Pop Art Old Lady OK

Get Me Some Young Donors Right NOW!

Chances are, the average age of your donors is notably high. That’s how it is for almost every nonprofit on the planet. It’s a result mainly of the way the human brain works, often enhanced by economic and cultural forces.

It’s normal and natural. Even so, I’ll bet someone in your organization has cried:

Our old donors are dying!

Followed by an equally panicked cry of:

We’ve got to replace them with young donors!

Both of these cries are understandable. They’re even somewhat reasonable. But the whole thing goes off the rails when someone interprets our need to replace donors with young donors to mean:

Let’s focus on Millennials!

That’s a bad leap of logic. It might seem that a path to survival is to replace your dying 89-year-olds with healthy 29-year-olds.

But it’s not.

First, while it’s true elderly people are rather more likely to die soon than non-elderly people, a lot of folks in their 60s through 80s have a many good years ahead of them still. Don’t count them out yet! Life expectancy is longer than ever.

And here’s the more important part of the equation: The “young donors” you should be focusing on are people in their 50s — and in some cases, 40s. People who are approaching old age.

Those 29-year-olds often tempt us because they can expect more decades. And there are a lot of them — the Millennial generation is the largest generation in US history, outnumbering even the Boomers. But there are a few problems with them:

  • The media channels you use to reach your current older donors simply won’t reach many people in their 20s and 30s. They aren’t on the mailing lists, and they don’t consume the same media. It will take a heavy investment in time and money to discover the right lists and channels to find them in this fast-evolving media landscape.
  • The messaging that’s working to get and keep donors has been honed on your current audience of older people. There may be some serious re-learning to do before you find what works on the young.
  • If you managed to learn both of those things, you’d quickly notice that you have created two separate donor groups: Your old donors and your young donors — and they need separate marketing approaches. Congratulations: You’ve just doubled your fundraising budget, while at best only maintaining revenue. But you won’t maintain revenue, because…
  • Young donors have abysmal retention rates. Typically fewer than 10% ever give to an organization a second time. (You can expect 25% to 50% of older donors to give subsequent gifts.) Your acquisition investment has to be two to five times as much to end up with the same long-term revenue. For most organizations that would be unsustainable and irresponsible.
  • The most effective way to get younger donors is face-to-face (street) fundraising. The average age of these donors is decades younger than direct mail donors. But even here, it’s the donors in their 40s and 50s that make it all work. The retention rates of those younger is not strong enough to make it the program viable.

Those almost-old people in their 50s, on the other hand, give you some significant advantages:

  • Their average gifts are higher than those of older donors.
  • Their retention rates are good — not as high as those of the elderly, but far better than those of the young.
  • The combination of their higher giving and decent retention causes them to have a higher long-term value than older donors.
  • They respond well to similar messaging and channels as older donors — that is, you can add them to your program, no need to create a whole new track to acquire and cultivate them. (They’re similar, but not identical; you have to keep your eyes open!)
  • They are online-savvy, which allows you to take advantage of the lower costs and greater flexibility of digital fundraising.
  • There are a lot of them. They out number their elders.

If you think a focus on people in their 20s is an investment in the future, consider this: With retention rates that are a fraction of those of older donors, virtually zero donors in their 20s that you acquire today will still be with you 30 years from now when they mature into acceptably retaining donors.

Investing in Millennial donors today is the equivalent to converting your retirement nest-egg into $10 bills and leaving it in a pile on the beach.

Millennials will start turning 50 in 2030. Not that far off, really. That’s when focusing on Millennials will become an existential necessity for nonprofits.

For now, focus on the almost-old. They’re the ones with the passion — and the capacity — to take your organization to the next level!

Related posts:

Looking for help on reaching that important not-quite-elderly-yet demographic? Look into Moceanic’s Coaching+. We’ll work with you and help you create and execute a strategy that will build a solid future!

CFRE Points:
Pop Art Woman playing golf e1561503932786
Blithering Nonprofit ExecutivesBequests and Legacies

VIDEO: Blithering Nonprofit Executives Decide: Golf, Not Bequests

Why should you put any time or energy into bequest fundraising? Sure, it means creating a stream of large gifts that will fund your organization for years to come …

But not right now!

And who wants to talk about death? Or focus on older donors, when there are young donors to be cultivated?

The Blithering Nonprofit Executives make it clear: Golf events are where they want to put their emphasis!

Discover how you can master bequest fundraising for your cause and transform your income! Take our online course, Your Complete Roadmap to Raising Money with Bequests. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Check it out.

CFRE Points:
Pop Art Steaming Mug of Coffee e1537776392538
Bequests and Legacies

12 Things You Need to Know about Talking to Donors about Bequests

Just the idea of talking to donors about bequests can be overwhelming. As fundraisers, we’re used to simple calls to action, quick solutions to problems, and lots of urgency.

If you’re good at fundraising, you are equipped to be good at bequest fundraising. But here are 12 things you should know that will make you a lot better at it:

  1. Donors love to give.

This is a basic truth about fundraising, but it’s especially important when talking about bequests. You are not trying to get them to do something they don’t really want to do. You are trying to suggest a different way they can do something they love doing.

  1. Most people have never thought about a bequest.

That’s the hardest part about bequest fundraising — but also what makes it so exciting. They simply haven’t thought about this great way to leave a legacy. You’re usually bringing a whole new idea to them.

  1. Older donors don’t have the same hang up you do about death.

The old “they don’t want to talk about death” excuse is rarely true about older donors. The people most likely to feel creeped-out by death conversations are younger people. Like you! But when we talk to donors about bequests, it’s really not about death… it’s about a donor’s life, their life story, their values and continuing that support into the future.

  1. Bequests are a continuation of the donor’s values and aspirations.

If you think of bequests as something that happens after they’re gone, you’re missing it. They see it as part of who they are now! Research by Professor Russell James at Texas Tech University has shown that phrases such as, “with a gift in your will you can support a cause that has been important in your life,” is particularly useful when talking to donors about bequests.

  1. Thanking is a key component of asking – recognising past gifts.

When you remind them of all they’ve already done, you pave the way for an opportunity to talk about bequests.

  1. Don’t use complex technical terminology or insider language.

Most people get lost when you use professional jargon or “contract” language. Use simple words, not formal words. Avoid terms like estate planning, estate gifts, and bequest gifts. Instead, talk about “a gift in a will.”

  1. Use soft language, asking a donor to consider a gift in their will.

Ask people to consider a bequest whenever the time is right for them. No urgency, no deadlines. This is one area where bequest fundraising is decidedly different from other fundraising! Talking to people about having a ‘lasting impact’ changes the conversation. But let’s be clear, that doesn’t mean not asking. We still need to ask for bequests, just in a slightly different way.

  1. Listen – understand why the donor gives to you – reflect that back when talking about bequests.

So hard to do sometimes! Some donors’ reasons for supporting you may surprise you. Ask questions about how a donor’s life story and experience is connected with your cause.

  1. Share stories about living donors who have done it.

Stories of others who have put your organisation in their will give social proof and inspiration. It helps them see that this is “normal.” The key to these stories is to make them feel like this is something ‘I’ could do too!

  1. Start promoting bequests in your donor newsletter.

This is an easy first step to getting the idea of bequest giving out there. Newsletters are a great place to share stories of your living bequest donors.

  1. Use fundraising and data segmentation tools to help you identify those most likely.

Not all donors are equally likely to think about a bequest. Your most committed supporters, those who are older, and those without children are those most likely, but certainly not the only ones, to be receptive to a bequest offer.

The number one way to identify interest is to include a question about bequests in your donor survey. That leaves the door wide open to having a brilliant bequest conversation. But there are other great tools to find those most likely to be interested, too.

  1. It’s okay if someone says no.

It’s inevitable. Some will flat out turn you down. They aren’t rejecting you, your organisation, or your cause. It’s just that a bequest isn’t right for them. It’s great to know that and you can respect your donor’s wishes.

Here’s the best thing you can do to jump-start an effective bequest fundraising program: Check out my online course, Your Complete Roadmap to Raising Money with Bequests. It is available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

CFRE Points:
Pop Art Hands protecting a green sprout
Bequests and Legacies

The Liberating Truth Behind Smart Bequest Fundraising — It’s About Life

You are going to die. And probably sooner than you think.

Not a great way to start a conversation is it?

To hear some people talk about it, you’d think communicating with donors about bequests is like some kind of cruel, death-obsessed whack in the face. Something no polite person would ever foist on a fellow human.

I hear it all the time: People don’t want to talk about death.

That might be true. But talking to donors about including your charity in their will has nothing to do with death.

These are some of the most life-affirming kinds of conversation you’ll ever have!

Because bequest conversations are all about life. In the richest, largest, and fullest sense.

To think about leaving a charity you care about in your will is to think about the very purpose and meaning of your life. It’s about your values that live on into the future far beyond you. It leaves you feeling peaceful and empowered. Transcendent.

That’s what you talk about when you talk about bequests. Most donors absolutely love that conversation.

When someone tells me their donors don’t want to talk about death, I think I know what they really mean: They mean, I don’t want to talk about death.

It’s frankly a more difficult topic for young people than it is for older people. I know I learned that as a young bequest manager talking to older donors. At first, I had to grit my teeth and try not to show my discomfort. Gradually I discovered the beauty and joy of it — thanks to my lovely older donors and some wonderful older colleagues at work.

Bequests can and do change everything for organisations that know how to ask for them. And they are a wonderful opportunity for our donors to continue their support well into the future.

If you want to succeed at bequest fundraising, you must work from the basic assumption that it’s not about death. (It’s also not about lawyers, and not about money or taxes.)

It’s about life!

Here’s the best thing you can do to jump-start an effective bequest fundraising program: Check out my online course, Your Complete Roadmap to Raising Money with Bequests. It is available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.
CFRE Points:
Pop Art Woman light on the palm e1537496107373
Bequests and Legacies

VIDEO: The Magic Words of Bequest Fundraising

Professor Russell James, Professor of Charitable Financial Planning at Texas Tech University, shares the words and phrases that help donors connect meaningfully with the topic of bequest giving.

Learn the importance of:

  • “Family” language
  • The importance of simplicity
  • The power of the word “like”

And more … all of it confirmed by neuroscience research and experience. Watch the video to learn more!

Here’s the best thing you can do to jump-start an effective bequest fundraising program: Check out my online course, Your Complete Roadmap to Raising Money with Bequests. You can access it in The Fundraisingology Lab.

CFRE Points:
Pop Art Man Hide and Seek landscapeCAT VIDEOS

VIDEO: Good and Bad Delusions: What My Cat Is Teaching Me about Fundraising

I’d like to introduce you to Dulcinea, my cat.

She’s very nice. We have a great relationship, as long as I keep supplying cat food.

But we’re both delusional.

That’s okay, though. It’s how two very different species can get along so well.

Being delusional is not good for fundraisers. You need to be completely aware of the ways you are different from your donors.

Here are some things to think about to help you understand the differences.

Dulcinea agrees.

(No cats or humans were harmed in the production of this video.)

Want to know more ways to clarify your approach to your donors? Take my Moceanic online course, Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits.  You can access it and more when you join The Fundraisingology Lab. It will help you take your fundraising to a whole new level — guaranteed! (Yes, guaranteed, as in you get your money back if it doesn’t help you seriously improve your fundraising results!)


CFRE Points:
My Biggest Fundraising Disaster: The Sad Tale of the Cynical Humanitarians

My Biggest Fundraising Disaster: The Sad Tale of the Cynical Humanitarians

Is your organization looking for a fundamental, game-changing shift in how you raise funds?

I wish you the best. I hope you find it.

But let me tell you something not to do in your search for transformation by sharing the sad tale of the Cynical Humanitarians.

A nonprofit I worked with hired some Brand Experts and told them, “Our fundraising works, but we hate it. It’s tacky. We’re embarrassed to show it to our friends. Please give us a brand that we’ll love — and that raises the funds we need.”

The Brand Experts knew exactly what to say: “It’s not your fault; it’s your donors. They’re too old. Too uneducated. Too down-market. We’ll do the research and find the demographic segment you deserve. They’ll respond to marketing you’ll feel good about.”

They came back three months later with an impressive volume of research. They’d discovered a slice of the Great American Pie that they called “Cynical Humanitarians.”

I was at the meeting. The Cynical Humanitarians were urban, educated professionals in their 30s and 40s, well traveled, and not likely to respond to traditional fundraising methods or media. (“They’re too smart for direct mail,” the report noted.) There were tens of millions of them, clustered in cities and on the coasts. They were frequently missed by traditional fundraising because they were too cynical for it. And too smart.

They didn’t show up on anybody’s fundraising radar because they didn’t give to charity in meaningful numbers. They weren’t on rental lists, and they didn’t spend time on nonprofit websites. Those things didn’t reach them. They were simply waiting for a new type of fundraising to unlock their generosity, the Brand Experts explained. We were going to be there first.

I’m used to thinking about donors in an almost anthropological way. Maybe you know what I mean. It’s as if we quietly visit their community and take notes, searching for patterns and truth.

This was different. As the Brand Experts described the reading and entertainment habits of the Cynical Humanitarians, I got the strangest feeling: They were describing me! I read those magazines! I listen to NPR! I feel that way about politicians! Just like the Cynical Humanitarians, I want to make the world a better place but suspect that many attempts to make things better don’t really work. I ignore advertising because I think it’s either irrelevant, stupid, or a pack of lies!

The Brand Experts were describing not only me but most of the people in the room. Who knew? We were all Cynical Humanitarians.

It was an exhilarating feeling: Donors we understood. Donors who would not present us with inexplicable tastes or unfathomable attitudes. Donors whose thoughts we could divine — because their thoughts were our thoughts. We knew our donors.

Of course, it would take radically different messaging and whole new channels to reach the Cynical Humanitarians.

And our new approaches and channels would never reach or persuade our current donors and prospects. But that was the genius of it. Out with the old! In with the new!

Fast-forward a few months.

Everything we did to reach the Cynical Humanitarians failed — all the Brand Experts’ recommendations, as well as many other attempts we cooked up to try and rescue the project. Not a single project came even close to working.

Everything. Failed.

When things go wrong in fundraising, they usually go slightly wrong. Response dips by 10%. Average gift slides a couple of dollars. Not here. This was dramatic, record-breaking failure. Several of my own personal worsts happened during the Cynical Humanitarian campaigns.

In the end, we’d netted ourselves about 100 Cynical Humanitarian donors — at a net cost of thousands of dollars per donor. To put that in perspective, in a normal year, we brought in several tens of thousands of new donors at a small net cost each. If that weren’t bad enough, we eventually found that 85% of these new donors never gave another gift. Their retention was less than a third of that of our old donors.

Within three years, there were probably two or three of our Cynical Humanitarian donors left. No, not two or three thousand:  Two or three.

Apparently, the Cynical Humanitarians were too cynical to be donors. And too young. They had all the hallmarks of people their age: unresponsive to fundraising, even messages tailored to them and presented in their preferred channels, and far less likely than traditional donors to stick around and give again. (If you think your donor retention rates are dangerously low, try fundraising from young donors and watch those numbers drop by as much as half.)

We switched back to our old-faithful donors — the ones who responded to the fundraising everyone hated — and began a years-long climb to recovery.

The cost of the Cynical Humanitarian experiment was millions of dollars if we took into account the value of the donors we didn’t get while we were chasing the dream demographic.

There’s a diabolic cleverness to the all-new-donors ploy. It feels so right. So exciting. In theory, it could work. But the chance of success is microscopic, and the consequence of failure is devastating.

Do you want to succeed in fundraising? Learn to love the donors you have. Find better ways to reach them and make them feel connected and important. When you’ve maxed out that group of donors, then start looking for new groups.

And most of all, unless your staff is made up entirely of church-ladies in their 70s, don’t base your experimental messaging on what insiders like.

(This post is excerpted from The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand by Jeff Brooks.  The anecdote is true, but numerous details are altered to protect the identity of various innocent and guilty parties.)

Have you been through similar disasters? Please share your experience by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

CFRE Points:
Do long letters in fundraising still work?
Direct Mail

Why Your Boss Is Wrong – Long Letters Do Work Better In Fundraising.

Aunt Ruth was smiling. Aglow with happiness. I couldn’t figure it out.

My 79-year-old aunt had just brought in the day’s mail. There was a lot of it, including several fundraising appeals. She threw one away unopened. The others she set on the small table next to her comfy chair. Smiling. The whole time.

“I’m going to read my mail now,” she said in the same tone someone would say, “I’m going skiing this weekend.”

Suddenly it came to me: Aunt Ruth likes reading her mail. Even the “junk mail.” To Aunt Ruth, those unsolicited letters aren’t an annoying fundraising tactic—they’re a connection to people she’s interested in and causes she cares about.

Related Blog: How to Write Like a Nonprofit Genius and Motivate People to Join Your Cause

One time Aunt Ruth called to tell me something she’d read in an appeal: “Did you know it only costs twelve cents to keep a little boy or girl from going blind? Twelve cents!” That wasn’t a clever marketing proposition to Aunt Ruth—it was an exciting piece of news. A relevant fact worth sharing.

Aunt Ruth is a reader. Her love of mail may strike you as bizarre, but it’s common among donors.

Her love of reading what the postman brings helps explain why direct mail is such a powerful fundraising medium. It dwarfs the next runner-up, which is the telephone. It also sheds light on an even greater mystery: why longer messages usually work better at raising funds than short ones.

I hate long letters. I wish they’d just get to the point. I bet you don’t care for long letters either. Nevertheless, long messages work.

Related Blog: The Weird Power of Long Fundraising Letters

I’ve tested long against short many times. In direct mail, the shorter message only does better about 10 percent of the time (a short message does tend to work better for emergency fundraising).

But most often, if you’re looking for a way to improve an appeal, add another page. Most likely it’ll boost response. Often it can generate a higher average gift too.

It’s true in e-mail too, though not as decisively so. In my experience, a longer e-mail outperforms a shorter one about two out of three times. Brevity may be a virtue in the e-mails you write to co-workers, but longer e-mails still get through to a lot of donors.

In surveys and focus groups, donors often complain about long fundraising messages. They say exactly what you or I would say: “I don’t have time to read something that long. Why don’t they get to the point?”

That’s what they say. But in real life, donors respond more often to long messages. We don’t know why, but here are some theories:

The Aunt Ruth Theory: Many donors just enjoy reading. More words mean more reading pleasure, and that means more connection and increased chances a person will give.

The Multiple Triggers Theory: Some donors are likely to give when you help them visualize a life-threatening need. Others will be moved if you emphasize a great deal. The longer the message, the more triggers you can include.

The Hopscotch Theory: Few people read everything you’ve written, starting with the first word and ending with the last. Just watch someone, anyone, while they read their mail. They start where their eyes land. They bounce around, leaping forward and backward, skipping entire sections, reading other parts more than once. I once watched my mother read an appeal I’d written (she didn’t know it was mine). She started at the end and worked her way backward. The last sentence she read was my carefully crafted lead. A longer letter has more entry points. More calls to action. More chances for a reader who isn’t following your logic to get pulled in.

The Gravitas Theory: The very fact that a message is long may signal to donors in some subliminal way that it’s important. They may not need to read every word, because the length tells them all they need to know.

I’ve found that the best long messages have two characteristics: repetition and story.

Repetition is the important part. Repeat yourself because you don’t know if readers understood what you said the first time. Repeat yourself because you can’t be sure they even caught it the first and second times. Repeat yourself because sometimes it doesn’t sink in until you’ve said it a few times. Repeat yourself because you never know what way of making the case is the one that will get through.

Related: Want to learn step-by-step how to write fundraising communications that will raise more money for your cause? Check out Jeff’s Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits course! It’s available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

The outline for an effective long fundraising message might be something like this:

  • Introduction: Why I’m writing to you.
  • Ask.
  • Why your gift is so important today.
  • Ask.
  • How much impact your gift will have.
  • Ask.
  • Story that demonstrates the need.
  • Ask.
  • Remind the donor of his values and connection with the cause.
  • Ask.
  • Another story.
  • Ask.
  • Help the donor visualize what will happen when she gives.
  • Ask.
  • Conclusion: Thank the donor for caring. Ask again.

You may think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. If you’re serious about raising funds, you really have to ask, again and again.

Related Blog: How to Ask Every Donor the Right Amount

Stories can shine in a longer message. The difference between a richly detailed story and one that’s been pared down to fit in a small space can be like the difference between a snapshot and a film. For example, here’s how you might write about the cruel practice of bear baiting if you’re writing a short message:

The bear sat on its haunches, bleeding from its injured mouth.

The longer version is more vivid:

The bear sat on its haunches, rocking back and forth, blood pooling in the dirt beneath it. One side of its mouth was torn open and hanging loose, exposing the teeth and drizzling saliva and blood into its matted fur.

The reality quotient, the sense that the reader has actually witnessed the scene, is higher in the long version. And when the reader has a vivid experience with your cause—even when it’s only through the written word—she’s much more likely to give.

Related: If you want master the art of donor communications and raise more money for your cause – check out Jeff’s course that is part of The Fundraisingology Lab.

Some people believe the era of long messages is ending. They say text messaging, 140-character tweets, and changes in the ways people communicate and retrieve information work against people sitting down to read the way Aunt Ruth does. Maybe.

But so far, longer messages are holding their own.

The important thing is this: You can’t judge this issue by what you’d want in your own mailbox. You can’t even base it on what donors tell you they want. You have to watch actual donor behavior as it plays out in the form of response to your messages.

So until you learn otherwise, keep sending those long messages. Aunt Ruth will certainly thank you.

(This post is excerpted from my book The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communication).

Jeff Brooks

CFRE Points:
TrendsBrandingDemographicsDirect MailDonor Love

Thank You For ‘Hanging Out’ With Me

By reading my articles, I guess you care about making the world a better place and raising more money for the causes you care about.

I am chuffed by the feedback I get from my updates (please send more – just nice ones before Christmas) and I hope they are directly useful.  Thank you for reading.

I subscribe to dozens of such updates, and it is hard to decide which ones to allow into your inbox.

Maybe it will help you if I share some of the fundraising updates I find most useful, and why.

Today, I’ll start with the one I read the most.  Partly because it is the most frequent, partly because the updates are short, but mainly because each update cuts to the chase and is based on real data and evidence.


Jeff Brooks www.futurefundraisingnow.com

Subscribe to that, and you have a decent Christmas present from me. And if you already subscribe, you know you’re getting a gift from Jeff in your email inbox almost every day.


CFRE Points:
DemographicsDirect Mail

The Digital Fundraising Tipping Point

Why is the this the first fundraising article featuring Matt Damon and Rachel Weisz, Simon Pegg and Uma Thurman, Naomi Campbell and Sean Triner?

It is not that they are all fundraisers.  Nor is it the case that they have all dated each other. (I know that’s what you’re thinking).

The coincidence is a pure accident.  They were all born in a year significant for digital fundraising.

It is likely that their first computer, like mine, looked something like the ZX81.  It had 1K memory and tiny resolution.

It was the first affordable computer you could buy for £99.


Inspired by this device I have been ‘into computers’ and things digital ever since.

A big gamer, sometimes I feel life, work, and outdoor play are just things I have to do in between gaming.

I am a digital dude, an early adopter happy to yarn about the latest trend, an early tweeter, blogger, Skyper and I give all my charity donations online.  I only read (and have written) ebooks.

Born in the same year as those five celebrities, I am part of the first generation of computer consumers.

I am more excited about digital than anything else in fundraising.  It won’t totally replace mail, phone and face to face but it is already integrated in all.

Whether supporting mail appeals, helping generate leads for phone or welcoming a new face to face donors, digital is everywhere.

It will undoubtedly be the biggest channel of fundraising and will drive most innovation and excitement in fundraising over the coming years.

However, fundraising is ultimately about donations; typically aiming for maximum net income from fundraising investment. And so that is where I am obliged to bring in data.

Here is my theory.

The mean age of a ‘classic’ retained donor seems to vary between 64 and 74 in every country where I have looked at enough data.  Of course, this may vary by charity and is influenced by the techniques used to acquire the donors.

Online-acquired donors, for example, tend to be much younger.  But there are not enough of them to influence the average by much.  A larger pool of donors is face to face.

When we look at face to face acquired donors we see the average age is much younger.  The mean age in Australia of retained face to face donors is around 42.

Face to face has had huge growth here for over a decade, and it dominates fundraising for some charities. But across the sector face to face only brings the average age down into the 60s.


donor chart

Why is this relevant to digital fundraising and a celebrity list with me added to the end?

All five celebrities, plus me, were born in 1970 and, given a normal life, all would have graduated from college around 1991-1993 (Only fellow Brits Simon and Rachel graduated – Naomi, Matt and Uma were already established in their careers by then).


If you started normal work in the early 90s, you may not have realised but you were on the tipping point of a revolution.

Give or take a year or so, depending on country and employer, people starting office jobs in the 80s didn’t have a computer on the desk.  People starting in the 90s did.

I was soon the cusp I did a maths degree with a fx 7000G calculator.

But within a year of work, I was tapping away in spreadsheets, realising that fundraising was all about understanding the numbers.

Most people born in (and around) 1970 were the first generation of office workers who have always worked with computers.

And we are around 46-47 right now.  Except for face to face giving, we are simply not of donor age.

People born after 1970 (statistically speaking) don’t donate much.  And then, when we do, we are less loyal – younger folk attrite quicker than older people and give less.


Don’t panic though.  Twenty years ago, younger people didn’t give either.  But when they got older they started to become more generous.

My theory is that people my age now will be giving as much as people in their mid-sixties do now.  But because they have grown up with computers they will be much more likely to be donating online.

At the moment only around 9-12% of donations in Australia, USA, UK, Canada and elsewhere are made online.  And a big proportion of them solicited offline.

But my bet is that by 2030 online will be the #1 channel of donations.

There may be other disruptors that may speed it up.  For example, the cessation of the cheque as a payment method, and the proliferation of goods and services exclusive to the online space.

But a combination of extrapolating, common sense and rational thinking tells us digital is the future.

Just not all of the future.

Best wishes,


P.S. This is a revised version of an old blog I did a few years ago.  Remarkably, not much changed!

CFRE Points: