction items. Mobile fundraising technology provides organizations with auction results in real time--in fact, donors can receive real time texts to increase their bids if their coveted items are suddenly at risk of going to someone else. Real time auction results help development teams generate immediate reports that can be used to track donors and craft efficient and effective donor specific thank you correspondence.

The recent success of crowdfunding campaigns demonstrates that today's donors want to see the impact of their philanthropy on specific projects or client populations. Don't be afraid to make targeted requests that translate what a particular dollar amount or number of volunteer hours actually means to the clients served (e.g. $10 buys 10 meals or one rabies vaccination for a shelter cat).

Taking time to know your donor coupled with saving time with the strategic use of technology is the winning combination for getting noticed in a competitive nonprofit landscape.

Jim Alvarez is the founder and CEO of Gesture, an organization that helps nonprofits take fundraising to the next level.

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