Useful Study Reveals Generational Differences in What Engages Donors

By Ruth McCambridge
Nonprofit Quaterly  (NPQ)

A study released today by software company Abila (formerly Sage Nonprofit Solutions) contrasts the ideas nonprofits have about how to engage donors with what donors say actually makes them feel engaged. Further, it looks at generational differences in the preferences of the donors.

One of the points made in the study is that when nonprofits segment donors for a variety of approaches, it is often around only one data point, and that this is less than fully effective. Of course, the company that commissioned the study helps nonprofits use data to get better fundraising results.

The two foci of the study combine to lead to a finding that makes good sense but perhaps needs more exploration by nonprofits: Different generations have different preferences, and there may be some worth in segmenting donors by age, or at least in offering enough approaches to donor engagement to provide an open and welcoming way in for donors of every age.

For instance, it is only millennials who give higher marks to volunteering than for giving in terms of what makes them feel most engaged. All three other generational groups said they felt most engaged when they gave money. Boomers and “matures” are apparently more interested in updates than in participation in events or advocacy, which attract millennials and Gen Xers more readily.

Not surprisingly, the amounts given per individual go up with age, and reputation matters more with age.

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