Write Me, Call Me, Text Me: Use Your Nonprofit Marketing Channels to Connect With Each Generation

Nonprofit Marketing to Generations
It’s a common nonprofit marketing and communication challenge – how do I make sure that my content is resonating with my audience? All verticals, all sizes, all levels of sophistication – we all struggle with the big three:

  • Best Use of Modern Communication Channels
  • Supporter Conversion
  • Effective Testing

In our recent Integrated Marketing Advisory Board’s (IMAB) Virtual Conference session, Mark Rovner, Kerrie Goughnour & I teamed up to review the latest data on generational giving. We also walked through a compelling case study focused on millennials and presented some gen-specific tactics you may want to use at your organization. You can view a recording of the whole shebang here.

The Research: Blackbaud’s Next Generation of Giving Report

Mark Rovner, Principal, Founder & CEO of Seachange Strategies, presented a very thorough overview of this recent report, including a fantastic section about defining the earmarks and giving behaviors for the four most established generations. You can check out our full slide deck here and download the report here. Here are his key takeaways:

  • Generosity increases with age
  • All generations respond well to stories which illustrate the impact of their gift
  • 1 in 3 donors are members of Gen X or Gen Y
  • Your website and email are very important channels for giving across all generations
  • Direct mail is relevant as a communication tool and is the best giving channel for Matures
  • Social Media is a valid communication channel (and a very soft donations channel)
  • Workplace giving and volunteer programs appeal to donors across all generations
  • Mobile/Responsive websites, email and donations are no longer optional

Top Two Giving Channels by Generation

Direct Mail
Honor/Tribute Gifts
Honor/Tribute Gifts
Gen X
Retail Giving (Give $1 at check out)
Gen Y
Shop to Give (Symbolic Giving)
Workplace Giving

The Case Study: Be The Match Foundation’s Be The Match On Campus Program

Kerrie Goughnour, Development Specialist, Direct Response at BTM, has fresh experience in outreach and conversion specifically designed for the college-age supporter. Over the past 25 years Be The Match®, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world. They work every day to save lives through transplant. Their work includes efforts to increase awareness, grow the marrow registry, and raise money.

BTM has several successful programs, including Team Be The Match and Be The Match Walk/Run. In early 2013, leadership recognized that there was an opportunity to provide outreach specifically to the college-aged population. They do a lot of work on social media channels so they had some experience thinking in a multi-channel way. Leadership chose to dedicate time and money to creating a special online place for college students. Their goals for this new program included:

  • Begin cultivation of college-aged supporters (start of donor relationship)
  • Raise awareness of BTM work & how they can help
  • Increase number of donor marrow registrants
  • Test a variety of communication & engagement tactics with this population

Kerrie’s team partnered with Firefly Partners to create a fully responsive Peer-to-Peer website for Be The Match on Campus. This new site allows each participating campus to have its own branded web presence with communication and fundraising tools for students to get involved. The campaign launched in the fall of 2013 and is already expanding to more campuses for fall 2014. Kerrie and her team have identified these early “lessons learned” for working with the millennial population:

  • They aren’t as organized as adults are – things don’t always go to plan
  • Speak in their language, use slang and humor freely
  • Gens Y & Z are fans of text messaging about news/updates
  • They want to DIY – give them many channels to use to get involved

The Tactics: Gen-Specific Communication

Development folks often approach me with a gleam in their eye and just one quick question: How can I reach my supporters most effectively? I’m here to tell you that the answer is – start with your data. Get a grasp of your current supporter mix and create a short list of ideas using tactics that the data shows is most effective for your particular set of supporters. Mostly matures? Keep direct mail as your main tactic (for now), and try a campaign or two designed to reach an audience that you need to grow.

Here are some quick ideas for tactics that I’d recommend you set up and test before end of year giving rolls around:

  • Matures – Send them an eCard on their birthday
  • Boomers – Develop a set of attractive eCards and pair with honor/memorial donations
  • Gen X – Use images specifically for sharing on Pinterest (and link them to a donation form)
  • Gen Y – Add DIY Peer-to-Peer fundraising for life events (weddings, births & graduations)
  • Millennials – Use gamification to get them to take action (earn badges, points and prizes)

It can feel challenging to try and wrangle a communication plan that works for each generation and uses our ever-expanding set of channels effectively. Try to feel empowered by the many tools at your disposal (rather than overwhelmed). Keep an eye on your performance data and approach your new attempts as just that – an attempt. You may succeed beyond your wildest dreams or you may learn what does not work with your audience. Either way – use this data to try something new in 2014 and next year you’ll have a good grasp of the best approach to get results for your particular organizational communication and fundraising goals.

Maureen Wallbeoff

About Maureen Wallbeoff

Maureen Wallbeoff, Vice President at Firefly Partners, began her nonprofit career with Planned Parenthood of Connecticut. Over her 16 year tenure, she rose from clinic assistant to the Director of e-Business for the organization. She possesses more than a decade of online campaign development and project management, along with a deep understanding of the strategic business needs of the nonprofit sector. Maureen works closely with nonprofits and thought leaders in today’s online engagement spaces, creating win/win solutions that work. A skilled presenter and facilitator, Maureen loves to bring people together to have authentic conversations that create consensus within an organization.

One comment

  1. I love your quick tactics at the end to target each generation – so helpful and so true! Sometimes you just need a reminder that not every generation sees things or does things the same way so you should treat them how they want to be treated. Thanks Maureen!

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