I published an article Millennials Are Not the Answer to Your Fundraising Woes. In the article, I explained how Millennials are not a viable option for impactful giving. They simply aren’t in a place in life allowing them the ability and capacity to be a mission changing donor. The resources it would take to attract, acquire, and retain Millennials for the next 20 years (when they will be impactful donors) outweighs the amount of money you would get from them now. Don’t get me wrong, they will be a force to be reckoned with -it’s just not yet. But Millennials should not be left out of your fundraising strategy. Now is the time to cultivate the relationship. But focus on Millennials should not be to the exclusion of anyone else. And any great fundraiser knows your campaigns should be geared towards donors- no matter the age.

So What Should You Be Doing Now?

Focus on common denominators between generations. Some ideas are:

  • Authenticity

Millennials are notorious for wanting authentic experiences. They will quickly brand anything not feeling authentic as fake. For nonprofits, authenticity goes with transparency.  An authentic voice in your written communications (website, social media, appeals, newsletters, etc) will lend itself to transparency because by finding your authentic voice, you will be showing real experiences your organization and clients go through. Generation X and Baby Boomer like transparency, not because they want an authentic experience, but because they have seen the nonprofit scams and scandals. They are wary of them and want transparency. Finding your authentic voice now can draw in multiple generations and be cost effective.


  • Online and Monthly Giving

If you don’t have an online giving program or monthly giving program, get one. Right now any program will do. The important thing is you have one. Generation X and Millennials are the most likely to donate online and when you consider a donation online is about 37% more than if the same person had given by any other method, that is good for your fundraising. Also, Baby Boomers are the leading online shoppers right now, spending 78% of all dollars spent online. Giving online will not be a stretch for them.


Monthly giving is preferred by Millennials and let’s face it, having an Annual campaign where you sign donors up for monthly giving makes good fiscal sense. You will have an idea of the amount of money you can depend on in any given year and can plan your fundraising activities more efficiently. But monthly giving isn’t only attractive to Millennials. Think about it. Retired donors living on a fixed income might be attracted to giving $100 a month for a year over $1200 in December. But that scenario probably isn’t the whole story. Statistics show that monthly donors give more over the course of the year versus if the same donor gave a lump sum.


  • Technology

Technology is going to become increasingly important. As Baby Boomers die out, Generation X will adopt more and more technology. The reason is simple: Parents want to be able to communicate with their kids.  Right now, Generation X must communicate in the forms their Baby Boomer parents prefer and communicate in the form their Millennial children prefer if they want to stay connected to either. As the need to communicate in the forms of their parents’ wains, Generation X will move to their child’s preferred method.


For nonprofits, this means digital media and texting will become more important. Being early adopters of new technology is important now. If your organization can’t afford new technology now, encourage your employees to be tech-savvy. Your employees will then be ready for the implementation of new technologies with a very little learning curve. Think about it. How many times have you heard Generation X and Baby Boomers say their Millennial child/grandchild is so much smarter than them at navigating the cell phone? It’s not that any one group is smarter than the other. It’s that Millennials want the next great thing in phones. In the same amount of time, Millennials will have gone through every version while Generation X and Baby Boomers will have gone through two or three. An example: the Millennial will have an iPhone 4. The 5 comes out and they get it. Then the 6 and will be planning for the new release of the 7. Generation X and Baby Boomers will have an iPhone 4 and then finally decide to upgrade to the 6 when the 7 comes out. So while the Millennials are learning new technology incrementally, Generation X and Baby Boomers are having to learn big chunks at a time. And we all know taking too big of a technological leap can be the equivalent of learning new software! Having tech-savvy employees will cut down on the learning curve and you can implement newer technology quicker.


Now for some ideas on targeting different generations.


It’s been said Millennials are not ready for giving. It’s true and there will be some outliers, some who are giving out of the norm. Just because they can’t hang with the Baby Boomers, doesn’t mean they are not worth your attention. Look at what Millennials think- they prefer to donate their time instead of money and they believe volunteering is the same as giving money. Nonprofits can work with this. Of course, you may have to do some out of the box thinking about what volunteering looks like. Millennials are going to want “authentic experiences” to keep them engaged. They will want to help in ways that give them these experiences. The traditional way of volunteering may not be enough. Start brainstorming ways to have authentic experiences while volunteering. And ask them what they would like to do! Let them shape what an authentic experience is to them. If it is an authentic experience, they will tell the world. Research shows that volunteers are the easiest group to turn into donors because they already have an emotional connection to your organization.

Social Media is BIG for this group right now. They can teach you a lot about the technical aspects of each platform and you can teach them something about marketing and fundraising. Together, you may be able to find authentic voices and new technologies. But those are secondary. Really, you are building relationships that you will cultivate for the next 20 years.

Generation X

Move more acquisition funding to this group. They are the generation that will fill in your fundraising gap between the Baby Boomers and Millennials. Make online giving more of a priority and advertise in your appeal letters and newsletters that online giving is an option. Use this generation to tweak your authentic voice and technology. Volunteering is important to Generation Xers (and they like traditional volunteering). They are also the largest group volunteering right now. Use Generation X in volunteering to introduce you to Millennials. Create parent/adult child volunteering opportunities. Cultivate a relationship with them. They are getting to a point in life where charitable giving will be important to them and they will have the capacity to give. Turning your focus to this cohort will pay dividends, especially when everyone else is going after Millennials.

Baby Boomers

First and foremost, maintain your relationship with this cohort. Cut new acquisition funding for this group. If you haven’t gotten them as a donor by now, you probably won’t. Start transitioning the oldest of this generation to Legacy giving. Legacy giving is putting your organization in their wills as a final gift or making you the beneficiary of their life insurance policy. This makes sense for those who outlivetheir spouse and have no living children. Begin Giving Societies where they give a designated amount to be in the society and the organization only uses the interest of the total society’s donation. This make an everlasting gift for the donor.  Offer classes or let them know of classes in their community on estate planning.


The lesson here is don’t discount any generation. They can all be valuable to your organization but the key is to meet them where they are.


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