How Other NFPs Are Earning (and Keeping) Donors– September 30, 2014 by Joe DiFranco

One of the most frequent questions our not-for-profit clients ask us is: What are the latest techniques other NFPs are using to find new donors and keep current donors engaged? While there’s no real “secret sauce,” successful not-for-profit organizations seem to know that it is important to continually evaluate the changing donor landscape as well as the available platforms to reach and retain them. Below are two of the latest “trends” or key considerations that are top of mind, or should be, for not-for-profit organizations.

Millennials Hold Power. While it’s always been important to understand your audience, the new Millennial generation offers new opportunities, and NFPs can benefit greatly from learning about the donating habits of this group. Vastly different from other generations in a variety of ways, Millennials make up 25% of the population, according to The Millennial Generation Research Review published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. When it comes to donating, Millennials tend to give more impulsively. When they are inspired by an issue, they want to make a donation on the spot. Typically this means that they will go to your website or social media page, and then it is up to you, via that medium, to convert the opportunity into a donation. Not-for-profits that have earned donations from Millennials have been the organizations that are able to successfully educate potential donors about the issues and people the organization impacts. Donors want to know what is considered a “win” and how their support will help the organization attain that win. According to Derrick Feldman, CEO of Achieve in Indianapolis, “Millennials care about issues, less so about organizations …They’re focused on what your organization does to help them reach their cause.”

Don’t Hesitate to Communicate. Donors appreciate feedback. This has always been relevant but has proven to be more important recently. For all generations, and more significantly for Millennials, the quicker donors receive feedback the better. In The Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits by Pamela Grow, she recommends a number of different ways to keep donors engaged and to provide them with the feedback they want. Some of these ideas include creating welcome kits to educate new donors, which may include hand-written thank-you notes, photos, donor surveys, brochures or a small gift such as a bookmark. She also suggests creating "pass-it packets,” which are packets of information that donors can share with others. Millennials tend to have a core group of friends that they can influence, so a pass-it packet can be very useful. Additionally, organizations can expedite any feedback through the use of social media sites. Grow suggests using sites like YouTube, Facebook or Twitter to share thank-you videos or postings to donors. These messages can come from the program’s staff, board members or individuals your agency works with. She says that NFPs should ask themselves, “’What would happen if I thanked one donor every day for the next year?’” And, with social media sites, this can be done easily.

Keeping on top of who your donors are (or could be), communicating with them regularly and knowing what vehicles exist to reach your audience are more than passing trends — they are foundational elements of any successful NFP.


This communication is published by Cohen & Company for our clients and professional associates. Cohen & Company is not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. Any action taken based on information in this publication should be taken only after a detailed review of the specific facts and circumstances.