Guest Post: 4 Ways to Acquire and Retain Millennial Donors

 

4 ways to acquire & retain millennial donors

As many of you know, millennials are quickly becoming one of the most coveted groups in the fundraising community!

But why is this demographic so important to fundraising?

According to the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, a whopping 84% of millennials made a charitable donation in 2014. There is immense value in acquiring donors early (at the millennial age) and building a relationship in order to create lasting value for your organization.

While capturing millennial donors will surely help your nonprofit organization, many NPOs and fundraisers struggle to acquire and retain these donors.

That’s where I can help!

My background? I am a millennial with strong ties to the Boston fundraising community. Most recently, I have spent the past two years organizing a fundraiser geared completely to millennial donors. In our first year, we attracted 850 guests and raised over $65,000 for the prestigious Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

In our second year, we raised $108,000 from over 1,000 Boston-area millennials and young professionals.

Learning from this experience, I’ve put together a list of my four best tips for acquiring and retaining millennial donors. Enjoy!

#1 — Get Personal

Our first tip is to get personal with your potential donors – tell the story of your cause and how it personally relates to your experience.

While inclined to donate, millennials are seeking stories they can identify with. Affinity in values and social responsibility are extremely important for this group,whether it’s the restaurants where they eat, the stores where they shop or even the organizations they support.  

Conveying your story in a meaningful way will get you in the door with millennials, and the rest will be history!

#2 — Utilize Technology

One thing that we can all agree on is that millennials are very connected.

Whether we are checking our iPhones every 30 seconds, or sneaking a look at our Facebook news feed during a conference call, we millennials have the means to find and share any information instantly.

And fundraisers / nonprofits should be using this to their advantage!

In today’s world, millennials are willing to donate to charitable causes, but want to do so on their terms, which means embracing easy-to-use and accessible donation tools.

These can be anything from donation pages to mobile silent auctions and raffles and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

Regardless of the tools you decide to help you move forward, embracing technology will allow you to offer millennials a much easier channel for them to donate anytime they’d like.

#3 — Embrace FOMO

Our next tip is for your organization to embrace one of the strongest emotions felt among millennials – THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT (aka “FOMO”). When used with online and social fundraising methods, FOMO can become one of your best tools for millennial acquisition.  

The key here is to hold your donors socially accountable. Did your supporters just buy tickets to your next fundraising event? Has one of your donors just made a donation to support your cause? Provide them a means to share this to their social network!

When your donors share updates about your cause, they will be helping you acquire new donors, as these potential supporters will witness all of the passion and excitement around supporting your cause.

#4 — Show Your Appreciation (with a twist!)

Traditional methods of thanking your millennial donors work great, but your thank-yous are even more effective when you can add a twist!

One of our favorite examples of unique acknowledgements for millennials is Creating a Sizzle Reel.

Did you just wrap up a great fundraising event or have your best year ever in terms of donations? Spend some resources to create a great video or “sizzle reel” to share with your audience. An exciting video will stand out against the hundreds of emails your audience receives each day, and it’s also a great piece of content for your donors to share out to their networks!

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Written by Zach Hagopian

Zach is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding.  An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.

Connect with Zach via:
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#whatgiveswednesday | goodbye!

ROADTRIP

Author Peter Sims found that Steve Jobs, Chris Rock, Frank Gehry, and many other successful people have an approach to their work in common: they all have achieved remarkable results by methodically taking small, experimental steps.

“Rather than believing they have to start with a big idea or plan a whole project out in advance… they make a methodical series of little bets about what might be a good direction, learning critical information from lots of little failures and from small but significant wins that allow them to find unexpected avenues and arrive at extraordinary outcomes.”

That’s what #whatgiveswednesday was: my little bet. Encouraged by Paul Nazareth, I wanted to explore what my niche in the fundraising world might be. I had some experience with young alumni at my last job, and have passionate opinions about the great potential of millennial giving, and so I embarked on a year-long journey to explore this area of fundraising – along with awesome guest bloggers – to see if we could crack the mystery.

Well, we learned a lot! But it’s time to say goodbye to #whatgiveswednesday.

Why? In short, it doesn’t feel right anymore. I don’t feel that millennial giving is my niche, I’ve been struggling to find more to write about, and I’ve been having a lot more fun thinking and writing about other things. I focus on mid-level giving in my 9-5 job and have started to write about that more, I’ve been exploring the concept of #DonorLove and that has been inspiring me! #whatgiveswednesday and thinking about millennial giving have felt more like chores lately, and I’ve got enough chores to dread. My blog should never be one!

Plus, there’s awesome people like Erin O’Neill and Ryan Brejak exploring this area, so I’ll leave the experts to it, and take my focus elsewhere!

So – I’ll still be posting on Wednesdays, but I’m removing the theme and just adding more great content on philanthropy and fundraising.

In fact, I’m going to post every Wednesday!!! I’m sick of posting every other Friday, because Fridays are a horrible day for blogging. So, starting now, tune into www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com every Wednesday for awesome new content!

Thanks for being part of my little bet!

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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:
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#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week thirteen | case study: ted livingston

case study- ted livingston

What makes a 23 year old donate $1,000,000???

Meet Ted Livingston. Ted is the Founder & CEO of Kik Interactive, whose app – Kik Messenger – allows users to send instant messages to each other from any smartphone in real-time. He was a student at the University of Waterloo (located down the street from where I work at Laurier) studying mechatronics engineering, but dropped out in 2009 to focus full-time on his company.

Fast forward less than a year and a half, and Ted made a $1 million donation to the University of Waterloo.

One. Million. Dollars.

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What makes a 23 year old university drop-out support his (unofficial) alma mater? 

Well I don’t know Ted Livingston personally, but from what I’ve read about the man, in 2011 $1 million represented a big portion of his bank account. It sounds like he lives simply, but still… with that money he could do a lot for himself, his family, his friends, or any other organization for that matter, and yet he chose to give it to University of Waterloo.

Why?

Well, Ted got his start in Velocity, a program at his university that offers help to students trying to start their own businesses. Clearly he had some success in the program, because he soon dropped out of school. But he had seen the value of the program, and it launched him and his company into great success.

So, his donation was used to provide similar funding to companies in Velocity, along with office space, mentoring, and more. Ted said:

“Unfortunately, few investors are willing to bet on young entrepreneurs, especially in Canada, so getting the startup funds they need is a huge challenge. This fund is a step towards changing that.”

That’s it. Ted received support, saw value, experienced success, and paid it forward.

Do you have a great story of a young donor giving back??? Share it in the comments.

Source: “Young startup CEO gives $1-million to his university” – The Globe and Mail

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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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:
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#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week twelve | guest post: prospect research & gen y

Prospect research — the art of identifying and connecting potential donors with your cause. How does this translate to Gen Y donors? Is there a secret formula to identify this group of donors? Not really. There are however, a few points to keep in mind when researching this unique group.

As mentioned in other posts in the #whatgiveswednesday series, millennial donors often give to causes that they believe in and can sink their teeth into. They want to know that their time and money are going towards an initiative that is making a measurable difference. So how does prospect research relate to that? Simple. Keep the donor in mind when connecting them with an initiative you believe they would be passionate about.

So what do I mean? Working in Higher Education, I will often consider a few factors when determining if an alumnus would be interested in getting involved in a particular project. What faculty did they graduate from? Were they involved in any academic competitions? Were they a member of any clubs? Did they participate in any extra-curricular activities while they were a student? Considering these types of questions might help to identify where their passionate lies or what they would be interested in supporting or getting involved in. This is sometimes where you hear of those exceptional stories of a donor in their 20s making a $1M gift– it’s usually designated to an initiative that they have a direct connection to and are passionate about.

It’s also worthy to note that this doesn’t just translate to getting young alumni involved as donors. Could they be a guest judge or a guest lecturer? Would they be interested in being a chapter volunteer for your organization in a specific geographical location? These individuals could be excellent champions for your cause in their community if given the right opportunity.

Consider start-up companies led by the millennial age group — their approach to corporate social responsibility is going to look a lot different than what we’ve seen in the past. They won’t just see a donation as a tax break for their company, but rather an opportunity for their company to get behind an initiative where they can really add value to on a local, regional and even national or international level. Getting behind a cause that is meaningful to their company and their clients can make an impact, as it is a valuable marketing opportunity by creating a positive perception of the company, and in some cases, can likely lead to company growth.

Gen Y individuals are worthwhile to have on your prospect research radar. Strive to find ways in which your organization can utilize their constantly growing networks, experience, and insight. Keep open communication between your prospect research team and your development team, so that prospect researchers are always aware of what your fundraising priorities are. This open communication will ensure these golden Gen Y individuals aren’t missed.

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Written by Sara Glover

Sara Glover

 

Sara is a Prospect Researcher at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Connect with Sara via:
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#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week eleven | 5 ways to involve young people in your organization

Young Alumni Fundraising - Part I (2)

It seems appropriate to write about volunteerism during National Volunteer Week, doesn’t it?

One of the big lessons learned in #whatgiveswednesday so far is: involve young people in your cause. As Sheena Greer told us“We are going to give our time first and our money second.” 

Does that mean that millennials are rushing to volunteer for us and soon after giving us money? No! So, how do you get them to give their time?

Here are five ideas I came up with:

  1. Find your young champions. Chances are you’ve got at least one young person involved with your organization. Take her out for coffee. Ask her why she cares. Ask her what involvement gets her most excited about your org. Ask her if she can bring some friends the next time she’s volunteering!Find your young champions.
  2. Create a young council / board / focus group / whatever. Sarah Kathryn Coley created a GOLD (Grads Of the Last Decade) Council at the university where she works. Sarah Kathryn says, “These volunteers are eager to help with peer-to-peer solicitations and educating young grads on how to get involved in the life of the university.” Like Carolyn Hawthorn told us, millennials don’t want to hear from your organization, they want to hear from their friends.Create a young council - board - focus
  3. Have volunteer opportunities. Before you try to get any young people on board with your organization, are there opportunities to be involved? Can they plan an event or do some meaningful work for you? If so, you better…Have volunteer opportunities.
  4. Make volunteering fun! Sheena told us that volunteer experiences should be moving, fun, and highly social. I’m a big fan of Students Offering Support (not just because it was founded by a Laurier grad). SOS has chapters at different universities and students pay a nominal fee to participate in an “Exam-AID” group review session, getting support from senior students (volunteers) in advance of their exams. The money raised is spent creating sustainable education projects in developing nations. Everyone wins! You connect with peers, benefit from the experience yourself, and impact others. Wouldn’t you want to be involved in that? (And make sure there’s a hashtag. Everyone loves hashtags!)Make volunteering fun!
  5. Hold an event. It sounds cliché, but it works. The Canadian Opera Company has Operanation and the Royal Ontario Museum has Friday Night Live. In both cases, young people buy tickets to go to a fun party (with hashtags!) that make people think, “This organization is cool!” These are big events by big organizations, but you can replicate this coolness (because seriously, cool matters) for your organization! I worked at a small independent school before Laurier, and we used to hold young alumni pub nights. Wings, nachos, and a free drink ticket goes a long way! I used to make a lot of friends among the young alumni when I was the one with the drink tickets. Building those relationships had huge value, and I saw the money come in from those engaged young alumni later. It works!Hold an event

What awesome ways have you involved young people in your organization? Share in the comments.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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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:
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#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week ten | let’s take a brief look back, shall we?

Wow! Can you believe we’re already on Week 10 of #whatgiveswednesday? Time is flying!

I thought this milestone was a good opportunity to look back at weeks 1 through 9 and ask, “What have we learned so far?”

I re-read the first 9 posts and already some clear themes are coming through. Here they are:

ONE: TRANSPARENCY
I’ll talk more about communicating with young donors in a sec, but transparency on its own was one of the most important factors I identified after re-reading the posts. Charities must be transparent when communicating with (young) donors. Make your impact known, allow donors to see stats and metrics on their impact, and let them know without a doubt that you did exactly what you said you would with their money.

TWO: INVOLVE
As Sheena Greer told us in her awesome #whatgiveswednesday guest blog post, “We are going to give our time first and our money second.” You’ll show young donors just how transparent and trustworthy you are when they get involved and have a “behind the scenes” look at who you are and what you do. Make it fun and social for them, and the money will follow.

THREE: RESTRICTED
The trend is that all donors – young and old – are moving away from unrestricted giving. It goes hand-in-hand with the changing approach to philanthropy; it isn’t guilt or obligation-driven anymore, so there isn’t a willingness to just pour funds into a general fund and impact… who knows what? Make your giving opportunities more exciting, specific, and cause-driven.

FOUR: MAKE GIVING EASY
If you’re investing in your young donor program, you better have an easy online giving form that’s also mobile friendly. End of story.

FIVE: COMMUNICATE
In addition to being transparent, there are other important factors in your communication with young donors: be clear, be concise, tell stories, use images, integrate short videos, include user-generated content, and be authentic. Don’t use an institutional voice; get existing young donors – a.k.a. “gen y besties” – to tell their stories for you, just like Carolyn Hawthorn suggested in her #whatgiveswednesday guest blog post.

It’s not that complicated, but there’s still more mystery to be solved! Tune in on Wednesday, April 15 for our next segment. Thanks for reading!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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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:
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#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week nine | guest post: boom! what? harness the millennials!

I recently attended a conference in Seattle, WA (Academic Impressions Young Alumni: Establishing Lifelong Relationships) and was inspired to “guest blog” about my trip.

Full disclosure: When I was in high school, the Macarena was the biggest dance craze. As such, I am fully aware I can never be part of the Millennial movement (although I’ve seen some great mashup-revivals of those moves recently…)

However, just as I can appreciate great feminist literature or how Bill James could influence major league baseball without ever playing pro ball, I’ve been turning my professional attention to this next great generation: The Millennials (aka Gen Y) despite not being “one of them.” I’ll try not to focus on the myth that they don’t give (and get off my lawn, you meddling kids!) because it’s simply not true (87% of millennial employees donated to a nonprofit in 2013) but rather how our collective mindset and paradigms need to change to allow this group of highly creative, socially motivated folks to connect their money with their passions.

First, this is the #ShowMe generation. Having instant access to information (accurate or not) has trained them to expect to see the impact of their gifts immediately and in a way that aligns with their passion or sense of self. Thank you Facebook and Google Analytics! Make sure your donor relations strategy allows your students and younger alumni to access stats and metrics on the direct impact of their gifts. Also, tie their support to tangible projects that will impact their donor experience. Disinterest in donating to general funds is also trending.

Second, this group has been connected via the internet most of their lives. They know how to navigate web and mobile devices and have no patience for multiple click thrus or ugly websites. Is your content accessible and mobile friendly? 83% of Millennials currently use a SmartPhone and in 2014, mobile access surpassed desktop access. Invest in your marketing and communications online strategies for this group and be intentional.

Third, remember when commercials used to be 30 seconds and YouTube videos were 5 minutes long? Now, we see 6 second Vines, video viewing rates dropping off after 48 seconds, and if it doesn’t fit in 140 characters, it’s not worth saying. Be clear, be concise, and be honest. Every generation has its own vernacular, be sure to use images and short videos for millennials. User-generated content is great and sometimes preferable to “institution-produced” adverts. When Arthur Brisbane said, “a picture is worth a thousand words” I’m not sure he was ready for Instagram, where 8 million pictures and videos are posted every hour. Every HOUR!

And finally, keep in mind that Gen X and Millennials are set to inherit $40 trillion (with a “T”!) in the next 50 years. Can you afford not to speak their language?  

The better we all do as an industry to change our stewardship and donor relations strategies, the more connected, engaged, and INVESTED this key demographic will be. Boom! What? Harness the Millennials!

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Written by Ben Seewald

unnamedGrowing up, Ben Seewald wasn’t like every other kid, who dreamed about being a doctor, or a kangaroo, or an astronaut – he always wanted to work with phenomenal people in Alumni Relations at a University. Ben is living his dream at Queen’s University as an Alumni Officer, working on student and recent graduate engagement programming.

Connect with Ben via:
LinkedIn

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week eight | guest post: the generation Y organic disruption device

What a quandary nonprofits find themselves in – what to do with Millennials: that is, that generation of “skinny jean wearing, latte sipping, app downloading, futon surfing, instagramming, lol’ing, twerking, sexting youngins” that has the boomers behind the wheel all in a flap. And as is expected of my generation, I’m here on this digital soap box to tell you a thing or two about us and our weird, weird hair.

Despite my tendency to pine for Urbie Green on vinyl, the smell of mimeograph, and a good tuna fish pie, I’m a millennial myself (and so are ¾ of my children, depending on your definition.) No matter how you slice it, Millennials are really tired of being treated like entitled, lazy brats with nothing to contribute. The “kids these days” mentality is a poor excuse and not useful for building relationships. I really don’t feel the division is meaningful, but it exists nonetheless.

So playing into this divide, I’ll give a few pointers on how to connect with younger supporters. I’d call this the Millennial Engagement Pyramid, but pyramids are so, like, uggh, pfffft, and shape-like. I’ll call this the Generation Y Organic Disruption Device.

  1. Connect – This is more than social media, m’kay? Look for opportunities to make those initial connections in person. Where? Universities, colleges, pubs, chamber of commerce events, drinking rye and coke and jumping off a pirate ship, whatever. Social media is a great start, but like internet dating, it gets weird when you only want to Snapchat your logo at us.
  2. Engage – We’re really no different than any other generation in this regard. Tell stories, show your impact, be transparent, and for goodness sakes, don’t bore us.
  3. Involve – We are going to give our time first and our money second. Involve Gen Y in meaningful ways – volunteer experiences should be moving, fun, and highly social. Gen Y is also quite likely to get involved in event-based fundraising.
  4. Collaborate – Here’s what’s missing, folks. Gen Y has collaboration ingrained in the brain. Your greatest alliances are going to be partnerships with groups (large or small) of Gen Ys who have something in common/some kind of alignment with your mission, and getting them in on the ground level of a project/event/etc. This may take extra effort, but you’ll seriously see a payoff. Gen Y is hungry to collaborate, and starving to make changes.

The nature of relationships with donors, regardless of their generation, is changing. We’re all living in a screwed up world and we want to see more from our donation dollars. We all demand real impact, real change, and want our relationships with non-profits to be transparent, authentic, cooperative and cause-driven (as opposed to faceless institutions using high-pressure sales tactics to take the money and run.)

Investing in real human relationships – whether it be online, on paper, in person, or via carrier pigeon – will ensure donors of any age feel their needs as philanthropists are being met.

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Written by Sheena Greer

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“Sheena often uses inappropriate humour and seeks attention in negative ways.” – Sheena’s 9th grade report card.

Raised on a farm on a heavy diet of George Carlin, Patsy Cline and William Blake, Sheena Greer grew with the stubborn-hearted idea that we need to do all we can to help each other, and that being a girl was a moot point. She currently employs her inappropriate humour as a writer, and helps nonprofits and social enterprises seek attention in positive ways by consulting with them on their communications, fundraising and strategy.

Connect with Sheena via: Twitter | Email

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week seven | donor fatigue + give to get = ?

I’ll be honest: I had a case of writer’s block when preparing for today’s #whatgiveswednesday post. I actually have my regular Friday post for next week already queued up, but on the topic of young (non)donors I was drawing a blank. So I did some review of past posts to inspire me, and my mind settled on two in particular:

  1. This post from way back in the day: Donor Fatigue
  2. And this more recent post from the #whatgiveswednesday segment: give to get

Note how much cooler I’ve gotten: I now write blog titles in lower-case.

I digress… what do these two posts have in common? Well, “donor fatigue” is that tiredness – or even irritation – that donors get from being inundated with communications from too many charities and/or the same charity. When you watch three commercials in a row – one about orphaned dogs, and then one about sick children, and then one about homeless people – you become desensitized to the content. How compassionate can you feel for a cause when its mission is getting lost among the missions of so many others as a result of over-saturation?

“give to get” was about the bad rep young people get for wanting something in return for their donation, but I turned that notion on its head by saying what if what they want more than anything else is to know they made an impact? Because I think that’s the truth. I talked about how younger people are critical and skeptical (in part thanks to over-saturation) so you really need to work harder to ensure that they know you’re doing what you say you will with their money. Are there any charities out there that are doing that really well? I have this sneaking suspicion that there aren’t many. The upside? It doesn’t take too much to cut through the noise!

That’s what “donor fatigue” and “give to get” have in common: give them what they want and they will wake up from their fatigue. Innovate, break away from the status quo, be transparent, and show young (non)donors their impact, and they will see you as credible. Think different, and you’ll get different – and better! – results.

(This made me think of two other posts: this one – inspired by John Lepp – and this one from truly back in the day [my second post ever]. Enjoy!)

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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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:
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#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week six | celebrate good times, come on!

celebrate good times, come on!

Okay, we heard your biggest complaints, now let’s hear some positivity!

What are effective examples of fundraising practices targeted at young people???

I asked people on Twitter again and here are the answers I got back:

  • “In 2014 I was actually most impressed by stewardship — be accessible for donors to choose you and impress [them] when they do.”
  • “Naming a square foot, digitally, of your school’s campus. Magic number $25 for young donors. An American Uni did it!”
  • “I think young donors want to give to areas they are most passionate about. Let their gifts be restricted to their choice.”
  • “I love when I get @Kiva alerts that a payment was made. It inspires me to give a loan out to someone new!”
  • “I don’t do direct fundraising but I love personal giving pages. I also like creative, targeted asks that speak to known passions.”
  • “A Dean’s retirement was a successful campaign for young alumni here [Ryerson University].”
  • “I love specifying the use of funds and matching [gift] donors.”
  • “I really believe ‘age is just a number’ – I think when we get to know the person, we get to know the preference. Any ‘trends’ pointing to [Gen] Ys or Xs don’t point at me. I think donor engagement is about individuals, not generations.”
  • I find young alumni respond to transparency and openness, i.e. don’t pretend fundraising isn’t part of what we do. They respect that.”

And a few funny & sarcastic thoughts from Andy Shaindlin:

  • “Long, boring direct mail letter from old white guy in position of authority?”
  • “There’s always the land line call during dinner. (I know, ‘What’s a land line?’)”

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Written by Maeve Strathy


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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email