Introducing Millennials In Fundraising & Donor Retention: Where the Money Is

Sections of this topic

    [Also introducing a new member of The Fundraising Blog family, K. Michael Johnson, who will be writing on the subject of Millennials in Fundraising — Those who are already part of the development world, and those who might become part of that arena.]

    1. Millennials in Fundraising: An Introduction – Part I
    by K. Michael Johnson

    Self-absorbed. Entitled. Distracted. Soft. Flaky. …and those are just some of the words commonly used to describe the Millennial generation.

    Now, contrast those terms with the desirable qualities most nonprofits list in fundraising job descriptions:

    Dynamic. Energetic. Motivated. Professional. Innovative.

    The two sets of adjectives couldn’t be further apart !! So how can Millennials ever fill these jobs? But they must !!

    Millennials are an increasing percentage of the labor force, including the nonprofit sector. And, when it comes to development, Millennials will be responsible for more and more of the “asks” our sector makes over the years ahead.

    This is the first installment in a series that will tackle the topic of Millennials in fundraising. We will consider common barriers to success and how they can be overcome. We’ll also think through the upside of Millennials engaging in fundraising work. And, of course, we’ll take a look at generational differences in the workplace and what that means for nonprofit organizations.

    But first, who are Millennials? The Pew Research Center defines Millennials by the birth year range 1981-1998, which essentially means people aged 16-33 today.

    And, depending on who you ask, the Millennial generation is roughly the same size as the Baby Boomers, or a bit larger. Either way, it’s a big group, possibly the largest generation in history, accounting for about 80 million people in the U.S.

    Before we get too much further, I should disclose that, yes, I am a Millennial, albeit one of the oldest you’ll find !! Facebook wasn’t around until just after I graduated from college, but I did get my first email address (remember AOL?) in sixth grade.

    As an older Millennial, I feel I have a unique vantage point. In many ways, I relate to my generation. In many other ways, I find us obnoxious.

    What do you think?

    This “Introduction” continues next week.

    K. Michael Johnson is a major gift officer at a large research university
    and the founder of,
    where he discusses the inner game of deeper relationships and bigger asks.
    You can contact him at K. Michael Johnson.
    Have you seen
    The Fundraising Series of ebooks ??

    They’re easy to read, to the point, and inexpensive ($1.99 – $4.99)

    2. Retention – Where The Money Is by Jonathan Howard

    The best business is repeat business, whether you are selling razor blades, cars or support for a worthy cause.

    In fact, many retailers take a loss on a special offer just to attract customers. They know that some of these new customers will spend enough overtime to offset the total cost of their loss leader.

    The same principle applies to direct mail. An estimate from the Association of Fundraising Professionals says that nonprofits spend $1 to $1.25 for every dollar raised in new donor acquisition mailings.

    But the cost per dollar raised for renewal mailings to past donors is just 20 cents, according to AFP. You really aren’t adding net resources to your cause until you secure second gifts from those first-time donors.

    That’s why a second gift is even more important than the first.

    From that gift on, the value of each donor to your organization grows. The lifetime value of a loyal donor can make that small loss on acquisition fade into insignificance. The donor’s value to the organization grows with each subsequent gift.

    Unfortunately, something like 70 to 80 percent of first-time givers doesn’t make a second gift.

    Think about that. Some generous person ran the gauntlet of distractions to open your new donor appeal. They took in your message and responded with sympathy. They weighed the pros and cons of giving. They made a decision to act. They acted: wrote a check, found a stamp, and walked to the mailbox.

    They must have felt pretty good about donating to help your organization. Your acquisition mailing made them believe that their donation would make the difference that they wanted to make.

    Yet seven or eight of these new enthusiasts will probably never repeat this satisfying act of support to your organization. We’ll look at why – and how you can beat those odds – in a future post.

    Jon is Vice President of Cause & Effect, Inc.
    He has helped nonprofits develop successful direct-response strategies and
    effective donor communications
    for more than 25 years.
    Contact Jonathan Howard or
    visit the Cause & Effect website

    Have you seen
    The Fundraising Series of ebooks ??

    They’re easy to read, to the point, and inexpensive ($1.99 – $4.99)

    If you would like to comment/expand on the either-or-both of the above pieces, or would just like to offer your thoughts on the subjects of this posting, we encourage you to “Leave a Reply.”