Science speaks: should fundraisers focus on millennials?

If you’re worried about getting young donors, you really need to read this post at Sean Triner’s blog: Are Millennials Really Worth Targeting for Fundraising?

It’s a detailed post, packed with real-world analysis. The conclusion:

There is no measure that I can find anywhere that tells a fundraiser that younger people are a priority over older donors.

The reason: Young donors are not really worth what it costs to get them (in most cases). Older donors are:

  • Easier (less expensive) to get in the first place.
  • More responsive to your subsequent asks.
  • Retain at a much higher rate.
  • Are more likely to increase their giving levels.
  • Are much more likely to include you in their will.

This all adds up to long-term values much higher than the long-term values of young donors. The young donors just don’t pencil out. You lose too much money on them.

Sean’s bottom line: Don’t spend your resources seeking millennials unless ALL of these things are true:

  • You have exhausted sources of older donors
  • You following best practice with donor-centric and frequent communications with your donors
  • You have a great mid value donor program
  • You have a great legacy/bequest program
  • You have established a face to face sustainer/monthly giving program

Or unless involving younger people is core to your mission. In which case, you probably need to have a core of older donors to subsidize your search for young donors.


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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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