Young donors want knick-knacks? ‘Fraid so!

This is jaw-dropping, freaky new knowledge about younger donors. If you care about the immediate or long-term future of fundraising, you need to pay close attention to this.

At TrueSense Marketing, we’ve been looking at fundraising results by age of donor.

The results are reported at Fundraising Growth Now, at Will Younger Donors Give to Freemium Packages? (Be sure to read this post!)

One test involved a mailing that had a notepad “freemium” — you’ve probably seen something like it: a small notepad (12 pages, in this case), each page with the recipient’s name lasered on it. This piece tested against a similar one that had no notepad — a piece that had to motivate gifts on the merits of the cause, not the reciprocity created by the notepad.

The test results were like this:


  • Across the board, the notepad mailing did better, more than enough to pay the added cost of the notepad. Not terribly surprising; you can usually count on a performance lift when you include a freemium.
  • Both mailings both did better among older (70+) donors than they did among younger donors (69 and under). Also not surprising; direct mail usually works better among older audiences.
  • But here’s the freaky part: The notepad did better than the non-notepad among both groups. Yes, the tacky freemium was better at motivating younger donors.
  • And it gets crazier: The notepad created a 55% lift over the non-notepad among the younger donors, and only a 30% lift among the older donors. The notepad had more positive impact among the younger donors!

That’s not what I expected to happen. Not at all.

My hypothesis — and most fundraisers who’ve thought about this would probably agree — was that freemiums (notepads, address labels, things like that) were a tactic for the older generation. I thought a freemium would do well among the older group, but poorly among the younger. And that freemiums were on their way out as a new more sophisticated and mission-driven generation moved into the donor ranks.

Apparently not.

This makes me rethink a number of my assumptions about the rising wave of Boomer donors. And those beyond. Maybe some of the well-worn old direct-mail techniques of the past aren’t heading for history’s scrap heap.

Now this was one test for one organization (believe me, we have a bunch of related tests underway now). Your results could be different. But we should all be thinking about it.


Comments

8 responses to “Young donors want knick-knacks? ‘Fraid so!”

  1. Jeff, you make a very important comment at the end. “This was only ONE client.” I think the other questions should be:
    1. What type of client was it? This is important. How emotional is the offer?
    2. What was the ROI?
    3. What was the average gift difference? Which is the largest indicator of LTV.
    4. How often do you include freemiums in this clients appeals? If this is the first time, I can see how there would be a dramatic lift.
    My caution here is that you are potentially making a big leap of assumptions based on one test with one client and before everyone starts throwing notepads in appeals there needs to be more information from you on other tests and give us other indicators of performance.
    You could equate this the health world and making a major assumption that all people should take 2000mg of vitamin C because it helped 50 people in a clinical study sleep better. See what I mean.
    My caution is that we do this A LOT in the DM world because we are all looking for something new, but fail to really play it out.

  2. Jeff, you make a very important comment at the end. “This was only ONE client.” I think the other questions should be:
    1. What type of client was it? This is important. How emotional is the offer?
    2. What was the ROI?
    3. What was the average gift difference? Which is the largest indicator of LTV.
    4. How often do you include freemiums in this clients appeals? If this is the first time, I can see how there would be a dramatic lift.
    My caution here is that you are potentially making a big leap of assumptions based on one test with one client and before everyone starts throwing notepads in appeals there needs to be more information from you on other tests and give us other indicators of performance.
    You could equate this the health world and making a major assumption that all people should take 2000mg of vitamin C because it helped 50 people in a clinical study sleep better. See what I mean.
    My caution is that we do this A LOT in the DM world because we are all looking for something new, but fail to really play it out.

  3. As the other poster points out, it will be interesting to see the results from your other tests but you can’t really draw any conclusions on one test alone.
    Non-scientifically, I’ve always believed “knick-knacks” elicit a response not because donors want something in return for their donation (they do of course, but that’s a different subject), but because they feel a sense of responsibility that the charity has spent money on something for them, and that they should at least cover the cost of this.
    Perhaps, if it turns out that the rest of your tests bring the same result, it’s less a sign of lack of sophistication and more a sign of an increased sense of empathy and responsibility.

  4. As the other poster points out, it will be interesting to see the results from your other tests but you can’t really draw any conclusions on one test alone.
    Non-scientifically, I’ve always believed “knick-knacks” elicit a response not because donors want something in return for their donation (they do of course, but that’s a different subject), but because they feel a sense of responsibility that the charity has spent money on something for them, and that they should at least cover the cost of this.
    Perhaps, if it turns out that the rest of your tests bring the same result, it’s less a sign of lack of sophistication and more a sign of an increased sense of empathy and responsibility.

  5. As a fundraising professional, when we handed out freebies at events, people young and old didn’t seem to want them.
    And people questioned our gifting them things, constantly.
    And as a young donor, I would not give more weight to a nonprofit that sent me a notepad.
    Mazarine

  6. As a fundraising professional, when we handed out freebies at events, people young and old didn’t seem to want them.
    And people questioned our gifting them things, constantly.
    And as a young donor, I would not give more weight to a nonprofit that sent me a notepad.
    Mazarine

  7. I think if they are relevant and useful then they are money well invested.
    At Pell & Bales in the UK I used to work for a charity client who produced a branded pocket diary every year. Their supporters loved it and would tell us so. We would always get lots of queries in January from supporters who had not yet received their copy.
    A great way of helping keeping that charity front of mind for the entire year…

  8. I think if they are relevant and useful then they are money well invested.
    At Pell & Bales in the UK I used to work for a charity client who produced a branded pocket diary every year. Their supporters loved it and would tell us so. We would always get lots of queries in January from supporters who had not yet received their copy.
    A great way of helping keeping that charity front of mind for the entire year…

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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