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.

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Written by Vanessa Chase

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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.

 

Guest Post: Not Your Momma’s Fundraising — The New Must Have Skill for Fundraisers

Not Your Momma's Fundraising - The New

Graduation season is in full swing, and with it comes an endless parade of advice (solicited and unsolicited) for grads entering the workforce.

For fundraisers, much of this advice centers on relationship building and the art of conversation. Good skills to master for aspiring fundraisers, to be sure.

But in our connected society, there’s an often overlooked skill that can help the new generation of fundraisers conquer the brave new world of online fundraising.

That skill? Data-crunching.

Check out this SlideShare presentation from WeDidIt that explores this new, in-demand skill, and what actions fundraisers can take to be P.D.D.D. (“Pretty Damn Data-Driven”).

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Written by Andrew Littlefield

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Andrew is a marketer and nonprofit fan for WeDidIt, a startup based in Brooklyn, New York dedicated to helping nonprofits raise more money and reach new donors.

Connect with Andrew via:
Twitter |  WeDidIt Blog

#whatgiveswednesday | goodbye!

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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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

#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:
Twitter | LinkedIn 

#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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

#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 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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week five | guest post: five ways we increased our young alumni giving participation rate

5 ways we increased our young alumni participation rate

We did it! We finally stopped talking about young alumni and started talking to them. At The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), 30% of our alumni base are considered “young”, or graduates of the last decade. This is a large enough percent to make us blink twice and get to work.

Since we began focusing on young alumni, we have seen an increase in our young alumni giving participation rate of approximately 50% compared to this time last year. There are so many different ways you can engage this group of alumni, but here are five ways that have worked well for us so far.

  1. We established a GOLD Council (Graduates Of the Last Decade). This group serves as an advisory board for young alumni initiatives in the areas of philanthropy, programming and marketing. 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.
  1. We segmented our email appeals for young alumni. In a world of texts and tweets, most young alumni don’t take time to read an entire email. We started using shorter sentences, more photos, and began sharing our calls to action in the form of infographics.
  1. We completed “check-in calls” in our telefund/phonathon instead of soliciting them for donations over the phone. Our student callers contacted the most recent UNCG graduates who have been out of school for six months or less. We asked how they were doing, updated contact information, and connected them to our career services center if they were still looking for employment.
  1. In May 2014, we launched our very first 24-hour giving day. We knew these were all the buzz, but didn’t know if it would work for us. It was a great success and allowed us to talk about giving in a new way. Our alumni were given the chance to make a gift, wear our school colors, and tell the world why they #BelieveInTheG on social media. We are continuing the campaign this year but for 48-hours and hope to get even more donors.
  1. We beefed up our alumni club events and networking socials. By offering more opportunities for alumni to gather, we learned that we do have a lot of young alumni who want to get more involved. They just need to know how to get plugged in. Taking time to make personal connections with young alumni at these events is key in making sure they stay engaged and eventually give of their time and their treasure.

Yes, we have seen growth, but we have a long way to go. We have learned that if you take time to invest in alumni while they are young, then you have a better chance of retaining them as donors in the future. How have you targeted young alumni in your annual giving strategy???

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Written by Sarah Kathryn Coley

Sarah-Kathryn-Coley-114x160Sarah Kathryn Coley is an Associate Director for Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is passionate about helping young alumni understand why it is important to give back.

Connect with Sarah Kathryn via:
Twitter | Email

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week one | let’s paint a picture

Thanks for reading the first installment of #whatgiveswednesday. In 26 posts over 365 days we will crack the mystery that is our youngest constituents.

Let’s start by painting a picture: what do our young constituents look like???

  • They connect more with causes they engage with on social media
  • They give back with time and talent; they want to be actively involved in your organization
    • and they will get their social networks (online and offline) involved, too
  • They’re willing to give, but they’re held back in their philanthropy due to not being established yet and/or having massive student debt
  • When they do give:
    • they like when organizations include in their communications stories about successful projects or the people they help (proof of meeting needs)
    • they support fewer organizations with larger gifts (rather than spreading their funds thinly across a number of charities)
    • they like monthly giving programs
    • the majority of them are giving under $50 or between $51-$100
  • They will have the capacity to make big gifts one day

What am I missing? What other qualities do our youngest constituents have? Let me know in the comments!

(Re)Sources

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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 seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Three Years of What Gives Philanthropy and the launch of #WhatGivesWednesdays!

Happy 3rd Anniversary, What Gives Philanthropy!

I am so proud to dedicate this post today to celebrating the 3rd birthday (November 23rd) of this blog: www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com. 1095 days… 85 posts… 26 guest posts… Now that I think about it, the word “proud” hardly does it justice. I am delighted that I’ve continued to truck along with this blog for three years now, and that I’ve had so many of you reading what we – and I mean we – put out there for you. Thank you.

On the blog’s 2nd anniversary, I recommitted to excellence, but on its 1st birthday, I took the opportunity to change things up. This year, I’m going to do that again. It’s time for a change.

Why??? For two reasons. Firstly, it is healthy to mix your life up and try to take your endeavours to a new level when you have the opportunity to. Secondly, because Paul Nazareth told me to.

I’m partly kidding, but only partly. Paul Nazareth is a mentor of mine who I absolutely admire. I was lucky enough to see him for a coffee back in September and he encouraged me to do two things: (1) seek new opportunities for my blog, and (2) find a niche for myself. Now I didn’t want to arbitrarily assign myself a niche, so with his guidance, some introspecting, and by seeking advice from other friends/peers, my potential niche – or at least an area of interest – made itself clear: young donors. Or, how I’d prefer to refer to them as: young (non)donors.

I don’t want to go too far into the topic of young (non)donors yet, but here’s what I do want to tell you. We have a new initiative here at www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com: #whatgiveswednesday. This is going to be a year-long project to begin with, and we’ll see from there. We all know that we can’t ignore our youngest constituency, and we’re starting to learn a little more about them, but it’s still a bit of a mystery. My mission – and I hope you choose to accept it with me – is to crack this mystery!

Every other Wednesday (on the weeks I don’t already post), there will be a post by me or a guest blogger focused exclusively on young (non)donors. Why do they give? More importantly, why don’t they give??? What’s important to them? How can we engage them best now to ensure they stay engaged in the future?

Do not fear, the regular Friday posts will continue, but next week on Wednesday (November 26), you’ll see the first #whatgiveswednesday post and we’ll get started on our year-long mission.

Thank you for reading and I can’t wait to see what transpires in year four!

…oh! One other thing: posts will from here on in will never be longer than 500 words. I love that The Annual Giving Network always keeps their blog posts short and sweet, so I’m committed to doing that, too!

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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 seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email