Leave it to me to draw a connection between fundraising and education reform. This past month, my boyfriend and I saw the critically-acclaimed documentary, “Waiting for Superman.” Without spilling the beans on the plot, I’ll just echo what everyone else already knows: our public education system is systematically leaving thousands of children behind. Ignoring the potential contributions of young people is a social ill that unfortunately does not end in the school system. Nonprofits are also at fault.
As a proud 30-something year old woman, I have never been asked to donate a financial gift to a nonprofit. Well, that’s not exactly true. I was officially approached after I complained about not being asked. Is this the way I envisioned being courted as a potential donor? Absolutely not. But perhaps the reason for this thoughtless approach is, well, the lack of thought involved.
According to a 2008 report released by Campbell & Company, Generations X (born 1964-1981) and Y (born since 1981) gave a combined total of approximately 36% of the total average gifts donated to secular and religious causes among all surveyed generations (other generations were Boomers, Silent and Great). While older generations still lead the pack in giving, there is a significant amount of money that nonprofits are leaving on the table by failing to engage younger people.
So what’s next? Below are some quick tips to help your nonprofit cultivate us today so that we will continue giving tomorrow:
- Encourage E-Pledges. It should come as no surprise that most young people (heck, people in general) are on a budget. Allowing younger donors to pledge a certain amount and then having a portion of the pledge debited from their account each month is a great way to allow those with limited means (but who mean well :)) to support your organization’s mission.
- Invite us to Get on Board. Consider enriching your nonprofit’s leadership by cultivating Gen X and Y as board members. Including us as stewards of your organization ensures that creativity prevails, not only in raising additional dollars but in defining the long-term strategy of your nonprofit. Organizations like the Associated Black Charities in Baltimore, Maryland know the importance of cultivating young and racially- diverse leadership through their Board Pipeline Leadership Development Project. I participated in their last training cycle and am excited to say that I am in conversation about board service with a local college!
- Social Media Matters. There has been a lot of conversation around the usefulness of social media in cultivating additional revenue. Overall, the response has been mixed. Those concerned with the potential return on investment are unsure if the staff time it takes to maintain a Facebook and/or Twitter page is worth the amount of money that these tools may bring in. But rather than look at social media as a passing fancy, it is still a tool that your organization can use to inform and engage younger people in your organization’s mission. Being open to new ways of communicating will ensure that your nonprofit remains dedicated to building a community larger than what you’re already used to.
What do you think? Do you have other ideas on how to effectively engage Gen X and Y in ensuring your nonprofit’s long-term sustainability?