The motivation divide between young people and older people — and what that means for your fundraising

Research shows an interesting thing that happens to most people some time around the age of 50:

Your motivation shifts away from achievement and success and moves toward “significance.” What you want gets less about “winning” and more about “mattering.”

If you are well under 50, you may have to suspend your disbelief as you read this, because it seems utterly alien to the way you think. But it’s a meaningful and important change. Part of the reason older people are more likely to be donors than younger people: Giving helps your sense of significance a lot more than it helps you feel like you’re “winning.”

A lot of off-target fundraising is created by under-50 professionals who are largely in the grips of their own success motivation. The significance motivation that drives most donors simply doesn’t make sense to them. So they ignore it. And create fundraising that’s aiming at a less important motivation.

Here’s the difference:

Success-motivated fundraising is often full of facts and proof. It says, This is going to work! We can prove it! It also uses a lot of superlatives and makes big claims. It sounds an awful lot like commercial marketing.

Significance-motivated fundraising is emotional, story-driven, and highly focused on the donor. It says, This is how you make a difference!

If you’re under 50 and reading this thinking, No way would that work, that’s okay. The motivation is somewhat opaque to your mind. But your solution isn’t to ignore it. Your solution is to figure out how to talk in this way, even if you find uncompelling!

It’s a challenge, but anyone who decides to and works at it can do it.

Young fundraiser: Do this and you’ll win at fundraising, big-time, over and over!

Older fundraiser: Do this and you’ll make a bigger difference!


Comments

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

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.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

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.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

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.

Recent Comments

About the blogger

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.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog