Guest Post: Storytelling and the Next Generation of Donors

Storytelling & the Next Generation of

As fundraising professionals, we face a constant challenge – we need to raise money. Right now, many organizations are starting to wonder how generational transitions will affect fundraising. In other words – as Millennials start to donate more, how will their preferences influence our fundraising programs?

Should we be using Snapchat? Will email still work for us? How will we get ahold of Millennials since none of them have landlines?

Perhaps some of these questions sound familiar to you. Up until last October, I would have said that you were right to think about these questions. But then I attended bbCON and Chuck Longfield shared a piece of data that rocked my world.

The average age of a new donor in 2014 was 51. That’s right, 51!

It makes sense of you think about it. Someone in the earlier 50s likely has more disposable income than say someone in their late 30s. Thus at 51, a person might be looking to become a first time donor to an organization.

How does this information influence our fundraising strategies to acquire Millennial donors?

You don’t need to abandon your plan to acquire Millennial donors. You do however need to be prepared to play the long game. Organizations should strategically focuses on engagement, so that when that donor is able to make a gift your organization will likely be top of mind.

Engagement is kind of a tricky word. The key to making the most of it is to define the various stages of engagement someone can have with your organization. In other words, how does someone go from not knowing who you are to being a loyal donor?

In the instance of Millennial donors, this likely won’t happen in one fell swoop. It is prudent to figure out what the various stages of the relationship are leading up to that donor making a gift. Then the task of moving them between those stages.

Unlike older generations of donors, Millennials have a desire to understand their impact, to feel like they are part of something meaningful, and contribute to a reputable organization that speaks their language. One way that non-profits can achieve all three of these things is by cultivating relationships through communications, and specifically by telling stories.

Stories naturally demonstrate impact in a tangible way and when they are told well, they make the reader feel like the hero. During a recent project I worked on with a client, we did extensive content analysis to understand the differences between Millennial, Gen Y and Boomer donors. What we found was that Millennial donors tend to respond best to stories that are inspiring and have a positive vision for the future. These stories don’t try to guilt the reader into donating, nor do they sound “doom and gloom.” As we analyzed the stories that Boomers responded to, what we found basically the opposite.

What’s the key takeaway from all this? Engaging Millennials through fundraising and communications requires a big shift in messaging. Look at your appeals over time. What are the messages that come through? How have your donors responded? What was their demographic? Use these questions to do your own content analysis to find the right message that will resonate with Millennial donors.

~~

Written by Vanessa Chase

VanessaChase15Apr2014-5-3198824182-O copy
Vanessa Chase is the President of The Storytelling Non-Profit – a consulting group that specializes in helping non-profits raise more money through communications. You can find out more about her and non-profit storytelling on her blog.

 

You’ve only got part of the story

you've only got part of the story

As fundraisers, we’re constantly working with partially-told stories.

Last week, Andrew Littlefield showed us how to be P.D.D.D. — pretty damn data-driven.

Data is so important, and I think within every passionate fundraiser lies a bit of a data nerd. I love poring over spreadsheets and analyzing results, but it’s only part of the story.

I went to the Blue North Do-Gooders Summit this year and saw an awesome session called “Inspiring New Ideas with Donor Data”. The presenter, Tim Rowley, said that fundraisers have some issues with correlation analysis; we draw conclusions that we shouldn’t.

Here’s an example: there is proof that going to bed with shoes on leads to headaches in the morning. 

Is that true? Yes, but not for the reason that statement implies.

If you are too drunk to take off your shoes before bed, you’re likely going to be hungover and will therefore wake up with a headache. 

Going to bed with your shoes on is just part of the story.

We have a lot of data, but not enough knowledge. We have to take the time to turn our data into information, and then turn that information into knowledge, which is something we can actually use. That’s when we can be data-driven, as Andrew rightly encourages us to be!

How can we find out the rest of the story? One way is to ask great questions.

It applies to looking at mass amounts of data OR looking at one specific major donor.

If a donor makes a $10,000 gift out of the blue, can we make assumptions about how engaged they are with our charity and how they might want to be involved moving forward?

Well, sure! But that doesn’t mean we’re right! We must ask questions to get the whole story.

As for what kinds of questions we can ask, check out this video I saw on Movie Mondays for some inspiring ideas!

Telling the full story is worth the extra work!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email