One very effective method of maintaining your relationship with your donors is to really connect with them on an individual level. Since no two donors are exactly the same, the best way you can accomplish this is to group together like donors based on common characteristics.

Donor Segmentation by Generation

This process is known as donor segmentation. You can use many categories for segmentation. For example, you could segment according to donation amount or frequency, type of donor, income level and geographic location, but the purpose is the same. When your targeted group members are alike in a meaningful way, you can customize your message to provide content they will appreciate and deliver it via a method you know they will see.

One especially useful method of segmentation is age range. Each generation is unique in its experiences, values and giving habits. By dividing your donor base into just four generations — millennials, Gen Xers, boomers and seniors — and using their preferences to guide your fundraising strategies, you can build stronger donor relationships and improve your donor retention rate.

How It Works

Keep in mind that why people give doesn’t vary as much as how they give. When you zero in on the how, your communications are more likely to reach and resonate with the targeted donor segment.

Each of these generational groups displays distinct preferences in how and where they consume information. Once you understand what communication channels the donor segment uses the most and how they prefer to give to your organization, your ability to reach out to, connect with and retain donors will improve across all age groups.

Of course, there’s crossover in preferred communication among these groups; you can’t assume that young people are only reachable online and older people offline. However, the strong media preferences in each group should guide your fundraising techniques.

How to Communicate with Millennials

People in the millennial generation were born between 1980 and 1997 and are 25.9 percent of U.S. population. Millennials are active volunteers; 70 percent volunteer some time each year. They also donate money; 84 percent of millennials made a donation in 2014.

Millennials use their phones as mini mobile computers. It’s where they search the web, exchange messages, participate in social media sites, watch videos and even donate. They respond best to text messages — which have a 98 percent open rate — and social media. They rarely check personal email or respond to voice calls. Your online presence must absolutely be optimized for mobile devices.

You can reach this segment with the latest fundraising technologies. Find out what social media channels your repeat donors frequent and target your campaigns there. Video is huge for this generation. Consider adding or improving your video presence on your website to engage them; 91 percent of millennials review the website to find out more about your cause.

Millennials prefer online methods of donating. They may use your online donation form, but they are also likely to donate through social networking, peer-to-peer and text-to-donate campaigns.

How to Communicate with Gen X

Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1979 and make up 20.4 percent of the American population. Fifty-nine percent of this generation gives money to charity.

Gen X is the generation between the boomers and the millennials. Unlike boomers, they don’t respond to voice calls, and they aren’t quite as tied to their phones as millennials, although they are frequent texters. The best ways to connect with them are email, social media and text messages, and your media should definitely be mobile-friendly.

Gen Xers want to know that they are having an impact, so your communications with them should focus on results. As a whole, they volunteer more time than any other generation, and because they like to fundraise on behalf of a cause, you might want to target them for peer-to-peer campaigns (crowdfunding). Crowdfunding is especially useful to connect donors with causes and show the specific impact of gifts.

Gen Xers overwhelmingly give online, and they like checkout donations, retail philanthropy, pledges and tribute gifts. They are also willing to give more than once a year, so they’re ideal candidates for recurring donors.

How to Communicate with Boomers

The boomer generation was born between 1946 and 1964 and comprises 23.6 percent of the U.S. population. Seventy-two percent give to charity, and they give almost double what younger generations do.

Boomers straddle the social media worlds of the generations before and after them. They answer voice calls, check email regularly and also use text messaging and social media. They are on Facebook and Twitter, and are open to donating via peer-to-peer fundraising. They don’t care to receive communications by regular mail, but over 50 percent give to charity in response to an email.

Boomers are more likely to research nonprofits and how they use their money before they donate. They also like to have a say in how their gift is used. You can leverage this information to nurture your relationship with these donors.

Boomers more often make recurring donations on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis; in fact, in 2013, they were 21 percent of all monthly donors. They are about evenly split on how they make donations: 54 percent mail checks and 58 percent donate online.

How to Communicate with Seniors

People in this group were born before 1945. They make up 11.8 percent of the U.S. population, and 88 percent give to charity.

Seniors prefer nonprofits to communicate with them via voice calls and direct mail, so you should stay in contact with your repeat donors using these methods. Around 15 percent give over the phone, while the majority donate by mailing checks. However, be sure your online giving platform is simple to use; in 2012, 36 percent of those aged 65 and older donated online.

By segmenting your donors into generations, you can focus on creating more relevant, personalized information, and you can communicate your message using methods most likely to resonate with each group. The result will be improved donor relationships and retention.


To learn more about effective communications for increased donor retention, download DonorPerfect’s Monthly Giving Marketing Kit.

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by Amanda Foran

Dec 13 17
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