About Younger Donors…


The next time a person at your nonprofit says, “We need to get younger donors!” have them read this:

Top 5 Mistakes: Chasing Younger Donors.

The post is from Bill Jacobs at Analytical Ones.  Bill’s been analyzing nonprofit databases and fundraising effectiveness for 25 years, and he knows what he’s talking about.

He lays out the two main arguments for why nonprofits should not chase younger donors, and I’ll add three more:

  • The research I’ve seen indicates that older donors tend to give more than younger donors.  So all things being equal, a 70-year-old donor is more valuable to an organization than a 35-year-old donor in the near-term.
  • Older donors give you a greater chance of receiving a legacy gift.  Last I heard, the average legacy gift in the United States was North of $40,000.  So a 70-year-old donor is more valuable to an organization than a 35-year-old donor in the long term, too.
  • On average, most donors don’t stay on a nonprofit’s donor file for more than 5 years.  So even if you do manage to acquire a bunch of 35-year-old donors, the vast majority of them will have stopped giving 20 years before they’ve entered their prime giving years.

Read Bill’s post and have a couple of these numbers handy the next time someone brings up younger donors.

In fact, Bill’s whole “Top 5 Mistakes” series is great.  Easy-to-read, short and data-driven, what’s not to like?

And I think we all know this, but I’ll say it to be safe: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with younger donors.  Welcome them!  But unless your cause is massively attractive to young people, trying to acquire younger instead of trying to acquire older donors is not a good financial decision.

Donor Acquisition: Think Medium-Term


If you’re thinking about doing paid donor acquisition, you need to learn to think in the medium-term.

Here’s the story…

Two organizations we’re honored to serve spent significant sums on donor acquisition right before the pandemic.  One spent about $500,000, the other spent a little less than $1,000,000.

Both efforts lost money that year.  The campaign that cost $500,000 raised about $390,000.  The campaign also acquired new donors, to be sure.  But loud voices in the organizations disparaged the campaign.

And it’s easy to see why the campaign was disliked IF you’re thinking in the short term. 

However, we recently looked back at all the donors that were acquired in that campaign.  The organization discovered that those donors had given over $4,100,000 since being acquired.

Getting a return of $4,100,000 on an investment of $500,000 is a pretty good deal.  What looked like a “loss” of $110,000 in the short term was a gain of $3,600,000 (and counting!) in the medium-term.

(Of course there have been costs to cultivate those donors in the intervening years, but they are super minimal.)

What’s more, the organization would have been in real trouble during the pandemic if they hadn’t had those donors helping out.

If your organization is thinking about moving into paid donor acquisition, I hope this story serves as encouragement.  Moving to paid donor acquisition is a big step forward in an organization’s growth.  And you can read this post too, which will help you think critically about how to “make the leap” for your organization in particular.    

In short-term thinking, investing in donor acquisition a losing proposition.  In medium-term thinking (and beyond), investing in donor acquisition is investing in the growth and stability of your organization.