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October 2011

The X Factor

Yup, we know that courting Gen Y is crucial for a cradle-to-grave fundraising strategy.  Thanks, Amber:)

And, yup, we know that cracking the giving habits of Boomers will literally make or break your fundraising efforts in the next decade.

But sandwiched between those two hot generational topics is the X factor.  That’s right, Generation X.  We got our moniker from the disenfranchised feeling we had as we came of age.  As wisegeek.com (https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-generation-x.html ) said, we “didn’t know where (we) belonged, but knew for sure that (we) weren’t a part of the overbearing generation of Baby Boomers.” 

Well, no offense to Reality Bites, but we’ve figured it out.  We’re now in our thirties and forties.  On the whole, we have found our professional paths and personal partners, or decided we don’t need one.  We probably have kids and are responsible for (gasp) rearing the generation that comes after Y.  We’re starting to see gray (or just nothing) at our temples and many of us are perpetually trying to find the illusive work/life balance.

So how do you get us to give to your charity?  We still have an ingrained dash of disaffection that can lean towards apathy if you don’t make the right ask.  You have to make us care, and you have to realize that you have a very finite window for doing so since we’re perpetually overbooked.  Relevancy is critical.  Channel is critical.

I have yet to open direct mail.  I don’t tweet, though I have a Twitter account.  My friends are like family and I spend a lot of time with them on Facebook.  My profession is the backbone of how I structure my day, so LinkedIn counts.  I am never more than two feet from my iPhone, and I check my personal email from both it and my laptop multiple times throughout the day.  I spend at least eight hours a day in front of a computer, and I know what web sites I like.

To recap:  I am plugged in. Maybe I didn't have online courses or Blackboard when I went to college, but my abilities are not limited to sending forwards that includes animated GIFs. But, why am I treated like an Internet neophyte by most fundraisers?

You need to email me relevant information that includes why I care about you.  Talk to me through Facebook and I’ll talk to my friends about you.  Being able to monthly auto debit my donation would be bliss.  My first reaction to your website should not be, "1995 called -- it wants its homepage back”.  You always need to sound and feel the same way to me. 

For fundraisers trying to reach me, here are some things to think about …Do you have:  

  1. An email preference center? 
  2. Data infrastructure to make what you know about me actionable? 
  3. Integrated social CRM plan? 
  4. Web site that reflects what I want to do with you? 
  5. Mobile-friendly email and web assets? 

If so, let us know. ..

-Bethany Bauman

Bethany is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy for Merkle's nonprofit customers. She chooses to Do What Matters because, in the words of one of her idols, Katharine Graham, “to love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?”

Y Gen Y?

So … we’ve been lapsed for a minute… we know.  But, we’re reactivated with plenty to talk about!  And what better time to come back than the cusp of the Convio Summit where we connected with old and new colleagues to refresh and learn!?

I attended a session on Wednesday taught by Mike Johnston, Founder and President of hjc, which broke down the Convio “Next Generation of American Giving” study that did, of course, plaster my Gen Y behavior bio as it relates to social causes on the screen.  It was true to the tee!  

  • I don’t do mail
  • I’ll “Like” and “Tweet” you before I go to your YouTube channel
  • My first engagement with your cause was through mainstream media or WOM (real and virtual)
  • I need to be cultivated … courted so to speak – take me to an event, show me your site … twice
  • "By the way, what's in it for me?"

So, how many nonprofit organizations have actually considered this audience as one in which to invest?  If not, have you ever thought about the migration of Gen Y through a donor cycle and wondered if we’d follow in a similar pattern of preceding generations?  I’m sure you have.  Will we become sustaining givers at age 60 like the Matures?  Or will we forward eCards and donate via email like Gen X?  Or neither?  My take on the group, being a part of it, is that there are major cultural differences that prove 62 will not be our minimal threshold of giving.  I would even argue that our philanthropic peek will be in mid-life stage, dwindling down as we age.  Think about the life & personal characteristics of a 20something Gen Y’er:

As we reached our professional age, we witnessed first hand the economic recession of 2008.  We are more familiar with communications, media and digital technologies and for the most part, more liberal.   But because of what we’ve experienced, we have a lack of trust towards organizations and are able to see through marketing and sales tactics quite seamlessly.  However, my generation is extremely cause-driven, but prefers to make an impact on our own terms (that fit in line with our already popular activities, behaviors and interests), and they’re not always monetary.

In fact, we’ve already proven our ability and desire to do just that by improving the world – in our own little social way.  Recently, several sites have been customized for teens and 20somethings in Gen Y who have practically grown up with digital technology in cradles.  We are the next generation of hopeful givers already becoming activists at a young age.  Based on this behavior, why not target us before we hit the fab 6.0?  Another way to look at my group as valuable is through the digital clout that we’re building.  Even if/when our pockets get fat and we don’t turn into consistent donors, we may become the go-to influencers for rallying others online around your cause.  Think about it.  A few examples to get your mind flowing in the social space are below.  Know of other examples?  Do tell...

RT2Give:  Retweet a worthy cause, give $10


RandomKid:  Youth & parents - choose a cause, pick the solution, and "Make It Happen" on your profile page.

 SocialVibe:  Raise money by influencing others in your network to participate in branded activities. 

Free Rice: Play a social game to end world hunger.

 Endorse for a Cause:  Endorse your favorite brands through social networking, get enough activity and watch your money "change the world."


Stay tuned for an expose on Gen X...

-Amber Bonner

Amber is a Strategy Manager and soon-to-be Digital Geek in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to.  Challenge is good.”

What is this blog all about?

If you're serious about raising money from donors, you need to get serious about donors. More than ever before, donors are insisting that you share power with them, not treating them like passive ATMs. This blog is about the ways you can do that -- and the rewards that await you and your donors when you do.

About the Blogger

DonorPower Blog is penned by Merkle's Power Blogging Team, led by Greg Fox, our senior vice president of strategy. Working with Greg is a police line-up of guest "artists", fundraising pros all, who like to pose as blogatorialists when the sun goes down. You can reach this blog, and any of our regular contributors, at
donorpowerblog [at] merkleinc [dot] com. See this blog's policies.

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