Raise More Money by Understanding Generational Differences

When you understand the behaviors and motivations of different generations, you’ll be in a better position to build stronger relationships and, ultimately, raise more money. That’s the belief behind the Blackbaud Institute’s new report, The Next Generation of American Giving. Catherine LaCour, Chief Marketing Officer at Blackbaud and Senior Advisor to the Blackbaud Institute, writes:

[T]hese insights serve the core purpose of helping you—the social changemakers—build bridges to those who care most about your causes. Use this information to inform your outreach, but know that the relationships you cultivate are still the key. With this deeper understanding of your supporters and the tools they use, there is no limit to the positive change you can achieve.”

The report identifies eight key findings:

  1. Fewer Americans are Giving. Blackbaud is not alone in uncovering this disturbing trend. Among every generational cohort, with the exception of Baby Boomers, there is a decline since 2013 in the percentage of cohort members who say they give to charity. During the same period, total giving has nevertheless increased because those contributing are donating more.


  1. The Greatest Generation is in Its Sunset Years. Those born prior to 1946 are declining in number. That’s why they are no longer the dominate philanthropic group that they were in 2010. However, they remain a vitally important philanthropic cohort. These individuals give to more charities and give more money than any other generational group.


  1. Baby Boomers Remains the Most Generous Generation. Boomers donated 41 percent of all money contributed last year. By contrast, Gen X accounted for 23 percent, Matures 20 percent, Millennials 14 percent, and Gen Z 2 percent.


  1. Generation X is On Deck (and there are way more Gen-Xers than you think). While there are far fewer Gen-Xers than Boomers (65.6 million v. 74.1 million), their population is almost as large as the Millennial generation (67 million). Furthermore, Gen-Xers are approaching the life stage known to be the prime giving years. Given the population size of this cohort and their approaching life stage, they will likely continue to be a growing philanthropic force.


  1. Millennial Giving is Still a Work in Progress. While Millennials accounted for 14 percent of total giving last year, it will be years before they become the dominate philanthropic cohort. While cultural factors and values might be in play, the likely major factor affecting philanthropy is stage of life. Millennials are focused on career and family. When they enter the next life stage, they may very well follow a similar philanthropic pattern established by previous generations.


  1. Introducing Gen Z. Those born after 1995 are the newest generation of donors. As a group, they represent only a small slice of the giving pie. However, when motivated, they can successfully raise money by influencing others through digital media.


  1. Channel Proliferation Continues, Confounding Strategy and Attribution. Blackbaud reports that giving is spread across more giving channels than ever. That makes implementing and managing appeals more challenging for fundraising professionals as they seek to harness the power of multi-channel marketing. It also makes the idea of giving more overwhelming for prospective donors. The report finds, “There is some speculation that the proliferation of giving channels may be causing ‘choice anxiety,’ the tendency to do nothing when confronted with too many options.”


  1. Concern about Overhead Remains High. Donors remain concerned about the percentage of their donations that go toward mission fulfillment versus administration and fundraising. Younger donors are particularly concerned about the impact their gifts will have.


The Blackbaud report provides many additional insights. For example, it also examines the most frequent giving choices of donors by generational cohort. In other words, what types of charities tend to be supported by members of a given generation? The report also reveals other donor attitudes that vary by generation.

Beyond providing insights, the Blackbaud report offers seven important recommendations.

You can download the full report for FREE by clicking here.

What, if anything, does your organization do to tailor cultivation and appeal efforts to different generational cohorts?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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