Is your non-profit organization ready for Millennial donors?

While it is well established that Baby Boomer donors currently are in the prime charitable giving years, the fact of the matter is Millennial donors are becoming a force with which non-profits must reckon. So, I’ve asked Zach Hagopian from Accelevents to weigh-in with his suggestions on how your organization should start thinking about acquisition and retention of this new powerhouse generation of philanthripists. I think you will like his four suggestions. Here’s to your health!  ~Erik

4 Ways to Acquire and Retain Millennial Donors

By Zach Hagopian
Co-founder & COO of Accelevents
millennialIs your nonprofit organization trying to break into the millennial space in order acquire and retain more millennial donors?
In this post, I am going to outline some of our most useful tips for both acquiring and retaining millennial donors.
But first, let’s discuss why millennial donors are so valuable…
According to the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, a whopping 84% of millennials made a charitable donation in 2014. Long gone are the days of assuming millennials are a predominantly selfish group of consumers.
While we can all agree that capturing millennial donors is immensely valuable for your nonprofit organization (or just for your annual fundraising event), many NPOs and fundraisers struggle to acquire and retain these donors.
Here are four of my best tips for acquiring and retaining millennial donors.

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 constantly seek stories that they can identify with. Affinity in values and social responsibility are extremely important, when it comes to the restaurants millennials eat at, the stores they shop at, and even the organizations they donate to.
Conveying your story in a meaningful way will get you in the door with millennials, and the rest will be history (if you follow our next three steps…)!

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 they desire to do so on their terms, which means embracing easy-to-use, flexible, and accessible donation tools. For the most part, this entails making the switch from traditional means to online and mobile enabled platforms.
These tools 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 move forward with, embracing technology will allow you to offer millennials a much easier channel for them to donate whenever they’d like.

3. Embrace FOMO

Our next tip if 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 AND retention.
The key here is to hold your donors socially accountable. Did your supporters just buy a ticket 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, the benefits here are twofold:

  1. Acquisition – Other millennials will witness all of the passion and excitement around supporting your cause, and will flock to join. Just like that, you’ve acquired new millennial donors.
  2. Retention – Your current supporters may not have returned to support your cause for a second time. FOMO comes to the rescue, reminding them that they too should be joining in the excitement of helping a great cause.

4. Show Your Appreciation (with a twist!)

While our final tip applies to donors of all ages, it is still extremely important for your millennial donors. As most people do, millennials appreciate being acknowledged for their support and contribution to your cause.
Traditional methods of thanking your millennial donors work great, but your thank-yous are even more effective when you can add a twist!
Some of our favorite examples of unique acknowledgements for millennials include:

  • Donor Spotlights – Has one of your donors (or a group of donors) gone above and beyond in their support of your cause? If so, create a nice piece of content on their story, and share this out to your audience. Not only will the highlighted donor(s) feel appreciated, but your other supporters will see the lengths that your team goes to, in order to acknowledge your donors
  • Create a Sizzle Reel Did you just wrap up a great fundraising event or have your best year 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!

About the Author
Zach HagopianZach Hagopian 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.
As a Millennial living in Boston with strong ties to the Boston fundraising community, Zach most recently spent the past two years organizing a fundraiser geared almost completely to millennial donors. In his first year, they attracted 850 guests to their event and raised over $65,000 for the prestigious Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In year two, they raised $108,000 from over 1,000 Boston-area millennials and young professionals.

Are you building your future base of Millennial donors?

participate1Did you see it? Did you see the front page news in USA Today Monday on Monday, April 22, 2013? The article by Hadley Malcolm was headlined “Millennials show no e-fear“. In a nutshell, this entire article boils down to one simple idea. We are going through an economic paradigm shift, and we’re moving to something economists are calling “The Participation Economy“. I believe fundraising and non-profit professionals need to pay attention because this will likely have a HUGE impact on the future of philanthropy.

So, what is “The Participation Economy“? Jeff Fromm, who is a blogger at Millennial Marketing and co-author of Marketing to Millennials (ugh … how old fashion . . . a book . . . what is THAT?), really describes it well when he says  in USA Today:

“They’re (millennials) willing to accept advertising, but they want something out of it. The willingness to share where we are, who we’re with, what we like with the virtual world is part of ‘the participation economy’.”

The reporter dug up some interesting data from the University of Southern California’s Center for the Digital Future:

  • 25% of Millennials would trade personal info in exchange for more relevant advertising (for those of us 35+ years old only 19% agreed with this statement)
  • 56% of Millennials would share their location to receive deals from nearby businesses (for those of us 35+ years old only 42% agreed with this statement)
  • 51% of Millennials would share info with a company if they get something in return (for those of us 35+ years old only 40% agreed with this statement)

Consumers are willing to “participate” if they get something in return, and this especially applies to younger consumers (aka people who will have the money in the not-so-distant-future).

participation3Looking at this from a different angle, people are willing to ENGAGE if they get something in return.

If you want more proof, I suggest that you turn on your television set. The shows that people tune into most are participatory (e.g. American Idol, The Voice, etc).

What does any of this have to do with your non-profit and your resource development program? Well, here are just a few of my thoughts:

  • Millennials live their lives in both the physical world as well as in the virtual world. Fundraising programs will need to set-up shop in both spaces in the future.
  • Ten years ago, many of my fundraising colleagues warned against over-investing in ePhilanthropy strategies because Millennial donors were young and years away from participating in serious philanthropy. Well, the oldest Millennials are now 34-years-old. Uh-oh! I think “the future” is knocking on the door. It might be time to get serious about what ePhilanthropy looks like and what strategies and tactics are effective.
  • The idea of PARTICIPATION holds the key to engagement for this up-and-coming generation of philanthropists. So, it stands to reason that if you want Millennials to take the place of their Baby Boomer parents over the next 10 years, then your resource development program can’t simply treat donors like Cash Station machines (ATM). We need to get beyond the “you ask and then you get” mentality. We need to shift our paradigm to “you involve, you ask, they give, and they stay involved“.

At first blush, we’re obviously talking about volunteerism being the key to engaging the next generation and developing your future base of donors. Here are a few interesting resources for those of you who understand that you have some work to do around strengthening your agency’s volunteer recruitment and management program:

However, I think focusing on your volunteer recruitment, management and retention program and strategies is just the tip of the iceberg.

participate2Here is a crazy thought out of left field. What if you and a handful of Millennial aged supporters sat down and asked the question: “How do we build great participation (both physical and virtual) strategies into our resource development program?”  Here are a few wacky questions and ideas to chew on:

  • How can your agency partner with the business community to entice Millennial consumers (aka donors) to “check-in” on Facebook or Foursquare at a local business. What benefit will the business get out of it? What benefit will your agency get out of it? What benefit will the consumer (aka donor) get out of it? How can the business and your agency share that data? What will you do with it once you have it? For some reason, I am envisioning a scavenger hunt fundraiser. I am also envisioning passports with QR codes linked to YouTube videos containing clues, instructions and cultivation/stewardship info.
  • How can you get your Millennial aged donors to participate in the act of allocating where their donation goes? Are we at the threshold of entering “The Restricted Gift” era? What can you do to involve donors as volunteers in programs that their contribution helps support?
  • What tools will your fundraising volunteers need in their toolbox if they are going to evangelize you mission online and solicit people in the virtual world? Will those strategies need to look different than the current structured campaigns we’ve been running in the physical world? If so, what accountability and urgency strategies will fundraising professionals need to develop in order to drive productivity?

Does your head hurt? I know mine does. So, let’s focus on one simple question:  “What two or three things can you and your agency do to start transitioning your resource development program into alignment with the new ‘Participation Economy’?” Please scroll down and share a few thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Marketing your organization’s volunteer program

This morning I woke up to a very nice email in my inbox from Helene Schmidt. She had read the three-part blog series on non-profit degrees and certifications, liked what she read, asked me to read an article that recent published titled “12 Reasons Community Service Should Be Required in Schools” and share it with the DonorDreams online community.

So, I did read the article and can honestly say it is very good. As you can see, I’ve already shared the link in the first paragraph and you should totally go read it.

I didn’t decided to share this post on “why volunteerism should be required in school” because I agree with the policy position. Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not for it. I’m not against it. However, I do think that making volunteerism “required” feels antithetical to the entire idea of volunteerism.

The reason I am sharing this article is because after reading it I thought, “Wow! These are all great selling points for any non-profit organization’s volunteer program.”

You might want to incorporate some of the “12 reasons” offered in the  article in your volunteer marketing materials.

Speaking of volunteer program marketing materials . . . you do have marketing materials for your volunteer program, right?

Uh-oh. Well, if you are like many of the organizations with whom I’ve worked, then you have volunteer opportunities and not-so-actively “hope” volunteers walk through your doors. Many of the programs I’ve seen lack structure such as:

  • volunteer coordinator
  • written volunteer plan
  • written volunteer job descriptions
  • orientation and training opportunities
  • evaluation opportunities

I just haven’t seen many agencies actively marketing their volunteer program. Perhaps, your agency is different; however, have you looked closely at who and who you are marketing your volunteer opportunities?

I’ve read a lot recently about how the retiring Baby Boom generation is looking for volunteer opportunities. I’ve also read a lot about how the Millennial generation is really into volunteerism.

It doesn’t take a marketing professional to conclude that what motivates a 20-something-year-old to volunteer is probably very different from what motivates a Baby Boomer. So, targeting your marketing message might increase your effectiveness and bring many more volunteers through your agency’s front doors.

If the recent economy has your non-profit organization turning to volunteers to fill gaps and get things done, then you will need to do more than cross your fingers and hope volunteers find you. You need to invest in a volunteer program.

One such investment will be in how you market your volunteer opportunities. The article that I shared at the beginning of this post provides 12 great selling points that you might want to share with young people. Click here if you want to read more about how to more effectively market your volunteer opportunities to Baby Boomers.

Does your agency have a volunteer program? If so, what investments have you recently made and have they paid off? How do you market these opportunities and recruit volunteer? Please use the comment box to share your experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

2012 Non-Profit Trends and Predictions: Volunteerism

This week I’m looking back upon 2011 for major trends, and then looking forward to 2012 with an eye towards making a few predictions. Today, we are looking at non-profit volunteer recruitment, retention and management.

Throughout the course of 2011, I had the opportunity to write about non-profit organizations and volunteerism. I’ve kept my eyes open for signs of what non-profits are doing with volunteers, and I see indicators everywhere pointing to:

2012 continuing non-profit agencies’ focus on volunteerism.

Here is what I’ve seen that leads me to this conclusion:

  • My fellow Generation Xers continue to increase the amount of time they spend volunteering. (I personally suspect this has less to do with their charitable outlook on life and a lot more to do with the fact that they’re in the heart of their child rearing years)
  • I see my parents’ Baby Boom Generation starting to retire, and they just don’t know what to do with themselves when they wake up in the morning. They are volunteering because they don’t see themselves as being old and they want to keep busy.
  • I see my Millennial generation friends standing in the unemployment line, and then turning around in search of volunteer opportunities that they hope might just turn into a job opportunity (or at the very least turn into a great reference or a referral).
  • I see my former employer — Boys & Girls Clubs of America — partnering with one of their major corporate supporters to fund a volunteer management pilot project in an effort to develop a program to teach their local affiliates to become better with volunteer recruitment, retention and management.
  • I see corporations demanding volunteer opportunities and projects from their philanthropic partners in an effort to drive down their employee turnover rates and grab onto what marketing professionals call “the halo effect”.
  • Let’s not forget about the research out there on the Millennial generation that shows this emerging generation is very much into volunteerism unlike any other recent generation.
  • According to a recent Guidestar survey, many non-profit agencies are trimming staff or putting a cap on hiring plans in 2012. Not surprisingly, the same survey showed that 65-percent of all non-profit respondents are looking for volunteers for program work and 54-percent are looking for volunteers for administrative work.

The reality is literally this simple . . . donors are saying they want to see non-profits do more with less . . . volunteer recruitment and management helps accomplish exactly this . . . and in the final analysis volunteers turn into new donors a lot easier than cultivating new prospects from scratch.

Investing in volunteerism could just turn out to be the non-profit sector’s version of an economic stimulus plan that pulls agencies out of their economic doldrums.

Volunteer recruitment, retention and management isn’t as easy as just putting out a call for volunteers. As with everything in life, it is science that requires planning and careful management.

Since the economic collapse four years ago, this trend has been taking form and the non-profits who are leading the way have been experimenting with such things as: volunteer databases, volunteer coordinators, various recruitment strategies, strategic alliances with agencies that specialize in volunteerism, recognition programs, orientation and training programs, placing value volunteer hours, and much much more.

As budgets get even tighter in 2012, the flood of non-profits who commit themselves to figuring all of this out will continue to propel this long-term trend.

Is your agency recruiting more volunteers? How has it gone about doing so? What challenges have you experienced along the way? How important is it to have a volunteer coordinator on your payroll to orchestrate recruitment, orientation, training, volunteer opportunity assignment, evaluation, retention, etc? How successful have you been at turning volunteers into new donors?

Please scroll down and use the comment box to weigh-in with your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Deja vu and ePhilanthropy

An old friend of mine, Autumn Porter, sent me a Facebook message last week asking for help reconciling two very different ideas — face-to-face solicitations versus online videos & electronic pledge forms. As I stewed on how to respond to her, it dawned on me that resource development professionals, who have come before me, must have had a similar “moment”. I suspect that this deja vu moment probably occurred at the advent of the direct mail era.

First let me frame Autumn’s dilemma. On one hand, she was told that she needs to get out there, roll up her sleeves, infiltrate professional networks, schedule in-person workplace solicitation meetings, and ask … ask … ask. On the other hand, she has been told by a local employer that they are an “electronic workplace” and really think it would be better to ask their employees to view an online video over the company’s internal network and be given the opportunity to complete an electronic pledge form. Here is Autumn’s question:

“How do I begin to merge these two tangents into some sort of donor-centric approach?  Are there examples of using social media to tie us directly to their heartstrings?  Can we create a lasting connection of the human experience without being in the same square-footage?  If people give to people, how do we continue to reach the people with the capacity to give?”

As I said earlier, “deja vu” all over again! With that being said, I suspect that those fundraising professionals who addressed similar questions during the rise of direct mail would probably stand here today with the same advice … “Know Thy Donor” and solicit them in the manner that they would like to be solicited. I also firmly believe that resource development professionals know that face-to-face solicitation is the most effective, efficient and respectful way to solicit. As such, good RD professionals know that there is a threshold when direct mail, email, social media and telephone calls are not respectful and in those circumstances they reach into their solicitation toolkit and use the most appropriate tool.

So, my best advice to Autumn can be summed up by this YouTube video highlighting a psychic, cosmic conversation between Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi.

All kidding aside, I plan on using the remainder of this week’s blog posts to talk about ePhilanthropy and social media. In the meantime, I am interested in how you would answer Autumn’s questions. Please use the comment box below to weigh-in with your best world-class advice.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Who’s on first?

Since I quit my job and started work on opening a consulting practice, I decided to take some time-off this summer to work on “me” which included getting involved in a few volunteer opportunities and miscellaneous projects. I am so glad I decided to do this because it has served as a gentle reminder that well-run meetings and a sense of organization is critical for any non-profit organization to engage and inspire volunteers.

Have you ever found yourself sitting in the middle of meeting thinking that you are in the middle of this very famous Abbott & Costello sketch titled “Who’s On First“?

Well, I have felt this way on a few very recent occasions and it can be very frustrating, which is why I thought I’d share some thoughts today on how to stop chasing your volunteers from the room. Here are just a few simple ideas:

  • Develop an agenda — this way people know what is being discussed and decided.
  • Send the agenda out in advance of the meeting — this way participants can formulate and focus their thoughts and not just organically babble.
  • Recruit a volunteer leader who can stick to the agenda — this minimizes time “down the rabbit hole” and keeps people’s time from being wasted.
  • Take meeting notes — meeting notes with a section focused solely on “action items” will remind participants who agreed to do what and by when. It will also ensure we didn’t just meet for no reason and keep us focused on actionable tasks. Send the meeting notes out immediately after the meeting as a reminder rather than handing them out at the beginning of the next meeting.
  • Honest recruiting — be clear in writing with a volunteer job description during the recruitment process. There is nothing worse than showing up to a meeting and finding out it is something very different (and more involved) than what you thought you had agreed to do.
  • Find painless ways to coordinate schedules and schedule future meetings — Try setting a future meeting date/time while you have everyone in the room. If that isn’t possible, use easy and free technology tools like Doodle or Tungle.  Stop the endless and confusing email threads.

As the Baby Boom generation retires (e.g. potential volunteers) and the volunteer-minded Millennial generation comes of age, non-profit organizations need to get better at volunteer management. Those who fail to do so will fall short in the following areas: board development, program/operations, and fundraising & resource development (e.g. annual campaigns, special events, etc).

Here is one interesting handbook resource I ran across online from the University of Texas at Austin titled “An Executive Director’s Guide to Maximizing Volunteer Engagement“. I thought I’d point those of you toward this manual just in case someone you know wants to stem the tide of volunteers who have been seen running and screaming after meetings.

The ideas in today’s post are only the tip of the iceberg. Please use the comment box to share how you have dealt with a frustrating volunteer opportunity. If you are a non-profit professional, please weigh-in with additional engagement strategies or things to avoid. We can learn from each other!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Millennial generation puzzle

I recently received an email from a special event manager in Milwaukee, Wisconisn who recently read conflicting advice about the Millennial generation and whether or not it is worth resource development professionals spending the time and money to engage them. Here is how those two camps break-out:

  • School-of-thought #1: The Millennial generation is big (almost as big as the Baby Boomers) and they are streaming into the workplace and philanthropic marketplace at a very fast pace. These newcomers to the economy have the capacity to make charitable contributions and will one day replace their Baby Boomer parents as a driving force in philanthropy. A proactive thinking non-profit organization should invest the time and money to acquire these donors at a young age (regardless of how small their charitable giving actual is at this stage in their lives), steward them and earn their trust, and retain them well into their prime giving years.
  • School-of-thought #2: The Millennial generation might be big, but they don’t possess the same long-term giving potential as the Baby Boom generation. This generation will have a lower standard of living and wage scale than previous generations. They will be saddled with paying off government debts racked up by Baby Boomers. They also won’t have entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare to count on in their retirement years; therefore, they will have to personally save more and donate less. Long-term retention of donors can be an expensive proposition, and it might be cheaper to wait until this generation reaches the height of its economic potential (in 10 or 20 years?!?!). Non-profits have limited resources and should prioritize time and money towards acquisition and retention of Baby Boomers until there is little to no return on investment left in doing so.

For me, I like to straddle the fence between these two points of view. I believe that non-profit organizations need to concern themselves with acquiring and retaining as many Baby Boomer donors as possible. Additionally, resource development professionals need to work with Baby Boomers on funding the needs of today as well as engaging in planned giving/estate planning discussions to fund the needs of tomorrow and leave a legacy.

I also believe the Baby Boomer’s time in the philanthropic spotlight is waning and might only significantly last another 10 years. So, acquiring and retaining new, younger donors is important for the sustainability of any non-profit organization. Good non-profits will figure out how to balance these two competing camps.

Of course, there are far too many non-profit organizations that are not capable of doing both things because they are resource strapped and stretched too thin for comfort. These resource-challenged non-profits will most likely fall squarely into the second school of thought. However, I hope that as those staff and volunteers journey down this path, they fully understanding they’re “kicking the can down the road” and will have to “pay the piper” someday. They are possibly running the risk that Millennial generation donors (who might not have the resources their parents had at their disposal) are in love with other non-profit organization who courted and wooed them 10 years earlier.

If your organization has just a little time and/or money to invest in acquiring Millennials, I urge you to do so. It doesn’t have to be a huge investment. Here are just a few examples:

  • Invest the time and money in maintaining a website that is transparent and shows the whole world how charitable contributions make a difference in your organization, with your clients, and in our community. Go so far as to routinely upload audits, annual reports, monthly financials, programmatic outcomes data, strategic planning scorecards, etc.
  • Work on creating your organization’s space on the social media frontier. Engage Millennials to help you evolve it and maintain it.
  • Create and maintain a volunteer management program focused on engaging Millennials.  If you have the resources, get very serious and create a staff position to recruit, management, and steward these volunteers. Remember, Millennials are volunteer-oriented and the fundraising axiom that “money follows involvement” applies to all generations.
  • Create a young professionals group like a “guild society” to help young professionals network while getting more acquainted with your organization’s mission. This also could be a training ground for Millennials to experience philanthropy and learn more about the art of fundraising.

All of these ideas will cost you a fair amount of time (and even some money), but none of them are prohibitive in-and-of-themselves even for the smallest non-profit organization. However, this balancing act will NOT be easy for many reasons including limited resources and what appears to be increasing tensions between America’s generations. If you don’t buy into the fact that there are increasing tensions, check out some of these YouTube video clips as proof (including a dissection of a 60 Minutes segment on Millennials):

Resource development professionals best get started soon because the road ahead promises to be bumpy. How is your organization trying to acquire Millennial donors? Is there a difference in strategies and tactics between attracting, soliciting, and stewarding Boomers versus Millennials? Which school-of-thought does your non-profit fall into and why? Please use the comment box of this blog to weigh-in with your thoughts and best-practices. We can learn from each other!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847!/profile.php?id=1021153653

What are you saying?

Last night I was watching Comedy Central before bedtime and caught an interview between Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.  It was obvious that Norquist made an appearance on The Colbert Report because he wants to “cultivate” new Millennial generation voters and educate them about his anti-tax message.

Unfortunately for poor Grover, his time was not well spent because when all was said and done the only thing he essentially accomplished was to 1) explain his anti-tax pledge and 2) demonstrate how much he hates taxes. He never got around to telling the young Millennial audience WHY an anti-tax position is important to their generation. I was left wondering what is the case for support?

This got me thinking about many recent conversations I’ve had with non-profit friends. We’ve focused too much on the “how to” communicate with prospects & donors as well as the “how often” to do it. Unfortunately, I think we’re missing the boat (like Grover did last night) by not talking about WHAT should we say to our prospects and donors.

In today’s day and age of non-profit competitiveness, it is not good enough to:

  • send out a gift acknowledgement letter that just says “thank you”
  • mail a quarterly newsletter to donors
  • e-blast informational emails
  • call donors with appreciation
  • host a recognition event
  • get the newspaper to print your press releases
  • set-up and use Facebook pages and Twitter accounts

This laundry list is important, but even more important is what your messaging will be once your secure and use these communication vehicles. Here are a few suggestions to help you fine tune your messaging:

  • Go back and re-read everything you’ve used in the last 3-months.
  • Assess the messaging with a critical eye. Ask yourself if there is a fine tuned message focused on what you do, why you do it, and where are you doing it, and why is it urgent and critical for the community. (If all you hear is “blah-blah-blah,” then you have some work to do.)
  • Pull together a focus group of donors and ask them what messages they hear and what do they want to hear.
  • Dust off your organization’s “case for support” document. Re-read, assess, test, and re-write based on what you hear from others.

Tom Ahern put it best in his most recent e-newsletter when he said: “Our job as donor communicators, I am now convinced by experience and research, is to bring JOY to the donor’s door.”

Has your donor communications brought joy to your donors? Have you asked them? Or are you just grabbing the megaphone and yelling as loudly as you can “we need more money”? Please go to the comment section of this blog and weigh-in on your organization’s communications best practices and how you know they are effective. Let’s learn from each other!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847!/profile.php?id=1021153653

Generational transition and philanthropy

Jessica Journey’s blog post about the 2011 Millennial Donor Summit  is in my head and I cannot stop thinking about Baby Boomers, Generation X and The Millennials.

While on the track this morning at my local gym, I was thinking about what happens when one generation passes the torch to the next generation. My thoughts immediately wandered back to the 1960s when Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” passed the torch to the Baby Boomers. While there were fun cultural changes like the introduction of  rock-n-roll music, there was also tumultuous and violent changes like the Vietnam War protests and The Civil Rights movement.

Statistically speaking there is a similar passing of the torch happening today. Don’t believe me? Just go add up the numbers of the Baby Boomers and their parents’ generation and compare it to the combined numbers of Generation X and The Millennials. Still don’t believe me? Just open up a newspaper or tune your television to one of the countless news stations. There is all sorts of conflict over gay marriage, the future of Social Security & Medicare, and America’s role in the world.

I personally believe that these generational conflicts during times of transition are the result of two different sets of generational values systems clashing. It can be like tectonic plates sliding against each other producing cultural earthquakes.

So, what does this have to do with non-profits and philanthropy? I am afraid the answer is — EVERYTHING!

  • How do you think Gen X and Millennial donors will react to Catholic Charities in Illinois when they find out they have discontinued their adoption program in order to avoid compliance with the newly passed Civil Unions legislation (something these two generations value and respect)?
  • How do you think Gen Xers and Millennials will see the Boy Scouts of America as they learn about their restrictive membership policies pertaining to atheists, gays, and girls?
  • How will charities recalibrate their relationships with Baby Boomers (who have been the mainstay of most resource develop programs for a few decades) now that they are starting to retire and live on fixed incomes?
  • What will Boomers do with all this time on their hands after retirement? Could this be the start of the golden age of volunteerism? Or could part-time careers in non-profit work become a second career for Boomers looking to supplement retirement income?
  • How will the cynicism that is pervasive throughout the Gen X community impact non-profit organization’s ability to satisfactorily demonstrate “return on investment” and “return on investment” to Gen X donors?
  • How will Millennials’ technology preferences impact cultivation, solicitation and stewardship efforts?
  • As Boomers, Xers, and Millennials all start sharing space in the workplace, how will their different value systems interact and clash? How will non-profit managers balance these competing workplace approaches?

Rather than engaging in conflict and fighting, wouldn’t it be great if non-profit thought-leaders like the United Way took the lead during this transition? They could bring different groups together and engage us in a shared values discussion. They could also help local non-profits see the future and build organizational capacity to meet those challenges. Perhaps, our hope also rests with conferences such as the 2011 Millennial Donor Summit!?!?

How is your organization being proactive in preparing for this demographic earthquake? Please weigh-in and share.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847!/profile.php?id=1021153653