Friday, September 20, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Elton John

Your base of donors has aged 17 years in the last 17 years. What does this mean? In 1996, your typical supporter (“typical” is defined as your average supporter across several demographic traits) was a woman, age 65, born in 1930, and was of the Depression era generational cohort. Today, your typical supporter is still a woman, age 82, born in 1930 and was of the Depression era generational cohort.

Huh? That’s the same person!

That’s right. Your current supporters are just 17 years older. Your donor base has aged.

But you say, “How is that possible?  I’ve added hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of new donors over the last seventeen years!” Yes . . . but they were all the same demographic profile . . . WWII or Depression era with a smattering of older Baby Boomers.

The question is this: “Where are the bulk of the Boomers, plus the Gen X and Millennials?”

Well, they aren’t on your supporter file. Nor are they on the donor files of your peer organizations. If they were on other files that you exchange for or rent, you would have potentially lowered the age of your file. BUT THEY ARE NOT THERE.
By the way, this problem is unique to charities in general, and faith-based charities in particular. It is not an issue with institutions of higher education, health related nonprofits, and several other nonprofit sectors.

So, then, how do you learn to reach younger potential donors so you can begin to bring more age balance to your base of financial supporters?

Well, I could say “Just sign up for one of our online programs,” but that would be crassly commercial . . . even though that is exactly what we teach in our online courses.

Another alternative is to ask anyone in your Development organization under the age of 30 if your mission connects to them. Of course this assumes that you have someone in your Development organization under the age of 30. Then ask them if your communications would connect to their friends. Then do the same with someone 31 to 40. And, finally, do the same with someone 41 to 50.  

I guarantee it will become quickly apparent why your supporter base has aged 17 years in the last 17 years.

Last week I attended a faith-based Development association conference. I talked to roughly 50 different Development Directors. Every single one of them . . . without exception . . . admitted that their donor file had aged over the last 15 to 20 years. EVERY ONE!

What are they going to do about it?

I don’t know for certain.

The more pressing question is “What are you going to do about it?”

Since 1996, Elton John is 17 years older too.

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